A Conversation about Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Healing

Lessons from South Africa

Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution welcomed more than 200 guests to a conversation in March that focused on forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, with a specific emphasis on the personal experiences of survivors of apartheid in South Africa.

The two-day event featured an elite panel of guest speakers, including Father Michael Lapsley, founder of the Institute for Healing of Memories; Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the United States; John Allen, former press officer for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and biographer of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Michael Henry Wilson and Carole Wilson, documentary filmmakers, Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle; and Karen Hayes, documentary filmmaker, The Foolishness of God: My Forgiveness Journey with Desmond Tutu.

The conversation, Overcoming Apartheid, brought forth firsthand accounts from the guest speakers regarding life in South Africa in what became a segregated existence in a fragmented nation caused by legislation by the National Party beginning in the late 1940s and lasting through the 1970s.

“They left us with far more psychological land mines that still go off every day,” Ambassador Rasool said. “Landmines of race. Landmines of arrogance.”

Lapsley, who was exiled from the country in 1976 for his work on behalf of schoolchildren who were being shot, detained, and tortured, lost both of his hands from a letter bomb.

“The day I landed in South Africa I stopped being a human and started being a white man,” Lapsley said, noting judgments made based on the color of his skin. “We were all its prisoners.”

Hayes was growing up in the United States at the time of apartheid, and recalls seeing terrible images of South Africa and the struggle for freedom. She vowed to advocate against such injustice nonviolently. For her efforts as a filmmaker, Hayes was awarded Pepperdine’s first-ever Filmmaker Illumination Award.

“This was really about educating others about apartheid, but also about lessons in forgiveness, in healing wounds, in responsibility and obligation,” said Tom Stipanowich, director of the Straus Institute. “This multifaceted program, more than a year in the making, represents a major leap forward for the Straus Institute and its Conversations Series. The patient and painstaking effort of many people produced a remarkable and moving experience for the many who attended the program We will not soon forget the personal stories of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, and Father Michael Lapsley, or the documentary efforts of John Allen, Michael and Carole Wilson, and Karen Hayes.”

The event also featured a screening of Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle, a screening of a conversation between Tutu and Allen, and a forgiveness and healing workshop with Father Lapsley.

The Straus Institute will host a second conversation, Women in Hollywood: 100 Years of Negotiating the System, November 15-16, 2013.

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