In order for South Africa to heal its legacy of apartheid, people must have faith in God and forgive their oppressors, said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in an address Monday.
The chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and 1984 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Tutu spoke to a Minneapolis crowd of more than 2,000 to emphasize that God and prayers are the reasons freedom and democracy are now taking shape in a country where apartheid has reigned for years.
“We are going to succeed not because we deserve to succeed,” Tutu said. “We are going to succeed because it is God’s will.”
In his address, which was part of the Westminster Town Hall Forum series, titled “Voices of Conscience: Key Issues in Ethical Perspectives,” Tutu stressed forgiveness and reconciliation, even in countries rife with crimes against humanity.
“I wanted to hear him speak, no matter the subject,” said Natalie Smith, a University kinesiology major. “If he were talking all day, I’d be here all day.”
Tutu was appointed by South African President Nelson Mandela as the chairman of the commission in 1995. Since his appointment, Tutu has made significant strides in uniting a nation once separated by race.
“He seemed like such a small person and once he started speaking he became such a big man to me,” said Katrina Foster, a University student in science and quantitative reasoning.
The commission Tutu chairs reviews South African cases of former apartheid military and police requesting amnesty. Although it is not permanent, the committee has received more than 7,000 applications for amnesty.
“What is taking place in South Africa right now is a temporary arrangement,” Tutu said. “If we didn’t have amnesty, we wouldn’t have a free South Africa.”
While forgiveness is not always easy, it must occur for the country to be healed, Tutu said. The transformation is painfully slow, and reconciliation itself is a long, drawn-out process.
“Evil-doers, they still remain children of God,” Tutu said. “We have an incredible capacity for evil; we also have a remarkable capacity for good. Forgiveness is not cheap and reconciliation is not easy. But we believe you have the capacity to change.”
Susan Federbusch, coordinator of the event, said the forum has been bringing in speakers for the past 18 years. Tutu’s appearance is his only scheduled appearance in the Midwest to date. He is currently teaching at Emory University in Atlanta.
“When he came to the United States and decided to do some touring, it was a logical place to come,” Federbusch said, because the forum typically tries to book speakers who are widely renown.
The forum will be broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio today at 11 a.m.