“… reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.” – Nelson Mandela
Mandela, against all odds, stood firm in his determination that his presidency would be one of reconciliation and healing, rather than of hatred and a return to civil war. There is also a deep desire among many South Africans (70% of which identify with Christianity) to see their nation healed of the wounds of the past, and the ongoing violence. When emotions run high, however, this seems impossible, except that as Matthew 19:26 reminds us “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Forgiveness and love being key to reconciliation and unity.
When hundreds of protesters gathered at South Africa’s Union Buildings in October this year, to raise awareness of farm killings they called on the government and police to act against the perpetrators and to pray. The demonstration followed the brutal death of a man 21-year-old on a farm in the Free State and two suspects had been arrested. After protesters stormed the Senekal Magistrate Court and set a police vehicle alight a 51-year-old farmer was arrested in connection with the violent protests.
Minister of Police Bheki Cele denounced both the murder, and resulting violent protests. He said tensions would have to be addressed, as some political parties sought to use the situation to bring further division. Then President Ramaphosa condemned the murder in his weekly newsletter to the nation and said: “If we are to succeed in tackling violent crime, particularly in rural communities, we must confront this trauma and challenge the racial attitudes that prevent a united response.”
South Africa’s national anthem which calls on the Lord to bless and protect the nation, and for its people to live and strive for freedom together is particularly relevant during such deeply troubling times in which a people who are not yet one people, have travelled a significant way together but are still on that journey to a just and equitable society.
South Africa cannot speak from a position of having achieved perfect harmony but we have dared to try, we have fallen short and succeeded – our shortcomings humble us but so too do our successes which are nothing short of miraculous.
Before there can be any degree of success with regard to healing and reconciliation, an effort must be made. There will always be those who work against unity and those… determined to ensure chaos reigns, but while there are others, brave enough to try, success is a distinct possibility.