Absence of white people at TRC hearings a dreadful shame - Rev Prof Peter Storey

Former Methodist bishop and rights campaigner, Rev Prof Peter Storey, has written a memoir about his life and ministry through apartheid and beyond.

The book, titled I Beg to Differ: Ministry amid the Teargas, details some of the difficulties that arose out of being a priest who preached human rights from the pulpit.

His career included being chaplain to Robben Island, minister in District Six at the height of the forced removals, and head of the Central Methodist Church in Joburg.

The Central Methodist Church in Joburg played a key role in sheltering anti-apartheid activists and demonstrating against injustice.

The book also explores some of the historic moments in his life, such as founding Lifeline SA, leading the SA Council of Churches, his friendship with Desmond Tutu and his role in appointing the TRC commissioners.

Rev Prof Storey says the TRC was not perfect and had significant design faults, including the immediate amnesty granted to perpetrators compared to the delayed justice for victims.

He adds that the notable absence of many white people at the TRC hearings has flavoured a measure of cynicism and distrust from black South Africans today.

There was a moment in our service where we remembered people who were in detention, people who were being tortured and suffering because of the apartheid policy... Each service we lit that candle.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

We were in the business of trying to punch holes in the darkness... and it was a dark time.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

Those who feel that there was something of a soft compromise [with TRC], frankly don't know what it was like then. I'm not sure that any other road could've been taken.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

It seems to me that a miracle was wrought. The word miracle remains to me an important word.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

The TRC was not perfect and it had certain design faults too... The most significant being that when perpetrators came and disclosed what they had done, they received immediate amnesty.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

When victims told their stories, the way of making amends had to be recommended to Parliament and got stuck in Parliament and got bogged down there.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

However, on the whole, it was an amazing step forward for the whole of humankind.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

The TRC modelled what all South Africans could and should have been engaged in at the time.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

The fact that white people mostly stayed away from those TRC hearings, I think was a dreadful shame. And it makes me very sad.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

They were two worlds. That was the problem with apartheid South Africa. White South Africans were living in a bubble of ignorance. Ignorance so often leads to arrogance.

Rev Prof Peter Storey

Listen to the full conversation on New Beginnings with Pippa Hudson:


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