Thursday 11th November 2021 @ 11:26 am
The passing of former South African President FW deKlerk brings a fond memory … I wrote the words below at the time, and I shall not forget the encounter.
FW De Klerk negotiated the release from prison of Nelson Mandela, and created a constitution, along with Mandela, that gave the chance for South Africa to experience reconciliation and an opportunity to journey toward prosperity and healing.
I attended a lecture he was giving in Trinity College, and at the end of it I was struck by how few people remained present. So, after the lecture, when he headed toward the door, I walked toward the door at the same time.
I took my moment – I don’t speak with Nobel Peace Prize winners very often.
I told him about our work with Space to Breathe, an initiative to create human encounter between young adults from Israel, Palestine, Ireland and Britain. I told him about getting students together to engage their ‘other.’ He generously paid attention as we walked slowly in the same direction – me, walking in whatever direction he was going.
Finally I got to what I wanted to ask.
I asked him what his experiences had taught him were the most important aspects of peace–building?
He didn’t hesitate.
He told me you have to take risks.
“You can’t have all the work done before you achieve what you desire – you have to risk and walk forward.”
There’s something beautiful about hearing the word ‘risk’ in a South African accent.
He then added, “And you must trust. Trust the process, trust that the risk is worth taking. And maybe trust your opponent – risk and trust.”
Seems to me that those who sit at the top of the tree as Presidents and Prime Ministers are sitting in dangerous places. Those who sit there can easily be wrapped up in power–plays, megalomania, unreality and voracity.
The things of destruction upon destruction.
Seemingly, however, it does not have to be this way.
These positions can also be used to advance reconciliation, justice, hope and positive social transformation.
But it takes risk. And it takes trust.
Thank you FW DeKlerk for taking the risk and building the trust. And creating the chance for a different future.
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