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Pilgrimage Into Apartheid’s Legacy

October 22, 2010


Racial classifications building: the "banality of evil"


Yesterday 35 participants engaging a common reconciliation journey during the Lausanne Cape Town Congress experienced a moving day of pilgrimage into the city.  Glimpses and words:

“It’s not a tour.  It’s a pilgrimage” Me to the group, when our bus didn’t appear until just in time

“A pilgrimage is a sacred journey through valleys of suffering into the heart of God” Lisa Loden of Israel during a devotion from Psalm 84

“The gospel you believe in depends on your location” Morning guide Peter Storey, former Methodist bishop of South Africa and colleague of Desmond Tutu, who was pastor in District Six during the forced removal of its people in 1966

“I gave the orders to have you killed and I need you to forgive me” A former police officer who came up to Storey at a conference after apartheid ended.  Storey told of being taken into the bush with Desmond Tutu and being told they were going to be shot

“The banality of evil” Storey’s description of the unimpressive racial classification building where people argued what “race” they should be labeled under apartheid law

“You don’t seem to understand.  He’s talking to God at the moment” Head of a retreat center to a representative of president Nelson Mandela who insisted that retreatant Tutu come to the phone to talk to the president.  During apartheid Tutu spent two days every month in retreat.  Said Storey,  “Without Desmond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would have collapsed in three months”

“It’s good we’re going to Gugulethu, otherwise you would have thought you were in Europe” Afternoon guide Moss Ntlha, the General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa as our bus headed to this black township near the airport.  The contrast to the downtown Convention Center was stark

“We have inherited the unfinished business of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” Rev. Dr. Spiowo Xapile of the J.L. Zwane Center and church which ministers among Gugulethu’s 250,000 people:  65% unemployment, 1 in 4 HIV positive, 75% in informal settlement “shanties,” many orphaned children

“The church is the most divided community.  People outside the church embrace reparations and deep reconciliation more than the church” Rev. Xapile

“What do we understand communion to be?” Question of the church elders after a grandmother gave her communion bread to her starved grandchild.  Perhaps, said Rev. Xapile, communion is about koinonia: a fair distribution of resources “where everyone is fed” (Acts 4:32-35)

“If you want to save somebody you’ve got to get into the mud with them” A man in the community to Rev. Xapile

“Jesus had to risk appearing as if he was not God in order to save us.  He had to get into the mud” Moss Ntlha

“This day opened my eyes to the pain of Columbia and the silence of the church” As we debriefed at the end, one participant’s sentiment was echoed by others from many global contexts

About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.  He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.

Also See: Official Lausanne Congress site

Previous Reconcilers Posts from Lausanne Cape Town:

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