Pastor stops 115-year-old man’s burial in Namibia

An Okaku pastor last week took church differences to extremes when he stopped the burial of a 115-year-old Catholic man in an Elcin cemetery.

Benediktus Shikwamanga died on 7 August at Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital and was supposed to be buried at the Elcin church cemetery but pastor Nehemia Sheefeni locked up the cemetery gate.

It is understood that Shikwamanga had expressed a wish to be buried in the Okaku Elcin cemetery where one of his sons and two other family members were buried.

Maria Andreas, a member of the Iitananga Catholic congregation and Shikwamanga family friend, told The Namibian that they wanted to bury him on 12 August.

Andreas said they went to see pastor Sheefeni and his parish council about the late Shikwamanga’s wish on Tuesday but could not meet him since he was attending a church meeting at Ongwediva. According to Andreas, a council member Pisidia Ngula phoned Sheefeni about the request and he advised that they should see him the next day.

At the time, Marin Shikoyeni, an Okaku Elcin church cemetery supervisor, had allowed the family to prepare a grave. When Andreas and Ngula went to see Sheefeni on Wednesday morning, the pastor was allegedly livid that the family had dug a grave without his permission. He allegedly told them that he would lock the cemetery gate and that Shikwamanga would not be buried in there.

A Roman Catholic deacon, Desiderius Amayulu, from Ongwediva who presided over the funeral told The Namibian that they took Shikwamanga’s body to the Elcin church cemetery, about two kilometres away, after the funeral service, only to find the gate locked.

Some Elcin church members allegedly told the funeral procession that Sheefeni had locked the gate and ordered that Shikwamanga should not be buried there.

Amayulu said the family then decided to bury Shikwamanga at the Olushika cemetery about five kilometres from Okaku. When The Namibian visited Okaku on Friday, the grave had been covered. Sheefeni said he was forced to lock the cemetery and ordered that Shikwamanga should not be buried at Okaku cemetery because the family had dug a grave without his permission or that of his council.

“Non Elcin members were buried in this cemetery after the right procedures were followed and not what the Shikwamanga family did. This was unacceptable and I did so to show them that right procedures and orders must be followed and respected. You can just not do what you like in another man’s house,” he told The Namibian.

The Shikwamangas said it is wrong traditionally to bar a person from being buried if a grave has already been dug. They said it is also taboo to fill up the empty grave and wanted to know what the pastor had put in it before it was refilled.

“What pastor Sheefeni did is against tradition. We request him to open that grave so that we see what he buried. We also want the Elcin leadership to take Sheefeni to task because what he did is against humanity, brotherhood, peace, love and reconciliation. The churches preach every day and every Sunday to us,” a family member, Lazarus Shilumbu said. Omandombe headman Josef Gideon told The Namibian that he was shocked with Sheefeni’s actions, since many non-Elcin members were buried in the Okaku cemetery.

“Many Catholics and members of pentecostal churches are buried here. There has been no problem,” he said, adding that Sheefeni is new to this congregation and is disturbing peace among Christians.

Written by PH

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