At the foot of Table Mountain lies the bustling city of Cape Town, arguably one of the most beautiful and scenic cities in South Africa. A range of indigo mountains cover the entire length of the peninsula, and it is around these mountains that the green and leafy southern suburbs are situated. Back in the days of apartheid, these suburbs were inhabited solely by the privileged white class, while the other population groups were relegated to the distant and sandy Cape Flats, each group strictly segregated, of course, according to race. While the whites basked in the comfort of their middle class lives, black people struggled with overcrowded homes, poor sanitation and grinding poverty. Beneath her azure blue skies and golden sunshine, South Africa was a breeding ground for racial conflict and resentment which often erupted into full scale violence as disenchanted black youths sought to release the pent up rage which smoldered within their souls.
This anger and hatred led to an event which shocked the world; the unprecedented attack on worshippers in a church on 25 July 1993.
Julie almost didn’t go to church that night. It was cold and raining and she considered curling up comfortably and watching the service on television. But then she changed her mind. Bad weather was a poor excuse to skip church; in fact it was no excuse at all. Besides, Angie would be there and she wanted to tell her about the book that she was writing.
“Love you!” she said as she kissed her parents goodbye and disappeared into the night.
In the warm sanctuary of the church the unsuspecting congregation sang enthusiastically and their pastor smiled. How wonderful it was to live in a land where people could worship God freely and openly, without fear. How blessed were this congregation who could come before the Lord and praise His name in a church which was vibrant with life.
These thoughts had barely entered his head when four young men burst through the doors, armed with AK-47’s and grenades. In seconds the peaceful and orderly service had erupted into chaos as people screamed and frantically dove for what little cover the church pews offered. Minutes later the four attackers disappeared as quickly as they had come, leaving carnage and devastation in their wake. Eleven people lay dying or dead and countless others were wounded, shocked and dazed by the brutal attack which had been executed with swift, calculated precision.
It took Angie some minutes to realize with horror that her friend was bleeding profusely, her life slowly ebbing away on the church floor. She knelt by Julie who seemed to be trying desperately to tell her something.
“The book! Finish the book. Please.”
Sobbing, Angie held her dying friend in her arms. “It’s OK, Jules. You’re going to be all right. They’re calling for an ambulance, and…”
“No,” Julie shook her head weakly. “The book, Angie, it’s important. Promise me.”
Silent tears coursed down Angie’s cheeks as she nodded her head. “I promise.”
“Julie always wanted to be a writer,” said her mother at the funeral. “Writing was her passion, her calling in life. She was a brilliant journalist who had this message for the world: the way forward is through peace and love. I therefore ask you to honor her memory by forgiving the people who did this terrible thing. Vengeance is not ours to take. It is fitting that I read you an excerpt from the book that she was writing which describes far better than I can the very essence of Julie, who she was and what she stood for.”
Her voice shook with emotion as she read the last words her daughter ever wrote;
“Peace by the sword is doomed to failure and will only serve to fuel the hatred that burns ever brightly in the hearts of men. It is only with the love of God that the flames of racial conflict can be dowsed and the wounds inflicted by prejudice and intolerance can heal. But how can the people know unless we tell them? The written word is powerful, the pen, a mighty instrument of light and love.
Light triumphs over darkness.
Love conquers hatred.
Forgiveness has power over violence.
And the pen is mightier than the sword.”
Dedicated to those who died in the St James Church massacre and to the survivors who refused to take the path of hatred, but chose to move forward in a spirit of peace and forgiveness.
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