‘Put healing on the national agenda’

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Freedom fighter and cleric Father Michael Lapsley is in Durban for the launch of his book Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Durban - Anglican cleric Father Michael Lapsley says there is an urgent need to put the issue of healing on the country’s national agenda and “face our woundedness as a people”.

While the government and civil society should lead the way, it was everyone’s responsibility to get involved, he said.

Referred to as the “wounded healer” Lapsley lost his lower arms and an eye in Zimbabwe in 1990 after receiving a letter bomb believed to have been sent by the apartheid government’s Civil Co-Operation Bureau. Now he is the director of the Institute for Healing of Memories, based in Cape Town.

Lapsley is in Durban for the launch of his book Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer, at the Diakonia Centre on Tuesday evening.

“For deeply tragic reasons this book is timely,” he said, referring to the recent Marikana tragedy.

He said the death of 34 mineworkers at Marikana following clashes with the police and the re-emergence of necklace killings in Cape Town were dramatic signs that SA was still a traumatised nation.

Lapsley said the Marikana tragedy evoked a deep sense of grief and shame “that such a thing could happen in a democratic era. Resorting to violence doesn’t just do terrible things to the victim but also the perpetrator”.

He said the foundations of apartheid stretched back through the centuries, so the road to create a different society would be long and bumpy.

However, Lapsley warned that while there was much to celebrate since 1994, a huge percentage of the population was “disillusioned by the political classes” which seemed to be characterised by greed and power, rather than serving the nation.

A way to deal with this, he said, was by addressing income inequality, because often obscene poverty was seen side by side with obscene wealth and while leaders always spoke about addressing the poverty, they were silent about the wealth. We need a national conversation… We need to shout at each other less and listen a little more.”

Lapsley also said the controversy about The Spear, the widely condemned painting featuring President Jacob Zuma’s genitals, had nothing to do with Zuma, and everything to do with the pain of the country’s past and how people had been treated.

Lapsley said that although prayer, love and support had saved him from bitterness and anger, he would “always grieve for the hands that will never come back, so grief becomes a permanent feature…”

And while he said he was not consumed with hate, anger and bitterness, he had yet to forgive those unknown people who had targeted him. “Forgiveness is not yet on the table [but] I have the key and I’m willing to turn it,” he said.

Lapsley’s book launch is part of a colloquium on SA’s Unfinished Business and includes a panel featuring Mary de Haas, Stephen Karakashian and Bishop Rubin Phillip. - The Mercury


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