I have just finished reading the biography of Archbishop Desmond Tutu from  South Africa and this paragraph from right at the end of the book stood out powerfully for me. The idea that it is both those who commit violence and attrocity and those who are the victims of it who suffer as a result of it. Both are in need of great help:

tutuIf Tutu’s lifelong advocacy of justice was difficult, demanding, and contentious, then his vision for how to bring about reconciliation was surely more so. In his formulation, ubuntu-botho equips you to look at your torturers, to realise that they need your help and to stand ready to enable them to regain their humanity. Such a philosophy scandalizes the world. Yet, extraordinarily, it empowers the survivors of torture, for it enables them to take control of their lives, to take initiatives instead of remaining trapped in victimhood, waiting helplessly for the perpetrators to act. Thus ubuntu-botho gives contemporary, practical meaning to God’s forgiveness of the people of Israel recorded by the prophet Hosea, and to Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” [Hosea 11.1-9, Luke 23.24] But ubuntu-botho does not allow perpetrators to escape the necessity of confessing and making restitution to survivors, since it places the needs of society – the restoration of relationship – at the heart of reconciliation. As Tutu once told a priest who challenged his views on the subject: “God’s gift of forgiveness is gracious and unmerited but you must be willing to… appropriate the gift.”

[from the biography ‘Desmond Tutu: Rabble-Rouser for Peace’ by John Allen]

If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy similiar themed posts:

Forgiveness in under 50 words

How to condemn evil while loving evil people

I need to be stronger