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"No Future Without Forgiveness" - Desmond Tutu
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By Wanda Pratt

We all say 'excuse me', 'forgive me', 'beg pardon', very glibly most every day. Many Christians even say 'forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us', almost weekly in our worship services. Asking for and receiving forgiveness is on thing in our every day western lives. It is quite another thing in Desmond Tutu's book about South Africa's involvement in such an exercise that includes a whole country and monumental sins and atrocities against fellow citizens.

"No Future Without Forgiveness" is about Desmond Tutu's experiences as a member and leader of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission after apartheid was defeated in South Africa in 1994. That commission was appointed by Nelson Mandela's brand new government to act on the governments behalf to grant amnesty to perpetrators of atrocities during the struggle for the freedom from apartheid. It also was to listen to and authorize reparations to victims of those who were harmed in that struggle.

The apartheid system was put in place in 1948 and banished people of color from their neighbourhoods and villages to filthy 'townships' with no means to support themselves, no electricity, sewage, water or education for their children. When Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many others began to push back against the oppression, much trouble began. Political groups began to form and individuals within those groups were often ordered to kidnap, murder, rape and made disappear their political opponents.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had rules about listening to amnesty applications and to provide restitution to victims. The crime being sworn to must have been a political action – not a personal vendetta. It had to be as a result of a political organisation's plan to enforce or push back against apartheid. The government allowed the Commission to provide restitution up to a reasonable amount for any one incident. For instance, if a group of people from one of the political factions were ordered to kidnap and kill someone or a group of people, they had to provide all the details of the event to be given amnesty. The family of the murdered person or persons could apply for restitution and state what they wanted. In some cases those people only wanted the bones of their loved ones back so they could bury them. In some others, they might want enough to mark their loved ones' grave. They were gracious enough to forgive.

Many of us struggle with the idea of forgiveness. It is easy to excuse, or forgive, someone who jostles us in the elevator or bumps our cart in the grocery store. It is another thing completely to forgive someone who lies about us, spreads gossip, and hurts, tortured or murdered one of our loved ones. The grace shown through "No Future Without Forgiveness" by the victims of horrific crimes is amazing to read and imagine, yet if it could be emulated in all our lives, how much better the world would be. And Tutu recommends a similar type of commission for other countries going through terrible troubles — like Ireland, Iraq, Israel and others. If that type of truth telling and forgiveness could happen instead of the constant eye for an eye and soldier for soldier, maybe life in this whole world would be calmer. One can pray so.

"No Future Without Forgiveness" By Desmond Tutu ISBN 0-385-49690-7