I have had a few people ask me about the religious situation here in Namibia, so I thought I would do a quick post on what I have observed. According to the CIA world factbook, Namibia is 80 to 90% Christian (50% Lutheran at least) and the remaining 10 to 20% is indigenous beliefs. This means that Christianity is everywhere. People assume you are Christian (other volunteers struggle with this) and there is absolutely NO separation of church and state. Every meeting begins with a prayer, Mondays and Fridays there is a bible reading for the whole school and there is daily prayer/reflection for the staff (all of this is at a government school).
That being said, I (and several of the other vols, including the ones who came because they felt their Christian faith compelled them) find the religious beliefs here very frustrating. This stems mostly because the main belief and the passages that are always emphasized are about how God will give you what you ask for and god is always supporting you. For example, before exams started, the kids were told to pray that they do well and God will help them. Personally, I prefer to think that God will help give you the capacity to study, people to support you, and the desire to do well but that at least some effort is required on your part.
It is also a little frustrating because since everyone is Christian, no one questions their beliefs and most of my learners have thought very little about their faith. They have rote, memorized answers to any question about Jesus or God, but don’t even conceptualize what those answers mean. Part of what I have been trying to do with my grade 7 religion class (since they’re supposed to be studying Christianity) is have them actually critically think about and assess their faith. I think Christianity can be awesome, it has wonderful messages, and it can help to make these kids better people if they can use it as a tool, but right now that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead, it is used as an excuse to be lazy and a reason to be prejudice against people who aren’t Christian.
The last thing that I will say is that the use of the bible during our Monday and Friday assemblies can be difficult too. Aside from just being told to ask God for anything they want, teachers have also used verses from the bible to justify or explain corporal punishment, which obviously I have a problem with. I let this motivate me to actually choose and read myself during the assemblies which fall on my “on duty” week, and I try to choose passages about caring for your neighbor, justice, love, etc.