A Namibian woman human rights activist shares in an interview with Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Bond what she would say, if given the opportunity, to Pope Francis and the Catholic bishops and auditors meeting in Rome for the Synod on the Amazon, regarding the value of indigenous spirituality and traditions in helping to heal our broken world.

Visolela Rosalinda "Rosa" Namises is a social, gender equality and human rights activist and chief of the /Khomanin people in Namibia. She was a co-founder and director of Women’s Solidarity Namibia, a women’s organization combating gender-based violence in Namibia from 1989 – 2004. Namises also served as a Member of Parliament from 1999-2005 and again in 2010. 

Inspired and connected to Mother Earth through her cultural heritage and the power of the ancestors, Namises has led initiation, healing, and the sacred dance ceremonies for both the Namibian and international communities. She has knowledge of traditional and herbal medicine and is an active member of GEN (Global Ecovillage Network) Africa and Europe Network and serves on its Advisory Board. Namises is also the founder and main operator of Dolam Residential Child Care, a day-care facility for vulnerable children in Katutura, Namibia.

Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Bond interviewed Namises at the Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine this past September in Peru, where she co-led the water ritual for the hundreds of women present, representing indigeous communities around the world. The following is the response Namises gave to the question: What would you like to say to Pope Francis and all those meeting in Rome for the Synod on the Amazon? 

I want to say thank you for this opportunity that is rarely given to us as women and especially women from the perspective of Indigenous cultures. I am happy that the bishops and the pope are all together and that they are reflecting on what is happening in the world today. I also am happy that they come from communities, from missions, from countries where they have built up a whole lot of experience. 

As an indigenous child, an indigenous adult woman, and indigenous mother today, I want to talk to you, Pope Francis, and to the bishops that are gathering. You come from women, women who gave birth to you in the most cultural setting, in the most traditional methods. You come from families who lived in the Amazon, who used the medicine of the Amazon and not only that, who knew how to protect the Amazon, to pray with those trees, medicines and creatures living in the Amazon.

Today, as you deliberate and ask for insight from the higher God, please remember your experience and recognize that now is the time to protect what you have left behind. We need to create coherence with our indigenous and traditional cultures and the modern world. To be able not only to follow the word of science, but also to follow the word of spirituality.

I know that your teachings were first not Catholic. They were indigenous. The prayers, blessings with water, incense that we as Catholics are using today, especially in baptism, all of it comes from the indigenous. If we lose the Amazon, if we lose our indigenous lifestyle, if we kill our mothers and our fathers – the holders of this wisdom – and if we fail to protect them, it will harm the generations to come, including the new priests who will become bishops and pope. I am asking you as you deliberate to find a small space in your hearts to protect the Amazon, to protect the indigenous people's ways of living.

I pray with you, in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that builds us, the Spirit that teaches us, the Spirit that anointed Pope Francis, the Spirit that ignited St. Martin de Pores, and the Spirit that ignited Johannes to baptize our great Father Son, Jesus Christ.

Image: Visolela Rosalinda "Rosa" Namises at the "Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine" in Peru in September 2019. Photo courtesy of the Convergence.