Tutu addresses role of forgiveness in healing South Africa

Published April 1, 2000

W hen I was asked to review this book by Archbishop Tutu, chair of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I had just returned from South Africa. So it came at an appropriate time as I was still mulling through my observations of my homeland.

Talking to ?non-political? folk about the commission, I found they were all over the map. Many seemed to have no idea what the thing is about: at worst it was perceived as an escape route for the perpetrators (mostly white) or an attempt at public relations. Those who were and are actively involved in the political process had a more critical approach to the process.

As I started No Future Without Forgiveness the thought rattling around in my brain was ?Will this book help South Africans to clarify why this experiment was necessary?? I am not sure; it seems to me that this book is directed at non-South Africans rather than the locals. It is clear that there is lots of work to be done back home, and Tutu to his credit does realize this.

No Future Without Forgivenessby Desmond Tutu290 pages,

hardcover, $35.95Doubleday0 385 49689 3

The author does a splendid job of setting the background for the creation of the commission and the manner in which it was constructed. He also explains the structure and mechanisms of the commission and the pains of giving birth to this new creation.

Without question, the quotes he uses from the testimony of victims is the most moving part of the work. For those of us who were involved in the struggle, it brought back some of those demons from the past. Even with the re-living of all this pain in public, I agree with Tutu that this process was needed and those who were brave enough to come to the commission should be commended. To my knowledge, this is the first time anywhere in the world that a bold step of this nature has been attempted.

For those who are interested in resolving conflict, this book provides some insights. For the author, this is rooted in his faith and spirituality. For me as a South African, the book was an easy read and I was happy to note that it is written in typical Desmond-folksy style with wit and humour.

I would, though, have liked to have seen less of Tutu in the book and more stories of victims and greater explanation about the difficulties the commission experienced. What I am getting at here is a sort of primer for others in the world who are looking at this experiment.

However, this piece goes a long way to enlighten us that for reconciliation there has to be admission of sin and then forgiveness. The commission is a step, but the struggle continues. Keith Philander is from South Africa. Formerly on the social justice staff of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, he now runs an anti-racism and harassment consultancy in Regina.


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