Religions regard forgiveness as a personal moral obligation, but is it also effective public policy? Yes, says Desmond Tutu, in this account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he chaired. The TRC was established to allow victims of political violence under apartheid to tell their stories, and to encourage the perpetrators to reveal their crimes in exchange for amnesty.

Tutu argues that a harsher, Nuremberg-style policy of prosecution and punishment would have been so divisive as to leave South Africa "lying in ashes." He extols the TRC for helping to uncover and heal the wounds of Apartheid, and recommends the approach for other places recovering from civil conflict, like the Balkans and Northern Ireland.

Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of Capetown and Nobel Peace Prize-winner, grounds his politics of reconciliation both in Christian principles and an African morality of social connectedness. Some may (and do) question the relevance of forgiveness in more extreme contexts like the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. Still, Tutu's stature and his moving account both of life under Apartheid and the horrific testimony brought to the TRC make this an important exploration of the relation of faith and morality to politics.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus