As the Lutheran World Federation celebrates 500 years of Protestantism, Namibians remember a grim chapter of their history. Missionaries set sail for the future German colony of South West Africa in 1840 fired with the ideals of the Reformation. But their message of humble service prepared the way for economic exploitation - and a conflict that ended in genocide.
Colonial troops of the German Kaiser, himself a Lutheran, ruthlessly crushed a native rebellion in 1904, and the missionaries justified this brutality. They argued it was God’s will that the German Kaiser rule over his "mission children”. Today, Namibia is 90 percent Christian but the trauma of the colonial era, to which the missionaries contributed, has not been forgotten. The Lutheran Church in Germany, the EDK, has recently acknowledged this darker side to Luther’s legacy: a confession of sin in a year of celebration.