A South African Role Model of Reconciliation

By Seth Naicker 11-21-2008

Since the historic election of Nov. 4, I have been part of discussions with college students and faith-based institutions that have experienced racial tension and intolerance on their campuses. I am sure that there are many more such cases all across the U.S. It is unfortunate that within Christian institutions such social discord is rife. As people of faith we need to be self-critical and willing to deal with hypocrisy as it relates to racism in its overt and covert forms.

Two weeks ago, I was blessed to meet and hear the testimony of South African Anglican priest and social activist Father Michael Lapsley, who was invited to speak in one of Dr. Curtiss DeYoung's Reconciliation Studies classes at Bethel University. Lapsley has been celebrated as an icon of forgiveness and healing in action. Lapsley told of his experiences as an anti-Apartheid activist within South Africa, which led to his horrific experience of being a target of the Apartheid government and its cronies.

Lapsley received two religious magazines that were rigged with explosives, and upon opening this package he lost both his hands, his right eye, and suffered major burns. In light of all Lapsley has faced, he continues to pursue a path passionately committed to serving people, and bringing a message of hope and healing through his understanding of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Lapsley has chosen to live for a common good that will benefit all of humanity.

In a world that is rigged with explosive realities of separation and difference, people must be reminded of exemplars like Lapsley and many others who have laid down their right to be angry, who have laid down their right to take revenge. They who have chosen to pursue a world where peace reigns over war, love reigns over hate, acceptance reigns over tolerance, and understanding is sought before one seeks to be understood.

As Nov. 4 has come and gone, the U.S. remains under the watchful eyes of the world, as the result of this election will affect not just the U.S., but has major ramifications on the socio-economic and political systems of our 21st-century world. The symbolism of this moment in U.S. history must not be taken for granted. Obama's rise to presidency is for many persons of color nothing short of a miracle. Furthermore, the U.S. as a nation must stand up and recognize this moment, whether Republican or Democrat, black or white, Christian or Muslim.

Seth NaickerSeth Naicker is an activist for justice and reconciliation from South Africa. He is currently studying and working at Bethel University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the program and projects director for the Office of Reconciliation Studies. He can be reached at seth-naicker@bethel.edu or smnaick@hotmail.com

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