columnBy Dr. Ngarikutuke Tjiriange
THERE are arguments for and against Bible studies at schools in Namibia. Those who are against Bible studies in Namibian schools are arguing that the constitution classifies Namibia as a secular State, therefore it is argued that it will not be appropriate to have the schools teach Bible studies.
They believe that teaching bible studies in schools will violate Article 1 (1) and Article 21 (b) (c) of the Namibian constitution and it will also not be acceptable to those who do not believe in any religion.
Those who are advocating the reintroduction of Bible studies are basically arguing that such studies will be necessary to help to prevent moral decay in the society.
They argue that such studies will minimize escalating crime as well as promote good behaviour among the citizens of this country.
Without going into the pros and cons of the two above arguments I would like to approach this issue from a different angle and argument.
There are many things that are told in schools the world over for pedagogic and academic purposes. Some subjects are taught in schools and universities not because people want to follow or introduce new ideas in the society, but as a reality of the situation and a recognition that some things did indeed happen as historical fact and reality.
For example a students may be taught about slavery and feudalism not because such practices are being taught with the intention to reintroduce them in the society.
No one can deny the fact that there was in the history of mankind a period of slavery and by teaching people that there was slavery, does not mean that the country wants to reintroduce slavery therefore in the case of Namibia the state is violating Article 9 of the constitution.
Religious belief has been accepted and practiced among the people of the world for thousands of years and nobody can deny that.
Namibia being a secular state does not mean that the religious beliefs ended with the coming into force of the Namibian constitution.
The doctrines of religion have been there since time immemorial, so are the churches and by not teaching such doctrines does not mean they will cease to exist.
The Bible has been there and is there whether anyone wants or not and so are the churches.
To teach what is in the Bible is to teach, among others, the reality of the existence of the faith of human beings, of human history, the belief of people in God.
One might not believe what is written in the Bible, but that will not make the Bib-le cease to exist or do away with people's beliefs and faith.
Being a secular state does not mean that the Bible is outlawed or criminalized and as a historical reality the Bible is here to stay.
Since the Bible is not outlawed or criminalized in the secular Namibia there is nothing wrong in teaching what doctrine is contained in the Bible.
It is up to the individual to believe or not. If anybody believes what is written therein it is his or her freedom to do so.
If someone does not believe it is equally a free choice of that individual.
No one will be forced to believe or not to believe in the doctrines of the Bible in accordance with Article 21 (b) and (c) of the Namibian Constitution.
That is the essence of secularity but that does not mean that the historical existence of the doctrine of the Bible should be denied and people should not to be told what is written in the Bible.
I personally studied in the former USSR, among other countries, and I studied religious studies in the USSR as a historical subject although religion was not practiced in that country.
Some of the professors who were teaching us the history of religion were members of the Communist Party and did not believe in the Bible, but we were taught that subject as a historical reality and that there is a book called the Bible and such and such a doctrine can be found in it.
Therefore, the mere fact that the Bible can be taught in school does not turn the school into a church, but an academy where the existing historical reality is taught.
As I have said earlier, slavery is prohibited by Article 9 of chapter 3 of the constitution but as a historical reality and fact students can be taught about the fact that slavery did exist and that does not mean that such studies should not be permissible in schools.
As to the morality of the doctrines contained in the Bible - that is indeed, a subjective issue, based on principles concerning what is perceived to be good, right or wrong under the circumstances and should best be left to the judgment of the individual in a secular state.
It is indeed a subjective feeling of individuals based on and influenced by the acceptable and permissible patterns of behaviour of members of the wider society, a behaviour which ought to be in line with what is not offensive to the wellbeing of the people of that society.
Therefore I do not see that the mere fact that Namibia is a secular state as per the constitution, that there are any legal impediments to the teaching of Bible studies as a subject in schools and such teaching in schools should not be interpreted or considered to mean that people are forced to believe in what is written in the Bible.
It should be considered as teaching the existing reality that is above all, not criminalized - neither by the constitution nor by the laws of the country.
It will be up to the individual to be convinced or not to be convinced of what he/she is being told.
The consequence of whether one is convinced or not will be judged elsewhere!