I cannot believe I leave for South Africa in less than 2 weeks! This trip of a lifetime will be here before I know it.
While preparing to leave for South Africa, I have been spending some time learning about the social work landscape that I’ll be seeing first hand during my time in Cape Town. One article provided for this class, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa: Relation to Psychiatric Status and Forgiveness Among Survivors of Human Rights Abuses, has given me a little perspective on the individual and societal implications of apartheid (2013). Although apartheid ended 20 years ago, the historical trauma and cultural impact left by it is both heartbreaking and significant. The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is putting a lot of effort towards addressing the impact left by apartheid. What the TRC has found is that the need for mental health and therapeutic treatment is immense. The TRC suggests that both testimony therapy and forgiveness are associated with greater mental-health among South Africans and apartheid survivors (Kaminer, et al., 2013). In a study authored by the TRC exploring these factors, the results asserted that “depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders were all significantly higher among participants with low forgiveness scores when compared with those with high forgiveness scores” (Kaminer, et al., 2013). In my Racism and Genocide class in undergrad, I remember being struck by similar findings of studies focusing on survivors of the Rwandan genocide. This theme of forgiveness. This theme of not only disallowing the evil of others to define your story, but of showing them grace and forgiveness in the face of your own pain.
I have always been interested in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. But I am also acutely aware of how complex this work truly is. And, I also have never personally experienced atrocities like apartheid or the Rwandan genocide. To forgive someone for killing your family, or putting you in prison, or removing your national citizenship… it is an act which I find hard to understand. How does someone forgive these injustices committed against them? How do we show love towards someone in the face of evil? Personally, I simply do not know the answer to this. But I am hoping that my time in South Africa will give me a glimpse into what this kind of forgiveness looks like, not just for South Africans but for humanity as well. This topic of forgiveness in South Africa is one of the things I am most looking forward to learning about during my time there.
I am excited to learn more about the ways in which agencies and communities in South Africa utilize the theme of forgiveness in their conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.
Thanks for reading,