Reconciled with Truth

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32 (NIV)
Our appointment in 1994 coincided with the advent of 'the new South Africa' or as some preferred to call it: 'the real South Africa'. Not only was there the challenge of building a better future life for all, but also dealing with the legacy of the past. 
I was present when Archbishop Desmond Tutu encouraged leaders at a South African Council of Churches meeting to engage fully with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They were authorised to listen to victims and perpetrators of apartheid and, where necessary, to grant amnesty. 
Although anxious to preserve our denominational stance of political neutrality, the leadership team quickly agreed to a plan of action. This would include for us a nationwide reflection in thanksgiving for new beginnings, a commitment to facilitate healing, to grasp the evangelistic opportunities in the process and a submission to the commission on behalf of the denomination. 
Listening to the stories of 'our own people' gave insight into the deep feelings that lingered: anger to the point of hatred in some; guilt and embarrassment to the point of shame in others. We were grappling with the complex process of forgiving and being forgiven. There were many lessons to learn, not least how difficult both can be, and that both are not 'one-off' events but of living with forgiveness. This is true transformation.
Formulating our own submission was not without its difficulty. Did we have the right to make an admission about something that had passed? But when it came to the crunch, the leadership reached consensus in admission that whilst we did not feel we had committed offences worthy of amnesty, we had been too slow in condemning the iniquities of apartheid.  Racism is a widespread human attitude. 
Our signing of the submission by the leadership team concluded with a deeply spiritual moment, celebrated with a quite spontaneous 'agape' - love feast of bread broken together. The truth had set us free. Tensions would emerge again in time. We needed to live as people reconciled. 
I sometimes wonder whether anything like this will ever happen for those who have lived with the stigma of leprosy.