INSPIRATIONAL, 11 Dec 2017
Amy Biehl was a young Princeton graduate who went to Capetown, South Africa, in 1992 as a volunteer to work with an NGO to help overcome apartheid.
One evening, she gave a lift to a colleague, a young black woman, into her township. There happened to be a youth meeting of members of the Pan-African Congress, and the young people were all fired up and angry at the white minority that had oppressed them for so long. They did not feel that the new democracy would meet their expectations.
After Amy dropped off her friend, she saw a group of young black men approaching her friend, and thought she was in danger. She ran out of her car towards the group to protect her friend. The crowd was full of anger at whites and attacked Amy, and she died from her wounds. All South Africans, especially in the black community, were shocked, angry and ashamed that such a good person had been killed.
Three young men, aged 19-22, were arrested, charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. They applied for amnesty before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amy’s parents came to be present at the public hearing, at which the youngsters told what had happened and sincerely apologized.
After Amy’s parents heard the context in which the murder had happened, they said they held no grudge against those youngsters, that they were willing to forgive all three. If the committee decided to grant them amnesty, they would abide by that decision.
That generous statement was shown repeatedly on national television, as a gesture of reconciliation. The three youngsters were granted amnesty. Amy’s parents, who had had nothing to do with apartheid, went even further. They set up a fund to support work with youngsters who had become involved in violence during the apartheid regime, to help continue their only daughter’s work after she had died. This magnanimous act had a healing effect on the whole nation.
Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Dec 2017.
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