What have we done?
This is a question the white minority of South Africa had to ask themselves over and over again during the two years of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission(TRC): What have we done?
I don't think this is an easy question to answer, or even to ask. After watching a documentary in class today called "Facing the Truth", compiled by Bill Moyers, I started to examine this question. As we have been learning about Apartheid, the fact of the matter is that the white minority legally controlled the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1994. The documentary showed real clips that were broadcasted publicly on every tv and radio station for the two years during the TRC. At one point, one of the interviewers asked a white minority leader, "Why is it so important to tell your story?" His response was, "because I wanted the world to know what happened." After the world knew what happened, the oppressors could start to answer the initial question, "What have we done?"
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a conversation between the people of South Africa in order to make peace with their past. This is a very interesting concept, but why haven't more countries tried this? After watching the documentary, I have realized that forgiveness from the oppressed to the oppressor is easier said than done. One thing that helped me come to this realization was the natural human reaction to a tragedy such as Apartheid. Our instructor Nate said that first human reaction is to know the truth, THEN to have a desire for justice. If someone knows the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God- how on earth do you prevent the desire for justice? Or throwing the oppressor in jail or committing the same acts upon the oppressor as they did to the oppressed? This is the very place where forgiveness by the people of South Africa was chosen. In the documentary it was stated that, "The oppressors wanted amnesty. The oppressed wanted justice." The minority and the majority had to compromise, and the act of forgiving as a whole nation was born.
Desmond Tutu played a huge role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and one of his lines from "There really is no future without forgiveness" states the importance of forgiveness for the future.
"Our experiment is going to succeed because God wants us to succeed, not for our own glory and aggrandisement but for the sake of God's world. God wants to show that there is life after conflict and repression- that because of forgiveness, there is a future."
I think this is such a powerful statement because as HARD as it may be to forgive, sometimes that is the only way to move on with life. This does not mean a person has to dismiss what has happened in the past, but at least the feeling of anger or resentment can begin to leave a person, and the soul can be restored. Forgiveness is a powerful healing mechanism, but it is a process I am still trying to accept and apply to not only my mind, but also my heart.