In about six weeks, Sunday 16 December, we celebrate our national Day of Reconciliation again. This unique-in-the-world public holiday developed out of a troubled past of conflict, especially since 16 December 1838 and the Battle of Blood River.
Notwithstanding all the arguments around reconstructing the history around the interactions of the Zulu chief Dingane and the Trekkers led by Piet Retief, it was a significant point in the history of our country.
Misunderstandings were rife, and tragic loss of life were suffered on the side of the Trekkers as well as the Zulus.
Of special significance was the vow made by the 470 Trekkers to God on the days before the battle, based on their prayer to God to deliver them from the onslaught of the mighty 10 000 strong Zulu army. They solemnly undertook to hold the day in special remembrance, ask their descendants to do the same and build a church where they could worship.
Sadly, it also led to Umkhonto we Sizwe starting their armed struggle against the oppression of the Nationalist government, in 1961 on precisely the same day, 16 December.
We know now what a traumatic few decades would follow until the amazing grace of peace that was negotiated from the late eighties until the democratic elections of 1994.
Our new government wisely decided to retain the day and rename it Day of Reconciliation since 1995. And that is just as amazing: to officailly have a national day, merging from separate histories of conflict into a mandate for national reconciliation.
Having very little to celebrate as yet, with regard to achieved national unity, I believe we should at least make a new commitment to peace and reconciliation every year on 16 December. We need to enrich and empower our Day of Reconciliation with tangible and practical experiences of reaching out to friend and foe.
Jesus called us to be people of peace who walk the extra mile and turn the other cheek. And St Paul also beseeched the followers of Jesus, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:18). We desperately need more peace in our beloved country.
See also: https://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/day-reconciliation-celebrated-public-holiday-sa-first-time
Strauss de Jager, NG Kerk Albanie