Political Science

Desmond Tutu: No Future Without Forgiveness

            After emerging from the apartheid era to democracy, the new South African leaders saw their country as being in urgent need of national healing and reconciliation. This was primarily as a result of the atrocities committed against the people of South Africa which needed to be addressed so as to guarantee a future for the country despite the extensive infrastructure, lawmaking and commercial endeavors.

In this regard, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed where the South African president Nelson Mandela appointed Desmond Tutu as the chairman of the commission. This was seen as a pioneering act since no other country had been able to proceed from autocracy to a democratic system by disclosing the past tyrannies and attain reconciliation with the past oppressors. Without coming together face to face to forgive each other and reconcile with one another there is no future.

No Future Without Forgiveness is an outstanding personal record of Desmond Tutu covering the experiences of the time he was the chairman of the TRC. Desmond Tutu is regarded as the antagonist of apartheid and is the second South African to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He also served as an archbishop of the Anglican Church from 1986 to 1996. He expresses the assertion to explore a third way that can be used in recovering the national consciousness and rising above the disagreements of the past and holding hands together in a realization of a common humanity (Tutu, 2000).

In the book, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflects upon the wisdom he gained as he participated in bringing South Africa from the painful past experiences. Tutu says that true reconciliation cannot be attained by ignoring the past. He brings forth a courageous spirituality that identifies injustices human beings can inflict upon their own kind while at the same time maintaining optimism concerning reconciliation. He clearly shows the need to progress with truthfulness and kindness in order to realize a better world which is more human (Tutu, 2000).

The book clearly expresses the theme of truth, forgiveness and reconciliation which forms the basis of Tutu’s purpose in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. TRC was formed in South Africa to deal with numerous crimes against humanity perpetrated by the apartheid era. Tutu believes that reconciliation is a far much better way of achieving national healing as opposed to burdening the new nation with continuous trials which are primarily driven by the forces of vengeance. However, peace cannot thrive in the absence of justice. In this regard, the search for justice entailed the accused having to defend themselves against the various charges leveled against them with the victims expecting the state directed retribution (Tutu, 2000).

Desmond expresses the need for the victims and the crime perpetrators to face one another and forgive each other. There is need for accountability and regarding every human being as an image of God. Those who committed crimes should be given a chance to repent and be forgiven. Thus, this is a sign of enhancing courageous actions of repentance and forgiveness that function as symbolism for the nation and the world.

Tutu advocates for the Ubuntu humanist philosophy as the ideal path to true and meaningful reconciliation. Lacking proper translation in Western language, the term Ubuntu is loosely interpreted as an expression of generosity, hospitality, friendliness, care and compassion. Tutu further explains the concept of Ubuntu as being rooted in the indisputable fact that no man can exist entirely by himself. In as much as there is also the aspect of individualism, humanity is interconnected and what affects one affects the other either directly or indirectly (Tutu, 2000). This is what Desmond Tutu wants people to attain in order to co-exist harmoniously with each other.

Desmond Tutu, having served as an archbishop of the Anglican Church, also calls for a Christian approach which is essential in the realization of truth and justice and more so in a positive manner. However, he does not express fully the barriers that exist in the search for real reconciliation. He shows that South Africa needs to negotiate with apartheid perpetrators and come up with a long lasting solution. Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned and suffered for the sake the nation. He then came out of prison without uttering any words of hate and payback. He therefore stood as a hero of forgiveness and reconciliation as he came out of prison where he spent twenty-seven years of his life (Tutu, 2000).

All that was done to him was meant to demoralize him from seeking for justice and freedom and make him bitter and angry. On the contrary, he chose to forgive his oppressors as he viewed his suffering as being sacrificial where he fought not for himself but for others. The suffering can be said to have served the purpose of making him more kindhearted and concerned about the suffering of mankind; a living testimony to the practicability of Ubuntu. He showed that he was a true leader of his followers by being ready to suffer for the sake their nation’s freedom.

In conclusion, from the book No Future Without Forgiveness, Tutu has shown that in order create a harmonious world, people should not deny the past experiences of injustice; instaed they should expose them, negotiate together and come up with long lasting solutions. Truth, justice and reconciliation can be achieved through forgiveness and this is what guarantees a future. Without forgiveness and reconciliation, there is no future.




Tutu, D. (2000). No future without forgiveness.  Doubleday Publishers.


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