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Project “Be the Change – Make a Difference”

Promotion of the book by Michael Lapsley

Belgrade, 10 April 2014


Anglican priest from New Zealand and author of the book “Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer”, Michael Lapsley, visited Belgrade on 10 April 2014. His visit made a part of the project “Be the Change – Make a Difference”, which is organized by NGO “GARIWO” from Sarajevo and Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. During his stay in Belgrade, which was preceded by the book launch in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the author met with journalists, students and other interested citizens.

“Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer” is the autobiography of Father Michael Lapsley, but at the same time it is a story about humankind and the healing of painful memories. To a great extent, his story is relevant for this region as well. Lapsley begins his story by writing about the event that changed his life forever. Namely, during his exile to Zimbabwe, a letter-bomb which was hidden between two religious magazines was sent to him and its explosion caused him to lose both hands, sight in one eye and partial hearing loss. It was assumed that the organizer of this attack was the secret police force of South Africa. During the book promotion, the author pointed out that he is the victim of state terrorism of a regime that was morally illegitimate and that committed crimes against humanity. Lapsley physically survived this attack and then he became a victor by transforming from the object of history to its active participant. He used his personal experience to support other victims of violence. Father Michael Lapsley founded the Institute for Healing of Memories in South Africa, whose activities are focused on peace building and helping victims to become victors by openly speaking about their traumas and by dealing with the past.

Press conference was organized at the Media Center in Belgrade and speakers at this event beside the author were Sonja Biserko, President of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Gradimir Gojer, director and writer, and Svetlana Broz, Director of NGO “GARIWO”. Book launch was organized at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination in the evening and in addition to previously mentioned speakers, journalist from Sarajevo Amer Tikvesa also gave his remarks about the book. Copies of the book “Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer” were distributed to all the participants of the event.


About the author:

Michael Lapsley was born in New Zealand in 1949 and as a young man he went to Australia where he became a priest. As a member of the religious community Society of the Sacred Mission he went to South Africa in 1973, where he encountered all the injustices of the apartheid regime. In order to fight them, Father Michael Lapsley got politically engaged and his relentless struggle against apartheid, which changed his life forever, began from this moment. He started to raise his voice against the regime and to speak on behalf of children who were killed, tortured and punished. He was expelled from South Africa in 1976 and he went to Lesotho where he became a member of the African National Congress. He continued fighting apartheid and supporting liberation struggles. He was a friend and associate of Nelson Mandela who described him in the following way: “Michael’s life represents a compelling metaphor: We read about a foreigner who came to our country and was transformed by what he saw of the injustices of apartheid.” Three months after Mandela’s release from prison, Michael Lapsley received a bomb-letter during his stay in Zimbabwe. After this big trauma and the recovery that followed, Lapsley became the Chaplain of the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, which assisted the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. These activities also inspired the forming of the Institute for the Healing of Memories in 1998.













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