Sunday, March 2, 2014


 The history of South Africa is a long and sometimes painful one, but the nation has made tremendous strides in a relatively peaceful manner. We visited some historical sites recently that would take more background than I have to completely understand, but I’ll try summarize--since early 1600’s when a Dutch sailing ship crashed off the southern coast of Africa, depositing the surviving sailors on shore, there have been conflicts. Not all were between white and black. Some were between the black tribes themselves and some between the Dutch and British settlers. Events finally led to the policy called apartheid, which forcibly separated races, causing great inequality and great suffering. Eventually the black population and some whites rebelled and, in 1990 the nation became a free, democratic state. During apartheid, blacks were relocated to separate areas, the largest of these being Soweto. A lot of history takes place there  and it is still a center of political discussion and sometimes active disagreements.

While parts of the city are made up of tin shack villages and old buildings, there are also nice tree lines streets with clean modest homes. Nelson Mandela’s Soweto home is on one of these streets. 
We visited a very nice museum that was built in memory of apartheid in general but specifically the killing of more than a hundred high school students who were protesting the exclusive use of the Afrikaans language in their curriculum. The museum is named for the 14-year-old boy who was the first child shot.
If you look close you can see a couple of the bullet holes that were shot into the chapel to try to get the young protestors to flee the building.
 We also visited an  historic Catholic church where many important events in the struggle for freedom happened. At one point, students and young people had gathered in the church, defying a law that no more than five could meet together. The police shot through the ceiling to try to scare them out and when that didn’t happen, they entered the church. The damages caused by the storming police and the fleeing students are left as reminders.
 In this church Nelson Mandela stood in the same spot I am standing here. Behind me are several steps that lead to a higher spot, but Mandella stood at the bottom to emphasize that he was of the people, no higher than them.
We were also told that in this building, the first congress of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission met. That was an amazing process. I would recommend that anyone read about it. This stained glass mural was given by one of the states in the US to commemorate the events that occurred here.
Members of the LDS church existed in small numbers even during the conflict, but now the branch that existed then has grown to a thriving stake with eight units and a beautiful meetinghouse. Our friends, the Clowards, have been assigned to the seminary and institute program in the Soweto Stake. They are always telling us about the amazing people of Soweto. We were very glad to have a chance to learn a little of its history.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, those first two pictures look a lot like Brazil. I didn't know much about the history of So. Africa, thanks for filling us all in!