Book Review — No Future Without Forgiveness

American citizens hammered daily by aggressive and destructive political rhetoric will find a solace in Desmond Tutu’s book about the way South Africa approached the problem of reconciling the nation after the end of apartheid. Reading this book gave me hope that the right leader could calm the troubled waters even in the USA in 2012.

Desmond Tutu is known world-wide as a major figure in the struggle to bring apartheid to an end in South Africa. His vocation as a bishop in the Anglican Church gave him a platform on which to speak and created in people a predisposition to respect his voice. Nonetheless, even after he had received the Nobel Peace Prize, his battle against the dehumanization of all non-white individuals in South Africa was fraught with personal peril and entrenched legal and bureaucratic structures.

As anyone with children knows very well, even after power has put a stop to a battle, deep-seated resentments fester and erupt over and over unless they are somehow defused. This problem is the thesis that shapes Tutu’s book. In this book, which reads at times like a personal journal, Tutu recounts the decision to create a Truth Commission whose role was to give voice to all who had been abused and oppressed when apartheid was the law of the land. The attitudes that fueled apartheid resulted in terrible atrocities. People were murdered, maimed, and tortured. Families were destroyed. The wounds of those days ran deep. Tutu feared that unless the people who had suffered so terribly were allowed to tell their stories, the wounds would fester into a never-ending struggle that would rip apart a nation trying desperately to heal.

The Truth Commission not only invited people to tell the stories of atrocities, but it also was authorized to contact the perpetrators of the atrocities. This element was very important, because the commission had the authority to ask the perpetrators simply to confirm the details. Anybody could come to the Commission and say anything. By incorporating into the process, the  opportunity for perpetrators to speak as well, the truth was protected from one-sided bias due to pain. The intent, of course, was to prevent people from telling horrific lies and making the situation even worse.

The huge and surprising theme of the book is that out of all this truth-telling came forgiveness. Many people found it sufficient simply to tell their story and be heard with respect. Tutu is surprisingly open about his own feelings in the process.

This book is a revelation of the power of truth to defuse hatred and the need for revenge. The stories people told of their experiences are heart-breaking, but the record of numerous instances of forgiveness and even healing that came out of the work of the commission creates great hope that what happened in South Africa could happen anywhere.

The USA currently suffers from some of the harshest verbal assaults on record in the political arena. Citizens are divided and angry and aggressive in ways I have never before seen during a campaign. I recommend we all ask ourselves where is the leader who can do for the people of the USA what Desmond Tutu did for the people of South Africa.

4 thoughts on “Book Review — No Future Without Forgiveness

  1. Thank you for this review.This year of politics has been so mean spirited that I have refused to listen any more or respond to political phone calls–it is just too much animosity. We need to hear something positive, uplifting; we need a way to turn it around. We need the Lord to raise up statemen who care more for their country than their personal position. I can’t help but think the Lord gave Tutu the idea; he had the wisdom and courage to act on it. Bravo.

  2. I can certainly appreciate your feelings. I, too, pray daily that God will raise up leaders we can vote for and rely on to lead with integrity. We know that God hears our prayers. May he increase our faith to remain strong if his answers are not what we expect or want.

  3. Very informative review. I pray nightly II Chronicles 7:14 for our nation. I know God is in control of everything and nothing happens that He doesn’t allow. I also believe Prov. 19:21–that His purpose will prevail. My vote seems so small in the scheme of things, but it’s what I can do. I don’t understand why everyone 18 and older don’t vote. It’s how we change things.


    Tom Blubaugh, Author
    Night of the Cossack

  4. I, too, pray every day for our nation. As the Psalmist observed, we can only hope in God, because mortals are no help at all. I pray every person who yearns for truth to prevail will vote as God guides him.
    Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you will take a look at some of my other blogs, too.

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