Monday, May 19, 2008

A sobering day.

We started our orientation Friday, but Saturday was truly a challenging day. This is a long post but an important one.

A man named Naf gave us an incredible first-hand history lesson on Namibia in the morning. The history of Namibia is truly a sad and depressing one, filled with colonialism, genocide, racism, concentration camps and apartheid, all which still deeply scars the people’s psyche to this day. Mick had told us the day before that while he grew up in Eastern Africa and has visited and lived in many African countries, and although the infrastructure here in Namibia is so nice, he said it has been the hardest country he has ever lived in.

In brief, Germany colonialized Namibia in 1884 (then known as German South West Africa) and held control until after WWI, in 1920. During that time, the German army attempted to eradicate the largest tribe, the Herero, eventually killing 80% of them. Naf is Herero and had many relatives slaughtered during that time. After 1920, South Africa took over control, instituting white minority rule as in South Africa (SA). In 1948 the policy of Apartheid began, and as in SA, blacks in Namibia where forced to live and work in black-only areas. Through out this time, when extreme atrocities were occurring, there were underlying tribal and political groups that began to fight for freedom and independance. Finally in 1990 they were granted independence from SA and formed a democratic republic and significant changes has occurred in the lives of its residents.

Naf’s personal story was deeply moving as he honestly and candidly shared his struggle to choose forgiveness toward white people. He spent his life learning to hate whites with such intensity and by the Grace of God he is now able to talk to us and to befriend us. We fought tears as we listened to his story. That afternoon he drove us all around Windhoek to the historical places, like “Heroes Acre” where history is celebrated and the many heroes of freedom are remembered (the caption under the statue writes "Glory to the fallen Heroes and Heroine of the motherland Namibia". We shared a delicious Herero lunch and then drove through the shanty-area know as Khatatura, where the blacks were forced to live. The conditions are still severe, with 10x10 tin shacks that sleep 20 people each.

Naf’s encouragement to us: to be people who will do our best to recognize the racial issues, to love the blacks and invite them into our lives, and to help integrate the blacks and whites. Even within “Christian” circles racial issues separated where love should unite. Naf encouraged us that if we can affect 3 people during the time we are here, perhaps it will only take 5 generations instead of 20 to see change. Healing will be slow and change will take time.

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