The Council of Churches in Namibia has urged church institutions to operate normally on June 17 in defiance of an order by the South African government that the day be observed in honor of the appointed "interim government of national unity" in the province.

The Namibia Communications Center here reported that the church council has condemned the "transitional" government as having no electoral mandate. Instead, it called for the implementation of a plan for Namibian independence that was adopted by the United Nations in 1978.

The church council, whose constituency represents more than 70 percent of the population of Namibia, said that it "firmly adheres to its rejection of any interim type of government which will not bring true independence to Namibia." Referring to the June 17 observance, it called on "all church institutions not to observe this 'holiday' but to continue with normal school and office activities on that day."

The ecumenical group said it was not "appropriate to celebrate an event which has already further divided the people of our land and whose imposition on the country without any electoral mandate of the people will not bring the prospect of a speedier end to the conflict and to peace any closer."

In fact, the church council said, "we fear that the introduction of this 'government' may even bring an escalation to the violence. Therefore the attempt to involve schoolchildren in these 'celebrations' is also considered repugnant, not only because of the politicization of this event and its divisiveness, but also because of the further disruption to the educational program already planned."

The church council announced that a worship service "for justice and peace in Namibia" will be held June 16 at the Junior Sports Ground in Katutura, Namibia, and that the day has been set aside as an international day of prayer for Namibia.

Coincidentally, the South African Council of Churches has urged that June 16 be observed as a day of prayer for the "downfall of the white-minority government." The date is the anniversary of the 1976 youth uprising in the black township of Soweto, outside Johannesburg.