I Ask for Peace
(I found this very thought provoking.)
Mpho Tutu van Furth describes a painful miscommunication that took place during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process:
‘I am sorry. Forgive me’ were the words the perpetrators said. I am taking responsibility for what I did and what was done at my command or in my name. But what the victims heard was not the same. They didn’t hear the words the perpetrators said. They heard the words of the translators instead. ‘Ndicela uxolo.’ But that’s not the same.
The English ‘I am sorry’ wraps the plea in the logic of individuality and the English ‘Forgive me’ underlines the same. What I have done was done only by me and thus is only my responsibility. This ‘I am sorry. Forgive me’ is all about me.
But the old ones heard a different word. ‘Ndicela uxolo’ means ‘I ask for peace.’ It is an ubuntu apology and it is about we. ‘I ask for peace’ sees our interconnectivity.
‘I am sorry. Forgive me’ means set me free of the guilt and the shame that has burdened me. Decide to wipe the debt slate clean for me.
The old ones heard ‘I ask for peace’ and they offered forgiveness as peace based on ubuntu reciprocity. They gave their forgiveness as space to plant the seeds of a better future for the whole community. . . .
Ubuntu peace is peace between us and peace within each of us. Ubuntu forgiveness is peace that heals. . . . When the old ones heard Ndicela uxulo . . . they heard perpetrators asking for hope for a better ‘we’. They heard an appeal for healing for all of us and the space between us that is community. They heard an appeal for a healing of the fabric of life.
Tutu van Furth explains how ubuntu peace moves beyond verbal apologies to sincere action and reparations for past harm:
Without reparations ‘I am sorry. Forgive me’ asks victims to pick up an eraser and walk through the past eradicating the injuries that perpetrators inflicted so that those who wielded the scythe of destruction can be released from the guilt for their cruelty and their greed, their prejudice and violence, while preserving the benefits that their behaviour has bestowed on them and their children. Without reparations forgiveness has no ubuntu, and it heals nothing. . . .
The ubuntu understanding of forgiveness is that forgiveness cultivates justice and bestows peace. . . .
The forgiveness we once offered you would build justice where cruelty had lived. Our forgiveness was born and bred in ubuntu. Later we came to understand and see that forgiveness for you had its home in individuality and could not understand the logic of community. So forgiveness for you was what set you free of all responsibility for us.
But reparations have made a new place for us to gather. Reparations have started to reveal what it takes for all of us to heal and to step into God’s new creation.