Friday we took a tour of the township Langa. We visited several different areas, exploring the township and getting bits and pieces of the history and the culture.
One of the places we visited was the memorial of Amy Biehl, a young white American girl who was an Anti-Apartheid activist. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, a white in the middle of an angry and violent Langa, and she was stoned to death by a mob. But the story doesn’t end there; the four men convicted for the murder were released by way of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a court-like committee created after the end of apartheid to help reconcile the country by asking people to confess, or tell their stories and then offering amnesty to those who come forward. All four of Amy’s killers were granted amnesty, but even greater than that, they received true forgiveness from Amy’s parents, who actually work with some of those men today in the Amy Biehl Foundation.
Everyone marveled at that level of forgiveness, of tolerance, of pardon. Working side by side, having conversations with someone who took the life of your child. It’s hard to wrap your head around.
We’ve discussed in detail the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and even Amy Beihl’s story in my theology class and I had no idea her memorial site was going to be a stop on the tour.
For a better understanding of the TRC and South Africa after apartheid here are some words from the Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, who speaks eloquently about South Africa’s capacity for forgiveness: