Freedom Park commemorates Reconciliation Month
Freedom Park will commemorate Reconciliation Month this year with a range of activities and events taking place this week under the theme: “Towards building a united nation at peace with itself and its neighbours”.
This day is considered as one of the most historic and memorable days in the history of South Africa, which stands as a reminder of where we come from, where we are and where we are going as a united nation. Although commemorated differently during apartheid, this day has since the onset of democracy, been used to foster reconciliation and national unity.
In line with government’s initiatives, Freedom Park will use the day to fulfill its mandate, which is to remember and honour men and women who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and humanity and to foster social cohesion and nation building in the country. As a beacon of hope to the entire nation, Freedom Park is planning to dedicate the entire week to learning and reflection and prayer, delivering messages of hope, peace, reconciliation and healing to the entire nation.
Freedom Park CEO Fana Jiyane says the activities started on Monday with a series of intensive daily workshops involving 840 learners from across Gauteng who will tour the park and go through a customised educational programme focusing on the theme of reconciliation and nation-building. “The aim of these workshops is to pass on the freedom heritage of the nation to the youth by educating them about the sacrifices made by past generations for the priceless freedom South Africans enjoy today. We also want to teach young people from all the diverse groups in our country about the importance of reconciliation for the sustainability of our democracy,” says Jiyane
This afternoon (Wednesday 12 December 2012), a reconciliation seminar will be held at Freedom Park at 2pm, aimed at creating a space where people can openly and freely engage on deep issues relating to reconciliation. The seminar will be facilitated by Father Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest who was active in the struggle against apartheid, and author of the book Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer.
In 1990, Fr. Lapsley, opened a letter bomb that nearly killed him. Though he survived, the blast took both his hands and one of his eyes. He later recorded his experience and his memoir tells the story of this horrendous event, beginning with the journey that led him there - particularly his rising awareness of the radical demands of the gospel and his growing identification with the freedom struggle. Father Lapsley, evolved from being a victim of Apartheid atrocities to being a hero focusing on healing memories.
“Father Lapsey’s life,” Jiyane says, “is a testimony of how tragic personal experiences can be used to contribute to social healing. The nature of the seminar will be interactive, planned to stimulate engagement as Father Lapsey shares his experiences in the struggle for freedom. Through his story, Freedom Park brings to the fore issues of forgiveness, pain, personal scars of oppressive regimes and how to engage with them. Only if we confront the demons of our past in this way, can we experience healing as nation.”
The activities continue on Friday evening (14 December) when the park hosts a night of prayer, facilitated by local churches. Jiyane says a growing number of religious leaders have called for focused national prayers and fasting, in light of the state of the nation as exemplified by the corrosive effects of corruption, the Marikana tragedy, the Winelands unrest, and civil society concerns about a number of social, political and economic ills including poverty, unemployment and moral degeneration. “The majority of South Africans claim to believe in one deity or another, with nearly 80% claiming to be Christians. At the request of Christian leaders, Freedom Park, which is an inclusive space for spirituality, decided to support a prayer service to pray for the nation, including communities that have experienced tragedies in South Africa and beyond”. The prayer will be in two parts from 5pm to 7pm and from 11pm to 3am the next day.
This prayer theme will be carried over to the mainstay of its celebrations, when the park hosts Reconciliation Day on the 16 December 2012. Religious leaders from various faith communities as well as the general public will unite to pray and intercede for peace and reconciliation in our land.
Invitees include prominent religious leaders from a number of faiths, such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Rastafarian, Baha’ism and Judaism, as well as African traditional religion. The programme starts with a ceremony during which religious leaders from the various faiths will intercede, followed by an opportunity for the general public to pray and worship.
Jiyane believes that events such as this prayer day are uniquely South African as it allows for and encourages individuals from a diverse nation, regardless of religion, culture or race, to unite. This is in stark contrast to the kind of religious intolerance currently being experienced in West and North Africa and in the Middle East.
The highlight of reconciliation day will be the coming together for a joint moment of prayer between those gathered at Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument and Nature Reserve at 12 pm on Reconciliation Road. Reconciliation Road is the road that links Freedom Park with Voortrekker Monument, and was opened by President Jacob Zuma on December 16 last year as a symbol of reconciliation between the two heritage institutions. These institutions showcase different aspects of the history of our nation. Today, Freedom Park and Voortrekker Monument exist as good neighbours implementing joint programmes and working together to foster reconciliation and nation building.
“Today we invite all citizens of our nation, as their own faith directs them, to join us in giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy, and we call upon individuals of all faiths to pray for guidance, grace, and protection for our great nation at their homes, places of worship and here at Freedom Park as we address the challenges of our time”, Jiyane says.
Source: Freedom Park
Related links: Reconciliation Day