Lutherans in Namibia Promote BIG Anti-Poverty Effort

Churches in Namibia joined hands with governmental and non-governmental organizations in advocating for the Basic Income Grant (BIG) – a new initiative to achieve social justice by providing a universal grant to every Namibian.

According to the Lutheran World Federation, one of its three member church in the nation – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), hosted a conference to establish a coalition by next February that would advocate for the implementation of the BIG grant.

During the conference, the ELCRN Bishop Dr Zephania Kameeta said while BIG would not be a panacea for poverty, “it is a first powerful step in the fight against poverty.”

Ideally, BIG would be implemented alongside other anti-poverty approaches, including effort to give free access to basic commodities like potable water for the general population. Funds for BIG would come from directly or indirectly from the wealthy by a new taxation effort.

According to a report by the Lutheran World Federation, “the proposed BIG would promote economic empowerment by freeing the productive potential of the people currently trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.”

Bishop Kameeta called the BIG initiative an opportunity “to look in a professional way at eradicating poverty in our country,” and encouraged churches, civil society and government to join forces in the effort.

Kameeta, the vice president of the Lutheran World Federation for the African region, also paid tribute to Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, who was assassinated 20 years ago by the military for his efforts to bring social justice and end poverty.

“We have to enter this stage of asking the difficult and challenging questions and we know that this is very risky and often not easy. But we are fortunate to be in a free Namibia at last with a government on our side,” said Kameeta.

Specifically for the church, Kameeta said the ELCRN must become a church that acts as “the conscience of the Government, political leaders and the business sector,” and as an institution that fights for the empowerment of the weak.

Namibia has a per capital income of USD 1,173, has extreme levels of high poverty, and a high incidence of income inequality – all prerequisites for BIG to be both an effective and affordable tool, according to the Lutheran World Federation. Through the BIG social grants, the government would be able to promote economic growth and job creation for Namibia’s population – half of which survives on approximately 10 percent of the average income.

The ELCRN is one of the three LWF member churches in Namibia. Lutherans make up around 50 percent of the country’s population.