Two Perspectives on the LWF Assembly in Namibia
(Ralson Deffenbaugh and Rev. Dr. Ireneusz Lukas)
Many people in our congregation were involved in the Twelfth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, from May 10 to 16. In the June edition of Geneva Lutheran we included press releases from the LWF written for a general audience. Now in this edition, we are including two personal reflections written by and for people in our community.
Namibia – A Much Happier Place
It was a joy and a blessing that the Lutheran World Federation’s Twelfth Assembly could take place in Namibia. And for me personally, it had special meaning: I started my LWF career in Namibia and ended it there.
In 1975-76, I took a year off from the Harvard Law School. The LWF sent me to Namibia to observe political trials and to assist the churches’ legal defense efforts. At that time, Namibia was under South African occupation. South Africa had applied the full range of its oppressive racially discriminatory system of apartheid, including the use of detention without trial, torture, and extra- judicial executions. I was witness to grave violations of human rights. I saw how adversity bred character for some, but also how some others were broken. I saw how vitally important the role of the church was. Namibia won a place in my heart and I became committed to the LWF.
In 1989-90, through the LWF, I was invited back to Namibia to serve as a legal adviser for the Namibian Lutheran bishops for the year of transition to independence. It was marvelous to see Namibia go from war to peace, from oppression to freedom, and from occupation to independence. Again the role of the church was vital, for the success of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Group, for free and fair elections, and for an independent Namibia.
Thirty years ago, it would have been inconceivable that an LWF Assembly could take place in Namibia. But now Namibia is a much happier place and the Assembly was a great success. Thanks be to God!
Ralston Deffenbaugh retired on June 30 as the LWF Assistant General Secretary for International Affairs and Human Rights.
Believing in the Catholic and Apostolic Church
Rev. Dr. Ireneusz Lukas
As part of the LWF conference in Namibia, there was a global
commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on
Sunday, 14 May 2017 at Sam Nujoma stadium, in Windhoek.
Not only Lutherans from around the world, but also thousands
of Lutherans from Namibia and neighbouring countries, and
many ecumenical guests, participated in the commemoration
event that was a highpoint of the assembly.
It was a deeply spiritual experience to worship with the whole world and to listen to the story of Reformation “from the perspective of unity, not division,” as LWF President Bishop Munib Younan said in his welcoming words.
For me as a Lutheran from Poland, a predominantly Roman Catholic country, it was especially moving to see the Roman Catholic Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, lead the apostolic Confession of Faith.
I was especially touched when, as an ecumenical community, we confessed our faith in one, catholic, and apostolic Church. The word “catholic” in this context does not, of course, mean “Roman Catholic.” However, these words, spoken together by the ecumenical family during the global commemoration, were for me an expression of tremendous changes in relations between the churches, and a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us.
Ireneusz Lukas is the LWF Area Secretary for Europe.