Lesotho - The army's comforter

(MENAFN- The Post)

MASERU – Captain Molefi Mosiuoa would not hesitate to shoot, and kill if necessary, to protect Lesotho's sovereignty.
In carrying out his duties Mosiuoa sees no theological contradiction to his role as a“man of God” – a supposed man of peace – and his other role as a committed, disciplined soldier.

The two responsibilities are not mutually exclusive, he argues.
Captain Mosiuoa is the chaplain for the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF).
God has always fought wars and blessed wars for his people, Mosiuoa says.
“He is a God of war,” he says.“For the nation of Israel, God would always lead his nation into wars and they would come out victorious.”
David, a man whom God loved, was also a man of war, he says.
When the Jews returned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the 70-year exile in Babylon, Captain Mosiuoa says they faced a hostile response from the nations nearby.

Nehemiah had to arm his people, with a sword on one hand, while the other arm did the building work, he says.
After citing story after story of the“Big Book”, Captain Mosiuoa thinks he is on extremely firm footing over his role as“a man of God” and“a man of war”.
He makes no apologies for playing this dual role.
“I see no contradiction with being a deeply religious man and being in the army; we invite God in everything that we do in the army. I have a role to protect the nation.”

But while Captain Mosiuoa is eager to fulfill his twin assignments, he remains fully cognisant that the“army is not a church”.
“You can rebuke them in the morning but in the afternoon they continue to do exactly the same thing you spoke about,” he says, bursting into laughter.
He says his task is not to“convert every soldier to the Lord” but to provide socio-psycho support to army personnel when they are going through personal crises.

“It is every preacher's expectation to see everyone becoming a Christian but the difference is that when you are in the army, things will not always go your way,” he says.“The army is not a church. People will live their own lives.”

“As a chaplain I deal with a number of issues every day,” he says.
“Others come for counselling, they want me to help resolve their family problems. Others want me to deal with their work-related issues and I take them through the counselling process.”
This is not an easy task. At times he finds himself immersing himself in people's problems and the emotional burden can be overwhelming.

“Sometimes I find myself trying to take people's problems and try to sort them out. But I honestly enjoy the work. That is what I was trained to do.”
Captain Mosiuoa says the work can be deeply satisfying especially when people put into practice what he would have told them and they successfully resolve their marital issues.
When that happens,“you feel like a conqueror and that you have saved someone's life”.

Apart from marital issues or work related issues, Captain Mosiuoa says he is sometimes called upon to officiate at funerals of army personnel.
Death by its very nature can be a deeply traumatic experience. He says they are trained to deal with bereavement so that he can provide the necessary support to bereaved families.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new set of unique challenges to his job as a chaplain.
Funerals are big occasions for Basotho. We mourn our dead in special ways. A day before the burial, we collect the body from the morgue for a funeral wake at the home of the deceased.

It is often a big occasion for the clerics who normally deliver powerful eulogies in remembrance of the dead. The speeches from friends and family – which are often repetitive – can last from morning till late afternoon, with sorrowful church hymns often breaking the monotony.
All this was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

People were forced to“rush” through the funeral programmes. They were forced to pick up the body from the morgue the morning of the burial and sometimes take it straight to the cemetery.
There was no fanfare. No big gatherings. And no“after tears”, occasions where we would throw parties to“celebrate” the life of the deceased.
Captain Mosiuoa says the Covid-19 pandemic was highly disruptive on our culture and traditions as Basotho.

“Sometimes we feel that when we don't do some of these cultural practices we would not have mourned our loved ones properly,” he says.“When we feel our loved ones were not sent away properly, we even believe they might not even rest well.”

“Our services became very short during the Covid pandemic,” he says.“We felt that we were just being rushed through.”
It is a for us to take the bodies from the morgue a day before burial and spend the whole night with the deceased; that celebration is like a farewell to us, he says.
“If such practices are not done, there are people who feel we did not pay enough homage to the deceased and as a result it might even take longer for such people to heal,” he says.
The new Covid-19 restrictions made me feel that there was not enough time for me to comfort the bereaved families, he says.

“Sometimes I was just asked to make a prayer, there was no devotion, and we would leave the place without providing the necessary dignity we needed to give to the deceased.”
He remembers with sadness the state of panic as Covid-19 swept across the country leaving death and grief in its wake.
At one time he had to bury at least six colleagues during one weekend.
“It was really bad,” he says.
But as a chaplain what message does he provide to grieving families?

“I assure them that the deceased has been taken to heaven since he was faithfully serving as a soldier and that he had made an oath to die for the nation. Everything has its own time, a time to be born and a time to die.”
“Nothing that we do would stop anyone's time.”
Captain Mosiuoa's message has huge doses of the doctrine of predestination – that God has already set in motion how each individual's life will pan out.
So try as you might, you can never change the course God has set for you. Even the date and manner of how you are going to die has been set already by God.

It is a teaching that takes away the role of individual responsibility and the right to self-determination.
But Captain Mosiuoa says at the end of the funerals, he would have done his part to console the bereaved.
Yet even as he consoles others, he too remains a simple man of flesh with emotions.

“It's not that we don't feel pain. We do. But our training in the army conditions us to deal with grief.”
Captain Mosiuoa says while Lesotho claims to be a Christian country, the reality on the ground clearly shows that“we are not”.
“We need God's intervention; if we can have a country that is led by God, we wouldn't be having some of the things that we have in this country, like the spate of killings that we see here.”

He says Lesotho's contingent that is currently in Mozambique will need a lot of support when they return home. War is always a traumatic experience and these soldiers who are away on SADC duty will need our support, he says.

“We are already prepared so that as soon as they come back home, they go through a counselling session. Their families will also need support.”
Captain Mosiuoa was born on July 3, 1980 to a father who was a migrant mine worker in South Africa and a mother who was a housewife.
His was not a life of penury when compared to the rest of the community in Mapoteng as his father provided for their material needs in every manner possible.

Where other rural families struggled materially, the Mosiuoas had the basics covered, thanks to their father.
Captain Mosiuoa remembers his father as a jolly, good fellow who was deeply in love with traditional Sesotho music, the mokorotlo music. Mokorotlo, from the word grumbling, is a Basotho war song or a prayer, sung interchangeably between sorrowful times and during moments of triumph.

While growing up the young Mosiuoa would often see members of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) immaculately dressed in their uniform in his rural village of Mapoteng. For him, it was a true measure of a man's masculinity to aspire to be a soldier.
“I always had the desire to be a soldier,” he says.“I played taekwondo and was one of the best players in Lesotho. I was quite young and fit and loved the army.”

So in 2002, Captain Mosiuoa joined the army and went through a gruelling nine-training programme. He later studied theology at the African Christian College in eSwatini in 2010. In 2015, he went to India for an officers' training course. He was appointed Second Lieutenant in December 2016 and has been serving as chaplain since 2016.

Abel Chapatarongo

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