Saturday 26th May 2012
There’s one book that never leaves my bedside table. It’s Nelson Mandela’s autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, a stunning account of the struggle of one man and a whole nation – a story about growing and learning, told with a shining faith that human hope and dignity are invincible.
When a new government was formed in South Africa 64 years ago today, it was to become the architect of Aparthied. Much has been written about the subsequent years of oppression and violence, but what radiates with a breath-taking luminosity is the eventual search for reconciliation. Nelson Mandela wrote “As I walked out of the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission wasn’t perfect, but it enabled people at least to begin the process of forgiveness and healing.
Marion Partington describes this process very movingly in her recent account of her sister Lucy’s death, one of the victims of Fred and Rosemary West. In her personal chronicle of grief, Marion explains that her spiritual journey towards “becoming forgiving” was long and complex and a huge test of her faith.
Forgiveness isn’t about pretending that things are as they used to be. Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering - remembering and yet not retaliating. It’s risky but it can bring real healing. Thankfully most of us don’t have to deal with such atrocities in our lives but we do all have experiences that call for our forgiveness – either of other people or of ourselves.
You‘ve shown us that the journey towards reconciliation is difficult and costly. In our own pain and conflict, lead us gently along the path of forgiveness – only then can we be free.