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Desmond Tutu meets victims and perpetrators of violence

May 16, 2010

….At The Forgiveness Project’s inaugural annual lecture last Wednesday, it was easy to see why everyone wants a little piece of Desmond Tutu. His immense humanity and irrepressible good humor are infectious. As he spoke of the uniquely African concept of ‘ubuntu’, the process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the transformative nature of forgiveness, there was a real sense that people were witnessing something immensely special. It was intriguing to see how he responded to the other speakers on the stage —  Mary Blewitt who had lost 50 members of her family in the Rwandan genocide; Jo Berry whose father was killed in the 1984 Brighton bombing; and Patrick Magee, the former IRA activist who planted the bomb. Desmond Tutu indicated he felt honored to be in the presence of these three remarkable people.

Mary Blewitt’s attitude towards forgiveness appeared polar opposite to that of Archbishop Tutu. The founder of a Rwandan survivors’ organization, Surf, described how she had witnessed only pain, disillusion, and the re-traumatizing of survivors who were now forced to live next-door to the people who had once tried to kill them.

For her, the world is awash with forgiveness; “Forgiveness without justice is nothing more than delayed atrocity”, she says.

Standing on the stage, speaking of all the many atrocities she had born witness to, Blewitt’s story was deeply painful, but it was extraordinary to see Desmond Tutu edging towards her, respecting her pain. No one should be forced to forgive, he told her.

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