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No Future Without Forgiveness





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About the book:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu stands alongside Nelson Mandela as one of the most iconic figures of the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. As Archbishop of Cape Town throughout the 1980s, Tutu came to symbolise dignified, rational opposition to the iniquities of the apartheid regime, a faithful irreverence for unjust authority that led to his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. In 1995 he took up his greatest challenge: he was appointed Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the remarkable yet harrowing attempt by South Africans to come to terms with the gross violations of human rights committed throughout the apartheid era by offering amnesty and forgiveness rather than punishment and dismissal.

No Future without Forgiveness is Tutu's remarkable personal memoir of his time as Chair of the Commission. It records his insistence on the need to discover a "third way" in the healing of the national psyche, and his powerful belief that "we can indeed transcend the conflicts of the past, we can hold hands as we realise our common humanity". Yet what is so striking about this memoir is his appreciation of the personal cost that the painful testimony of the Commission caused. He grapples with the theological, political and ethical objections to the Commission, as well as offering an absorbing account of the fall of apartheid, the birth of the Commission, and his own lifelong fight for justice and equality. The book offers uncompromising, often horrific, accounts of atrocities and sickening human brutality, from the emotive cases of Steve Biko and Winnie Mandela to the cases of "the little people": those whose voices are so often drowned out or forgotten in the process of political transformation. Tutu's characteristic humour, resilience and compassion are evoked in this memoir in a way that demonstrates how essential they have been to his unique political style and his ability to get results where all others failed. He recalls during the darkest days of apartheid's "vicious awfulness" when preaching about God's authority being "frequently tempted to whisper in God's ear, 'For goodness sake, why don't You make it more obvious that You are in charge?'"

No Future without Forgiveness could be profitably read alongside Antje Krog's equally compelling Country of My Skull, as it considers the emotional toll that such a process of national soul searching has had upon its participants. As Tutu himself points out, "it is a costly business to try to heal a wounded and traumatised people, and those engaging in that crucial task will perhaps bear the brunt themselves ... we were, in Henri Nouwen's celebrated phrase, 'wounded healers'". No Future without Forgiveness stands as the eloquent testimony of one of South Africa's most admired wounded healers. --Rachel Holmes

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