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by Stephen Hayes
From The last Pink Press, published in March 1972 by David de Beer and Stephen Hayes when they were deported from Namibia by the South West Africa Administration, together with the Anglican Bishop of Damaraland, Colin Winter, and Toni Halberstadt1.
Looking back on nearly three years in South West Africa, it is the good things which stand out. Perhaps, now that I have to leave, I forget that there was so much that happened that was depressing, and which made me time and again want to leave of my own accord. Looking ahead to the future of South West Africa there is still loneliness and despair and a feeling of non-achievement.
I came here because there was nowhere else to go, there was no alternative. I did not know why I had come, nor what I had come to do. It is only now, looking back at the past, that I can see a pattern and a purpose.
One event stands out, and seems to symbolize the whole three years. I was standing at the edge of a newly-dug grave. The veld around was dry and drought-stricken. The sun was hot and flies were buzzing around. At the bottom of the grave was a cheap wooden coffin, and rocks and earth were thudding down on to it, while the Herero congregation was singing a Russian Easter hymn
The funeral was on February 12, 1972. It started with a requiem Mass. Because of the large number of people present, it was held outside, with the altar at the door of the house. On one side of the doorway was the red flag of the Herero nation, and on the other an ikon of Christ Pantokrator. The Rev. Abraham Hangula, of the Anglican parish of Windhoek, was the deacon. The subdeacon was the Revd E.K. Mbaeva of the St Phillips Faith Healing Church. The New Testament less on was Revelation 2011-21:7.
Two months before I had come here, and Aletta Tooromba had received her communion. She had been a faithful Anglican all her life. In the time I knew her she was old and crippled. She could not walk and had to be carried out of the house. She lived in an isolated place, cut off from the sacraments of the church. The government tried to make it as difficult as possible for her to receive communion by not giving permits for priests to enter the reserve. Nevertheless she was faithful and loved her Lord. Now she had gone to be with him, and yet our Lord had promised that he would be truly present with us in every Eucharist. And so she was truly present with him and with us in this Eucharist. Not in the fragile decaying body lying in the coffin, but in the communion of saints of the Lord.
There were many other things too, during those three years, that stand out in memory. There was Thomas Ruhozu, a Himba man from the remote Kaokoveld, who came to Windhoek at the time of the last diocesan synod, and went back as a catechist to preach the gospel of the freedom of the sons of God to his people. There were the headmen from the same place who came to see their chief, Clemens Kapuuo, men of amazing patience. They say they are eager to have the gospel preached in their land. When asked what problems they faced, an old man, Kapuku Munjomohoro, dressed in the leather apron of the Himbas, replied, "Ondatumisiro! Ondatumisiro! Ondatumisiro!" (Oppression! Oppression! Oppression!)
There were other funerals too, of the old Herero chief, Hosea Kutako, of the aunt of Abraham Hangula, of the father of Clemens Kapuuo, and all were triumphant occasions.
There is a change of attitude that I have seen since I first arrived. When I came, blacks were fearful, not daring to say what they really thought. Some were cringing and subservient. Others were aloof and reserved. Others still were bewildered. In the last nine months, these attitudes have virtually disappeared. The advisory opinion of the World Court, the open letter to the South African Prime Minister from the black Lutheran Churches, the Ovambo workers' strike, all in the second half of 1971, brought about a drastic change. Blacks are becoming conscious of their humanity, and they are walking tall in the streets. They greet me with a smile, and the word 'baas' has disappeared from their vocabulary.
Yes, on looking back, it is the good things that stand out. The bad things - the smear letter sent to parishioners by a brother priest, the packing of a vestry meeting with nominal Anglicans who hardly ever came to church, the loneliness, the betrayals - these are fading memories.
The death and resurrection are seen in the church too at the final farewell service, where four church workers were leaving, the bishop ordained four new priests, to continue to preach the good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, liberation to the oppressed, release to the captives. They are Peter Beard, Abraham Hangula, Edmund Dawson and Polycarp Haihambo. Pray for them as they take up the task God has given them.
I will leave with happy memories of the people of South West Africa, Kalanami, Namibia, call it what you will. And the sorrows and sufferings and hopes and aspirations are symbolized by Aletta Tooromba. She suffered with her people; suffered poverty and contempt and oppression. She suffered from bodily weakness and disease. She suffered loneliness and isolation.
But she was faithful unto death, to her belongs a crown of life.
Others were banned or imprisoned.
Now South Africa and Namibia have constitutions that guarantee freedom of religion.
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Created: 13 June 2001
Updated: 18 June 2013