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When peace is more important than retribution

By: stagedoorscribbler - December 24, 2018

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photograph by Hattie Miles

It was fitting that during the annual Swinburne Reconciliation Lecture in Queensland, Australia, recently highly respected ABC journalist and presenter Stan Grant cited Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as an example of someone who found that  peace is more important than seeking retribution.

Grant had posed that ever thorny question? Does remembering our history help or hinder the journey towards reconciliation in Australia?

His lecture was titled ‘Between resentment and reconciliation: living with the burden of history’ and his  speech drew heavily on his own experiences of 30 plus years of reporting from conflicts around the world.. 

He told those listening: “History has been buried so many times and it always returns…History is not the past, history is the story of our present.”

But in a lecture that drew on the writings of philosophers like Albert Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche he challenged the audience to consider whether remembering history is necessarily helpful on the road to reconciliation.

“What if remembering the past locks us into a cycle of unending and permanent violence? Forgetting is not just essential to creating a nation, it is essential to creating a world. History has delivered us to a point where history itself is our greatest foe,” he said.

He argued that it was of paramount importance to be able to move on and held up the end of Apartheid as an example of prioritising peace over justice, sayingL

“Anti-apartheid and human rights activist Desmond Tutu asked himself that question. They could have pursued justice and they could have set fire to Africa. You can pursue justice by chasing every perpetrator down every rabbit hole, but I don’t believe that brings about true peace,” he said.

“We need to ask ourselves how we can put aside the justice of today to bring about greater justice for tomorrow.”