Desire for Reconciliation Remains Strong

Post a Comment » Written on March 9th, 2006     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (March 9, 2006) – The desire for racial reconciliation continues to be strong in South Africa even as the nation seeks to balance justice, mercy and economic challenges a decade removed from the fall of apartheid.

That was what the nation’s Consul General in Chicago, Yusuf Omar, told a gathering of North Park Theological Seminary students recently.

Reconciliation doesn’t mean “let bygones be bygones,” said Omar. Contrition, confession and forgiveness are necessary for the healing process. “One needs to know whom one is forgiving and why,” said Omar. “That is the reason truth is important.” He added, “Reconciliation cannot be based on lies.”

Omar was part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) established in 1995 in the wake of apartheid’s downfall. The commission’s goal was to obtain testimony from as many people as possible about the years of injustice. Its final report was issued in 2003.

“We all stand in need of healing,” said Omar, who was five years old when he witnessed his father being beaten. “We wanted to find a way to forgive our fellow countrymen.”

The commission heard from victims and “perpetrators telling the truth in front of the nation.” As many as 5,000 victims or victims’ survivors appeared before the commission, and more than 7,000 perpetrators also testified, Omar said.

Testifying did not automatically lead to absolution. “The TRC did not merely dole out amnesty,” Omar said. Much depended on the person’s responsibility in the era’s violence. The TRC has been key to the nation’s current stability, Omar told the students. “It took the sting of people’s anger and resentment.”

Reparations and rehabilitation have been essential to the amnesty process, Omar said. “It won’t reverse the damage done, but it can lead to restoration of dignity of the violated.”

The process has included financial reparations and symbolic gestures such as building memorials, providing death certificates for those killed and the removal of criminal records, Omar said. He added that the country also has promoted institutional reform and the healing of communities through providing health and mental health care, education and housing, as well as “demilitarizing” the youth.

Although South Africa now boasts a budget surplus, much work still remains, Omar said. The country continues to work on improving its social programs and improving housing for much of the population. The country also is working to stem the tide of HIV an AIDS as well as globalization.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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