South Africa: The Spirit of Reconciliation

Inauguration day in South Africa had special significance for Dr. Beyers Naudé, and not just because the new South Africa was born as he celebrated his 79th birthday. Three decades ago Naudé was one of the first leading Afrikaners to oppose apartheid openly, and for that he was defrocked as a minister by the white Dutch Reformed Church, hounded by the security police, investigated, tried, and banned by the government.

When the African National Congress was unbanned in 1990, Naudé was the sole Afrikaner in the ANC delegation that negotiated with the government. His unique position of respect in the black community led some to call him "the most trusted white man in South Africa." Naudé was interviewed for Sojourners the day after Nelson Mandela’s inauguration by Will Winterfeld, a member of Jubilee Partners in Comer, Georgia, and an international church observer of the election. —The Editors

Beyers Naudé: I’m so privileged that I’ve experienced what is happening now in South Africa. What right did I have to expect this to happen? How many others—my brothers and sisters, Christians and non-Christians—suffered through exile or imprisonment and torture? They went through much more than I went through. I really see this as a gift from God, and every morning when I get up and do my morning prayers, I start by saying, "Thank you, God, not only for today but for this special period."

Will Winterfeld: How will it be possible for those who have been the oppressor in South Africa to have a genuine experience of repentance, where they will turn around and start the process of forgiveness?

Naudé: I think some will be able to see that they did oppress. It will depend on their Christian faith and on what repentance and restitution means to them. Some people will not be able to turn around, simply because it is demanding too much.

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Sojourners Magazine July 1994
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