A PASTORAL LETTER OF THE
NAMIBIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
CONCERNING THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS 2009
ADDRESSEE: The Catholic Faithful, People of Good Will
We, the Namibian Catholic Bishops' Conference, would like to issue this Pastoral Letter on the forth-coming National Elections in Namibia. This letter is addressed to all Catholic faithful, the People of good will and fellow citizens.
We call upon all to be vigilant, to stay awake and to protect our democracy that was hard-earned and hard-won through the sacrifices of many lives. We commend the Namibian government for bringing about development in the country and for the maintenance of peace and stability today. However, there is still a litany of challenges facing our country today and that it is up to each individual to decide which party has the policies as well as the commitment to address them effectively. We advice that it is important to judge a party on its overall policy regarding the key values of the gospel such as promoting life, human dignity, justice and good governance in relation to these challenges. It is important for the people to look closely into the fine point of the part of the manifestos and while we may wish that the electorate may evaluate its choices on objective grounds, the fact is that most Namibians still vote on the basis of deep-felt loyalties. Too often, the identifying factor is: tribe, race, class, language or simply an unshakable historical affiliation or struggle.
Aim of the election
As the aim of any democratic election is to either legitimize or transfer power, once more, we call upon the citizens of Namibia to take part in the national election in order to exercise your democratic right and choose the leaders who would represent and serve the people's interests to the best of their abilities.
Adhere to the Supreme Law
We would like to remind the citizens of our country to adhere to its Supreme Law which states: "All persons have the right to freedom of association which includes freedom to form and to join associations or union and political parties." It further states that "the right to move freely throughout Namibia, to reside and settle in any part of Namibia" (Art. 21 sec. (e) and (g-h). It is therefore an uncalled for behaviour for any political party or region to declare "no-go areas" for the emerging or existing parties. All political parties should adhere to the Election Code of Conduct and educate their supporters to do likewise. We encourage the freedom of disseminating information to all citizens with regard to voting registration. This information should be correct, impartial, truthful and complete, to enable the citizens to make their own decisions, according to each individual’s informed conscience.
The moral authority of the church is to issue this moral guidance on the ground that “the church and the political community, in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other. Yet both, under different titles, are devoted to the personal and social vocation of the same people. The more that both foster sounder co-operation for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all...by preaching the truths of the gospel and by bringing -to bear on all fields of human endeavour - the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, (the Church) respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens (Gaudium et Spes, 72.2)
With this principle in mind, we call upon the leaders of political parties to demonstrate the spirit of democratic maturity - by exercising prudence in their public campaigns. They should avoid character assassination and sowing seeds of hate via their speeches; but rather, should tackle issues of national concern, for the common good.
Disposition of Acceptance
Furthermore, we call upon all political parties and supporters to accept the results or outcome of the elections, should this be declared free and fair by the competent authority. We should join our hands of friendship; close this specific chapter of our history, and forge ahead as one nation to positively develop our country together, irrespective of political affiliations.
Contribution of the Catholic Church
We, as the Catholic Church are prepared to make our facilities available, on request, for polling stations during the up-coming elections. We are ready to serve as election observers, should the training be made available to the citizens. We strongly enjoin our priests, deacons, and religious to promote the spirit of unity, reconciliation, tolerance and peace in their sermons/homilies and conferences. Although we belong to different political parties, in Church, we are ONE. (Jn. 17)
May God bless us and our democratic nation.
Given at the Bishops’ Board Meeting at the Namibian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Centre, Klein - Windhoek, on 9 July 2009.
+Most Rev. Archbishop Liborius Ndumbukuti Nashenda, OMI