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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Doing what must be done – Fourth Reconciliation Lecture by Colm McGivern
2015-03-17

Colm McGivern
Photo: Johan Roux

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Fourth Reconciliation Lecture: Audio

McGivern: speech (pdf)

The UFS Annual Reconciliation Lecture brings leaders, scholars, and the broader community together in a shared vision for social change and conflict transformation. This event is organised by Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies. In 2012, Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, was the first speaker to deliver the lecture. This year, at the Fourth Annual Reconciliation Lecture held on the Bloemfontein Campus, Colm McGivern, Director of the British Council in South Africa, continued the legacy.

Doing what must be done
'I get down on my knees and do what must be done
And kiss Achilles' hand, the killer of my son.'
(Ceasefire by Michael Longley)

Using this poem to powerful effect, McGivern showed what reconciliation asks of each and every citizen: to do what must be done. “I think that peace and reconciliation are mutually dependent,” he said. “You can’t maintain one over the long run without attending to the other.”

South Africa’s history has tracked along a similar path to that of Northern Ireland. “And lessons from other places can be powerful and instructive,” McGivern said. Sometimes reconciliation needs a focal point for people to clearly see its power, as Madiba has for South Africa. But at other times, reconciliation needs everyday citizens to “kiss Achilles’ hand’”.

McGivern mentioned Candice Mama and her family, who  have recently forgiven Eugene de Kock,. Or as Gordon Wilson did after his daughter, Mary, died holding his hand in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing in Ireland. In a TV interview mere hours later, Wilson forgave the killers of his daughter, and  hope rippled across Ireland.

Learning from others
“People’s capability,” McGivern said, “to reconcile their own differences, however stark, can be boosted by learning from others in other places, internationally or perhaps just beyond their own identity group.” A powerful truth now being pursued in a joined initiative between the British Council and Teaching Divided Histories.

As an example, McGivern referred to the short film, ‘In Peace Apart’ where one Catholic and one Protestant girl decide to swop school uniforms. Harnessing the potential of moving images and digital media, the initiative enables teachers to explore contentious issues of history and identity in the classroom. This international field of conflict education draws lessons “from activities in Sierra Leone, India, Lebanon, and, of course, South Africa.”

Resuscitation of the national spirit of magnanimity
Here in South Africa, Archbishop Desmund Tutu has “called for a resuscitation of the national spirit of magnanimity and common purpose”, McGivern quoted. In the book, 80 Moments that Shaped the World, South Africa appears four times, McGivern pointed out. And as Archbishop Tutu wrote in the foreword of the book, “no act is unforgivable; no person or country is beyond redemption and the world needs more people to reach out to one another.”

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za.

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