LWF Youth Pre-Assembly gathers 120 young people in northern Namibia

Young Council members in Wittenberg, 2016. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux
Young Council members in Wittenberg, 2016. Photo: LWF/M. Renaux

ONDANGWA, Namibia/GENEVA, 2 May 2017 (LWI) - Young Lutherans are leading the way to The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Twelfth Assembly, as they prepare for the Youth Pre-Assembly (YPA) in Ondangwa, northern Namibia, 3-9 May.

“We want to raise the collective youth voice in public witness and live the message that all are ‘Liberated by God's Grace’ and that creation, salvation and human beings are not for sale,” said Caroline Bader, LWF Youth Secretary, referring to the assembly theme.

The YPA brings together nearly 120 young men and women, comprising delegates and 30 stewards from 61 LWF member churches in 44 countries around the world, and 20 local youth leaders from the Namibian churches.

Young people are a key constituent of the Lutheran communion and the LWF empowers them for leadership in church and society. The 324 delegates at the Twelfth Assembly, 10-16 May, in Windhoek, Namibia, will include 71 youth. More than half of them are actively involved in the Global Young Reformers’ Network.

“Since the Seventh Assembly in 1984 the LWF has had a policy of 20 percent youth quota in each LWF decision-making body. We uphold that principle, but want to enable participation not only through numbers but quality. This empowers young people for leadership in church and society, and to be voices of their generation,” said Bader.

The Twelfth Assembly host churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN), the German-speaking, ELCIN-GELC and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) will host the YPA. This will be the largest international gathering in the history of the country’s Lutheran churches.

“The youth delegates from all over the world are coming together to equip themselves for the Assembly, to build communion and learn about Namibia today,” Bader said.

Liberation struggle

Located in Namibia’s far northern region, Ondangwa is some 80 kilometers south of the Angolan border. The town has historical significance as it was first established as a mission station of the Finnish Missionary Society. It is near what was until 2016 the Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital, the oldest hospital in the north, which is now a state hospital.

The town is also close to Oniipa, the hometown of former ELCIN Bishop Dr Leonard Nangolo Auala [†1908-1983], a respected, outspoken advocate against the then apartheid regime, who in 1963 became the first indigenous bishop in the history of the church in Namibia.

Life at Ondangwa was disrupted during Namibia’s war of independence, 1966-1990, when the town was mostly the main air force base of then apartheid South Africa’s security forces fighting against the South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO). LWF supported the country and churches during this period.

Speakers at the YPA opening session include ELCIN Presiding Bishop Dr Shekutaamba V. V. Nambala, the Western Diocese Bishop Rev. Dr Veikko Munyika, and the church’s youth leaders.

A space to learn, discuss and become a voice of the young Lutheran generation

Youth participation is a cross-cutting LWF priority, and the pre-Assembly provides space to discuss, learn and practice how this is made possible. Participants will also take part in workshops on Lutheran identity, interfaith skills and peace building, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and hear about 52 “Living Reformation Projects” being implemented by Young Reformers in their respective churches. LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge and LWF Council member Ms Magnea Sverrisdottir will address the gathering.

Young people have led the LWF communion in climate justice advocacy, highlighting it as a matter of intergenerational justice. “These young people are ready to speak out and lead discussions about the issues and challenges of their generation and churches,” said Bader.

“Highlights from the local program are visits to families and congregations, a social action in the city of Ondangwa and experiencing the hospitality of Lutherans in northern Namibia,” Bader added.

Further information