Michael Lapsley and Stephen Karakashian – Redeeming the Past

“Redeeming the Past” is the autobiography of Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest from New Zealand whose priestly mission, as well as whole life, is marked by ministry in Africa, mostly in South Africa. His life was peaceful priestly life. He chose a thornier path than most clerics - fighting apartheid.

In that fight, he was uncompromising and many of his efforts seemed at first glance as if they were at odds with his avocation. Here, first of all, I should mention his advocacy of some Marxist views and for arming of fighters against apartheid.

When it comes to Marxism, Lapsley is well acquainted with its elements in the social order of Cuba. He spent some time in Cuba for treatment and simply stayed thrills with some Cuban, basically Marxist solutions of the social organization. For example, he was fascinated by the fact that children in Cuba from nursery to the end of college are educated at public expense; for Cubans, as well as for himself, it is evident his resemblance to Che Guevara; Lapsley agrees with Castro's proposition that there is compatibility between socialism and liberation theology, etc. It should be noted also that Lapsley is the founder of the Association of Friends of Cuba in Capetown.

As for Lapsley's militarism, it is conditioned the weight of terror that apartheid produced daily and against whom non-violence could no longer do nothing. Lapsley asked himself how to preach non-violence while they killing pupils. He held that advocacy of pacifism and non-violence among black South Africans means inviting them to participate in his own murder.

These views were far from the mainstream church, but so much the worse for the mainstream because from this book is easy to see who is closer to the true Christian teaching. That is something what is confirmed by the fact that the book has won the 2013 Andrew Murray/Desmond Tutu Prize for “the best Christian and theological book in any official language of South Africa”.

The book has four parts. The first part refers to the key event in Lapsley's life. While he was in exile in Zimbabwe in 1990 to his address was received a letter that was actually a letter-bomb. When opening, it has exploded and Michael Lapsley lost both hands and an eye. It is believed that the bomb has been sent by the South African secret police. This chapter also describes his recovery, internal drama, disability and acceptance of disability. The second part is called Freedom Fighter and describes exactly that, the fight against apartheid in South Africa, but also in Lesotho and Zimbabwe, where he was in exile. In the third part we discover Lapsley on the way in which we know him today. That is Lapsley after the explosion, again in South Africa engaged in peace-building through his Institute for the Healing of Memories. He harnessed his experience in treating victims of violence where he achieved a lot of success. His success is partly enabled, as he says himself, by his disability. Many people that were healed by him could trust him because he knows what the pain is, and Lapsley believes that pain unites people. In the fourth chapter Lapsley tells us about the mission at the global level and about his experience on working on the healing of memory in the United States, in Australia with the Aborigines, Zimbabwe, etc.

This book, although it is autobiography, should not be seen only as book about Michael Lapsley. This book is, as the author said in the book introduction, also the story of South Africa: “My own journey reflects the journey of my adopted country.” Story of South Africa also is not just a story about it. Again we quote the author: “The story of South Africa is a parable for the world in search of hope.” Post-conflict societies, such as BH, are characterized by “searching of hope” and therefore this book in our language has an especially great importance.

In B, H, S language the book is for the first time published in 2012 by NGO Gariwo in its edition Question of all Questions. With Lapsleyja, as the author of the book is set Stephen Karakashian and the book is translated in B, H, S by  Željka Vojinović. This is the second book about Michael Lapsley published by NGO GARIWO. The first book is Priest and Parisan by Michale Worsnip which was reprinted twice. The second edition was published in 2010.

Amer Tikveša

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