News Updates

VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE, WAR AND TERROR MEET TO HEAL THEIR WOUNDS - Cape Times 2004 April 19

VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE, WAR AND TERROR MEET TO HEAL THEIR WOUNDS - Cape Times 2004 April 19

Article by: Babalo Ndenze and Malavika Jagannathan Cape Times: Monday 19 April 2004

VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE, WAR AND TERROR MEET TO HEAL THEIR WOUNDS

A vietnam bomb victim describing her relationship with a war veteran; a man who lot  his older brother in the September 11 World Trade Centre attack; a priest who lost both hands in an apartheid-era letter bomb and a Senegalese women who was genitally mutilated.

These four people were among 200 victims and relatives of victims maimed or killed during wars, political repression and terror attacks around the globe in the past 40 years, who gathered on Robben Island to share their experiences and help each other understand their ordeals.

The four-day Journey Towards Healing and Wholeness Conference ended on Saturday. It was organised by the Institute for Healing of Memories in partnership with the Desmond Tutu Leadership Academy to enable participants from different parts of South Africa and the world to learn from one another how to deal with their 
experiences.

One of the organisers, Micheal Lapsley, the Anglican minister who lost his hands to a letter bomb sent by the apartheid police while he was working in Zimbabwe, said the conference coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Institute for Healing of Memories and South Africa's 10 years of democracy celebrations.

Lapsley said he had for years dreamed of bringing people from different struggles together in one place to share their experiences and how they had dealt with them.

Among the conference's objectives was creating a safe space for sharing and reflecting. Another was to record the experiences of participants.

The experiences related included those of someone who had spent 18 years on death row in Uganda, a Vietnam bomb victim who established a relationship with a war veteran, and Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who were involved in the Brighton bombing in Britain in 1984, where then prime minister Margaret Thatcher narrowly escaped injury.

?I think there was a profound sense of unity, deep hope and know that we were wounded, ? said Lapsley. ?What is so unique about what we are doing is that it concentrates on human emotion, on issues people don?t often talk about?

Rwandan genocide survivor Jean Baptiste said the event had helped him share in the humanity of struggle. ?The conference meant we are not alone in Rwanda. I felt healing and forgiveness was the key,? he said.

Andrew Rice spoke of his older brother David, who worked in one of the World Trade Centre towers and died in the terror attack. ?We need to avoid retribution and learn how to deal with (the trauma),? Rice said.

?There are so many people being traumatised and this gave me an overwhelming need to feel empathy. We are part of a human family. We are connecting a lot with different people.?

Today sees the start of the The F Word: Images of Forgiveness, an exhibition of photographs and interviews with the victims and perpetrators of crimes, many of whom attended the conference. The travelling exhibit is on display at St George's Cathedral. Marina Cantacuzino, the British freelance journalist who created the exhibit, was inspired to explore the idea of forgiveness in 2002 after watching a man on television forgive the doctor who accidentally killed his son.

Her South African interview subjects include Lapsley, Duma Kumalo ? one of the Sharpeville Six ? and Linda Biehl, whose daughter Amy was killed in Cape Town in 1993.

Cantacuzino says the intention of the exhibit is not to preach forgiveness, but to show the process of forgiveness?.

About Us

The Institute for the Healing of Memories seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Our work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.

Contact Us

  • Institute for Healing of Memories
    5 Eastry Road, Claremont,
    Cape Town, 7708, South Africa

  • +27 21 683 6231