CAROLYN'S COMPOSITIONS

July 10, 2008

KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 2


On April 24, 2005, I was privileged to attend the Myers Lecture at the Church of the Savior United Methodist Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio (I happened to be in the community for my grandson’s birthday). The guest speaker was the Rev. Peter Storey, a renowned peace advocate and former Methodist bishop of South Africa. The following is taken from his notes, which he so graciously gave me.
This is the second of a three-part article. To read Part 1 click on  KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 1 .  It explains how peace after apartheid was accomplished. The third part,
KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 3 speaks about the 2008 Lake Junaluska Peace Conference.

The question still remained: HOW SHOULD SOUTH AFRICA COUNTRY DEAL WITH ITS (APARTHEID) PAST?

There were so many persons involved in the culture of apartheid, guilty of its sins. How should the guilty be dealt with?

There were options.

Prosecute and punish? The number of guilty persons would make this difficult, as would determining who was guilty.

Forgive and forget? This is what members of the old regime wanted to happen.

The new leaders consulted with religious leaders, human rights lawyers, and psychologists who counseled victims of torture, asking them how to handle an evil past.

The answer: REMEMBER AND FORGIVE! which gave birth to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It chose twenty-six members, and Mandela chose eighteen. Desmond Tutu became its head—and Rev. Storey became a member.

The task of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was spiritual, not legal. They first listened to the victims. During their first six months, 20,000 persons whose loved ones had been assassinated, jailed, and/or tortured, told their stories. Since it was televised, all the wounds began to be shared.

Although white South Africans didn’t want to hear the truth, and wouldn’t believe all these horrors had happened, they couldn’t ignore it when they heard the same story from thousands of people.

The victims were not just victims of apartheid, but included those struggling for liberation and justice. This was the first time that the winners of a struggle were also held accountable. White people had also been harmed. And the audience cried for both sides.

The perpetrators spoke next, having been told that if they told the truth about their crimes they might be granted amnesty. At last, seven thousand torturers, assassins, and other perpetrators came forward. They (along with the victims) had named names, and many were afraid that they would be exposed, knowing there is no honor among thieves and murderers.

Repentance cannot be ordered, but perpetrators were required to tell the truth. The families of the victims were in the same room. Many perpetrators were deeply seeking forgiveness in a spiritual way, and there were victims willing to forgive them.

Amazing things began to happen.

One man faced the mothers of seven young men he had executed, meeting in a room where the mothers screamed at him without mercy. Then one mother asked the man his name. Hearing it she told him she understood that his name meant “blessing,” and said she believed he was very sick and in need of a mother’s love. She put her arms around him.

A torture victim, when asked how he felt about the proceedings, answered, “Today, the nation cried my tears for me.”

People in the United States have a difficult time understanding all of this. Their sense of justice dictates that the bad guy should be punished. But in South Africa there was the belief that what had happened, no court could heal, so there had to be restorative justice, which invites the perpetrator to exit his inhumanity and rejoin the community.

The motto of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was: “without truth there is no healing; without forgiveness there is no future.” When one is heard, that is when one is acknowledged and validated; that is when he can begin to heal.

The Christian faith calls us to forgiveness and new starts. God touched South Africa for a moment in history to allow them to rise.

This should be an inspiration to the rest of the world. The Irish, the Palestinians, the Israelis, have all come to ask how South Africa did it.

The Answer is that God intervenes in human history. He works miracles. He doesn’t allow us to stray too far.

If we listen to him, there is hope.

Continue on to Part 3 by clicking on: KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 3

(The Beanery Writers Group publishes the Beanery Online Literary Magazine. I welcome you to visit the site at:

www.beanerywriters.wordpress.com

For additional reading:

CHILD ABUSE AND SCRIPTURE

CHILDREN LEFT HOME ALONE (or in cars alone)

ANOTHER HORRIFYING HEADLINE

KILLED STRANGELY: A NEW ENGLAND MURDER STORY

A FATHER-DAUGHTER REUNION

 

SEVENTY YEARS OF LOVE

CHILDISH IMMATURITY

LOGGING IN MAINE AND ON THE PERU-BRAZILLIAN BORDER

BLACK FLIES AND OTHER INSECTS: Then and Now

OF FIREFLIES AND LIGHTNING BUGS

THE ICE CREAM MAN

BEAR STORIES ACROSS THE NATION

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