Truth and Reconciliation just the beginning, Tutu’s granddaughter tells teens

Nyaniso Burris, 18, granddaughter of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, speaks to York Region high school students about the parallel Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Canada, at a youth summit on aboriginal awareness at the Markham Theatre.

It’s possible to forgive one another for the cruelty humans inflict — South African apartheid, Canada’s residential schools — but true forgiveness can take a lifetime of practice, warns the scrappy teenaged granddaughter of a world icon of forgiveness, Desmond Tutu.

“Sometimes you have to wake up every day and forgive again. Forgiveness is a journey, not a destination,” said Nyaniso Burris, who spoke to York Region high school students Thursday as part of a youth summit on aboriginal awareness. The event shone a spotlight on the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions — in South Africa, about the atrocities committed under apartheid, and here in Canada, where a sweeping report on the legacy of abuse in residential schools is due within weeks.

“Take the mother of (American activist) Amy Biehl, who was killed during apartheid, who says every day she wakes up and her daughter is still dead, so every day she has to forgive her killers all over again. But she has hired two of those men to work for her family’s foundation for human rights.”

From snapping a selfie of the audience and complaining that her mother tried to edit her speech, to scolding government corruption by “an inept cadre of clowns,” Nyaniso showed the same bold irreverence that helped earn her outspoken grandfather a Nobel Peace Prize.

Yet, like the ailing cleric whose cancer prevented him from making the trip this week, the 18-year-old drama student delivered a message of hope.

“I believe reconciliation is possible in our lifetime, but it takes time. After centuries of hurt, how could they think two years (of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission) would be enough?” asked Nyaniso.

A worldly teen who grew up and lived in the United States until four years ago when her family moved back to help run the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Nyaniso was visiting Canada with her 9-year-old sister Onalenna and their mother, Rev. Mpho Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu.

“It’s hard listening to the sort of stories that come out during Truth and Reconciliation hearings — you don’t want to listen; it’s not a comfortable feeling,” said Nyaniso. “But part of being a patriot is accepting your country in its entirety, even when it has messed up.”


Article By: Louise Brown