Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?

By Lyn S. Graybill | Go to book overview

6
Storytelling

Individual Stories

“The psychologies of remorse, guilt, catharsis, and closure compete today with the theologies of reconciliation, forgiveness, and redemption,” wrote one analyst.1 Yet it was not the competition but rather the synthesis of psychological and theological insights that marked the work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). One commentator has called this the “psycho-religious” model of healing.2 A South African journalist put it this way: “Judicial commission? Church service? Theatre? Group Therapy?”3 A bit of all of the above. Theological insights that were the foundation of the TRC are supported by psychological concepts.

Both theology and psychology speak of the importance of telling one’s story. Storytelling is central to the various faiths, and it is the narrative element that has made the hearings of the Human Rights Violations (HRV) Committee compelling. “While the importance of narrative has been a central issue in much contemporary theology and ethics, this theory is rarely demonstrated with as much power as it is in the TRC hearings,” assert theologians H. Russel Botman and Robin Petersen.4 Some 2,000 victims (a representative sample of over 20,000 persons who made submissions) were invited to tell their stories in a safe, supportive environment.

Previously, victims had been tormented with self-blame, the sense that somehow they had deserved what happened to them, or guilt for the fact that their political activity had caused suffering for their families. It is important that victims be allowed to tell their stories, because survivors often feel misunderstood and ignored, their sacrifice unacknowledged,

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Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Miracle or Model?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa - Miracle or Model? iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Setting Up the Trc 1
  • 2: Nelson Mandela: Pragmatic Reconciler 11
  • 3: Tutu’s Theology of Reconciliation 25
  • 4: Forgiving the Unforgivable 39
  • 5: Amnesty: A Controversial Compromise 57
  • 6: Storytelling 81
  • 7: Women’s Testimony Before the Trc 97
  • 8: Innocent Bystanders? 113
  • 9: Media Hearings 125
  • 10: Wounded Healers: the Churches Respond 133
  • 11: The Rest of the Story 145
  • 12: A Workable Model? 163
  • 13: Afterword: Miracle or Evil Compromise? 177
  • Chronology 181
  • Glossary 187
  • Acronyms 189
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 219
  • About the Book 231
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