Magazine article Anglican Journal

Healing without Hands: When a Letter Bomb Changed His Life, Fr. Michael Lapsley Found His True Calling

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Healing without Hands: When a Letter Bomb Changed His Life, Fr. Michael Lapsley Found His True Calling

Article excerpt

AN ANGLICAN priest and social justice activist from South Africa has urged faith communities in Canada to "seize the moment" and take an active part in the public hearings of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The experience will be transformative and "life-giving," says Fr. Michael Lapsley, executive director of the Institute for Healing of Memories (HOM) in Cape Town.

Acknowledgment is "a key first step to healing," says Lapsley, who knows personally about facing "the horror of what happened" and moving from being a victim to becoming a "victor."

In 1990, while he was living in exile in Zimbabwe, a letter bomb sandwiched between religious magazines blew up in his face. Lapsley lost both his hands, the sight in one eye and a significant amount of hearing.

To this day, he insists the experience was redemptive. "I was prayed for. I was loved. I was supported," he told the Anglican Journal, adding that he learned that to get beyond mere survival, you have to transform pain into compassion "for others who travel similar journeys."

Lapsley, who was born in New Zealand and ordained to the priesthood in Australia, visited Canada last November at the invitation of the diocese of Edmonton. He also travelled to Niagara Falls, Ont., and met with the House of Bishops at its fall meeting. Following this, he met with staff at the United Church of Canada as well as staff at the Anglican Church of Canada, both in Toronto. All wanted to learn from his experience in healing and reconciliation.

Lapsley, who arrived in Durban, South Africa, in 1973, at the height of apartheid, says he dealt with his own "white man's guilt" by becoming one of apartheid's most prominent critics. When he was expelled in 1976, he went to neighbouring Lesotho, where he became chaplain-in-exile for the African National Congress. After returning to South Africa in 1992, he worked with South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and became chaplain of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town.

Lapsley says that those who suggest victims should just "get over it and move on" must realize that healing is a long-term project. …

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