Nelson Mandela and Amy Biehl have lessons of reconciliation we should pay more attention to.
Amy Biehl was only 26 years old when she was stoned and stabbed to death by a mob of black militants in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1993. She was there as a scholar in the Fulbright program as a recent graduate from Stanford, wanting to immerse herself in Apartheid in South Africa.
For those of you unfamiliar with Apartheid, the name Nelson Mandela might ring a bell. South Africa was on the brink of a race war because of this system of legislation. It enforced policies of racial segregation and was imposed by the National Party, an all-white government. Despite grave backlash from inside the country and from the international community, its laws remained intact for almost 50 years.
Biehl was an anti-Apartheid activist and her murder was considered a turning point for some in South Africa. Both whites and blacks joined together in peace rallies across the country to honor Biehl. This prompted her parents Linda and Peter Biehl to go to South Africa, trying to understand why their daughter went there in the first place.
Almost 21 years later, Linda and Peter have reconciled and worked with two of their daughter’s killers in an effort to direct and implement after-school youth programs near Cape Town. These programs include metal and art programs and even sessions for those who want to go on to college.
It takes an insane amount of courage and forgiveness to work alongside people who took someone from you, and it’s hard to imagine for most of us how we could even begin to do what the Biehl family has done.
This story matters because it is exactly the kind of reconciliation Nelson Mandela expressed and tried to teach the world during his historic life. He mentioned the tragic death of Amy in a speech in 1998, showing how much her death meant to the fight against Apartheid.
Lisa Biehl is currently visiting Cincinnati with Ntoeko Peni, one of her daughter’s convicted killers to participate in a panel for the community program “Nelson Mandela’s Legacy of Reconciliation: Lessons for Leading An Inclusive Community,” today at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Auditorium. The panel begins around 4 p.m.
This is an event that can teach us so much about forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation. I really encourage students and anyone interested to attend. If a mother can forgive two of her daughter’s killers, I think we can all forgive our roommates, ex-boyfriends and girlfriends and even parents for past mistakes.