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The Ambiguous Role of Religion in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Shore, Megan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) PEACE & CHANGE, Vol. 31, No. 3

This article examines the ambiguous role that religion, particularly Christianity, played in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. On the one hand, religious-symbolic discourse was an empowered truth-telling discourse used by victims and survivors in recounting their stories of apartheid abuse. Moreover, it was a discourse publicly affirmed and encouraged by TRC leaders such as Desmond Tutu. On the other hand, religious discourse was prohibited for perpetrators who came forward seeking amnesty; for amnesty applicants, only a legal-forensic mode of truth-telling was authorized by commissioners. We argue that this tension between religious and legal discourse in the TRC has contributed to the establishment of a democratic political culture in South Africa; yet, at the same time, it has also contributed to delays in social and economic justice for victims and survivors. (Excerpt from Author)


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