Namibia: Army Pastor Arrested Over Charging Money for 'Forgiveness'

A MEMBER of the clergy of the Lutheran Church assigned to the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) was arrested at Walvis Bay on Saturday for charging community members a fee in exchange for forgiving their sins.

The man of cloth faces charges of fraud, forgery, uttering and money laundering.

The suspect, who is in his late 30s and from Keetmanshoop, could face a further charge of practising pastoral duties outside his jurisdiction.

Pastors assigned to the NDF are not allowed to carry out pastoral duties outside military bases.

Erongo police unit commander for community affairs, inspector Ileni Shapumba, confirmed that the suspect was arrested at Tutaleni where he conducted confession sessions, baptisms and confirmations.

"It is alleged that the man, who is known as a member of the NDF, defrauded community members of their money by issuing fake baptism registration forms, as well as conducting baptisms and confirmations for money," Shapumba said.

It is not clear how much he charged for the confession of sins, but he allegedly charged N$100 for baptisms and about N$200 for confirmations.

The NDF chaplain allegedly told community members he was conducting the mass as part of a compassion service.

Compassion services are carried out by some churches on an annual basis for those who reside in remote areas.

A large crowd of community members - especially women with babies - were among those who took their children for baptism to the pastor in a packed backyard shack.

If a child is born out of wedlock, the pastor made the child's parents confess their sins before the baptism.

For this they have to pay.

The suspect allegedly also used an outdated military official stamp on application forms and certificates.

He was said to be warned against his activities by a local pastor known to The Namibian.

It is not clear who laid the charges against the suspect, but Shapumba urged church leaders to report criminal activities by members to the police.

"When pastors see these things happening they must report it to the police. These are criminal acts. They should not resolve such matters among themselves, because this could mean many crimes are committed in the name of the church," Shapumba said.

"Criminal matters should be left to the police to attend, investigate and ensure that those who commit the acts are brought to book," he said.

The suspect is scheduled to appear in the Walvis Bay Magistrate's Court today.

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