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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X


HORN, Nico. Religion and human rights in Namibia. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2008, vol.8, n.2, pp.409-431. ISSN 1996-2096.

Namibia is one of the most Christianised countries in Africa. Its Christian roots date back to the early nineteenth century, when the first German and Scandinavian missionaries arrived in the country. Before independence, the churches were radically divided between supporters of the struggle for independence (predominantly mainline black churches), so-called apolitical mainline white English-speaking churches and multi-racial charismatic churches and white Reformed and Pentecostal supporters of the apartheid system. After independence, the state did not interfere with the business of the churches. The threat that a SWAPO government would not honour Christian public holidays in an independent Namibia came to naught. The affluent white churches and new Pentecostal churches remained influential and played a strong role in the rejection of a pro-choice Abortion Act. Many churches also supported the government's (and the Supreme Court's) stance against protecting same-sex relationships. The churches also ignored the fate of the small Jewish community. Christians and other religious communities have experienced privileges not always associated with a secular state. However, in the last two years of President Nujoma's term as President, he declared the government's preferential treatment of the historical churches that supported the struggle (Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic and AME churches). While President Pohamba took a more reconciliatory stance, evangelicals and charismatics lost the privilege to preach on national radio. The churches remain sectarian in their interaction with other vulnerable communities.

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