Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Witnessing Soweto

Tuesday we had the opportunity and privilege to spend half the day touring Soweto with four of our hospice colleagues. We learned a lot about the June 16, 1976 student uprising that began as a peaceful walk by high school students in opposition to being forced to study in Afrikaans. Most poignantly for us, at the Hector Pieterson Museum, we were greeted by Hector's sister (who is in the most famous picture of him being carried after being shot in the revolt). You can see her in the attached photo, wearing the gold skirt and blouse. She spent time with us sharing what happened on that fateful day. We are indebted to Sister Susan Mofolo for arranging this most special time. We also saw the Regina Mundi Catholic church were thousands of students ran to for safe haven, only to be shot upon by the police. The church still carries the scars of that time, as none of the bullet holes have been repaired. We all felt the power of being there and bearing witness to the horrible things we can do to each other.

Our day ended at Constitution Hill, an infamous prison where Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and thousands of ordinary people like you and me were imprisoned and brutally treated for such minor offenses such as not having their passbook on them when going to the market. On this very same property is the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Placed there to symbolize the connection between the past and the future, it is a powerful statement of the hope the South Africans feel about their future. Prior to our arrival, there was an election. When we asked one of our South African colleagues about how many eligible voters vote, the response was about 80%. Just think how that compares to our country...


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