[notice]In recognition of Youth Day today, we publish Peter Tarantal’s moving testimony which appears at the end of a 40-days prayer guide for reconciliation — May 7 to June 15 2016. Next week we will publish news about today’s and last Saturday’s events in Soweto to mark the 40th anniversary of the June 16 1976 student uprising there.[/notice]
I grew up in a very poor family in Cape Town on the Cape Flats during the sixties and seventies. My father was a labourer at Groote Schuur hospital and early on I discovered that he was taken out of school at age 14 because he was only allowed to go to standard five by the then government. My mother was a housewife, taking care of eight kids, though I remember going with her to a white person’s home to do domestic work. My mother always carried herself with dignity and I remember thinking how my mother seemed so defeated and resigned at the way she was treated by the owners of the house.
Our community was very tight and though I saw the devastation of apartheid all around me, for us as kids, as long as we had food and could play with friends, we were ok. We could even put up with not having a proper sports field at both primary and high school. The crisis for me personally came during matric when I had to choose a university and discovered that I had to apply for a government permit to go to UCT. My world was conflicted because the students at the University of the Western Cape had just marched off the campus in protest against “bush” education. My parents could not help me in this decision. That is when Alan Boesak and other activists came to a stadium in Athlone to orientate us as to what the real issues were. I decided to boycott UCT and thus started my activist days, fuelled by a burning anger against a system that reduced us to second-class citizens in our own country. I began to be more aware of the fruits of apartheid viz. the poor housing far away from the work place, areas and privileges reserved for white people etc.
More testimonies from the prayer guide
Revelation of God’s love
My struggle with inferiority and anger at the way white people treated Black continued even after I made a commitment to follow Jesus at the age of 20. It was 10 years later, at an OM conference, while attending a seminar on self-awareness, that I realised how much Jesus loved me and what He thought of me. Before this I would have said, “of course Jesus loves me”. That day however, I was able to transfer that knowledge from my head to my heart. I was able to let go of bitterness and anger. I decided never again to give in to the notion of victimhood but that through Christ I could live as a victor. A key for me was a fresh understanding of my identity and a deep appreciation for the person God has made me to be.
What helped my healing was meeting especially Afrikaner friends who were just wonderful, salt of the earth kind of people. I encountered a sincerity and love that challenged my perceptions. I learnt never to say, “all of them are”. By God’s grace, I have freedom to celebrate our diversity and to deeply appreciate “the other”.
I chuckle at the humour of God. My son is studying at the university that I could not attend and was chosen as head student of his Residence!