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News24.com | OPINION | Lessons from The Arch: Hope is precisely about finding light in the dark




The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St. George Cathedral in Cape Town.

The late Archbishop Desmond Tutu at St. George Cathedral in Cape Town.

It is hard to ignore the weight of the violence currently plaguing our world. It can seem so dark that it is hard to remain hopeful, writes Janet Jobson.

It is hard to ignore the weight of the violence currently plaguing our world. It can seem so dark that it is hard to remain hopeful.

The Arch taught us that hope is precisely about finding light in the dark.

In reflections on her powerful book, Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit notes: “This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It is also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.”

At the heart of hope is the immense power of uncertainty – that we cannot necessarily know what change will come next.

Solnit writes: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”

It is worth keeping in mind the extent to which the end of apartheid was so uncertain. When we tell the story now, it can seem like a straight line from the release of Mandela to democratic elections.

But, in reality, the period of 1990-1994 was the bloodiest of South Africa’s history – with more violence, more brutality, more uncertainty than any other.

Yet, it was in that uncertainty that we crafted our democracy.

If we only remember the miracle, then we deny the true depth of what we navigated. If we tell a story only of bloodshed and despair, we will find ourselves unable to remember that a fundamental change did take place.

It is only in remembering the complexity of how change unfolds – the triumphs and heartbreaks, the moments on a knife’s edge – that we can truly grasp that, in uncertainty, we have enormous power to act to make positive change.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba this month, it is important not to fall into pessimistic despair about the situation in the Middle East. The length of oppression of the Palestinian people can lead us into a sense that the conflict is impossible to solve.

However, we must remember how unlikely it was in 1990 to imagine that an end to apartheid might be imminent; how in early 1989 it may have felt impossible to conceive of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet empire.

To live and act from a place of hope is to embrace a vision of peace in the Middle East in which all people can flourish; in which there is a recognition of the interdependence of our humanity; in which there is justice and solidarity across divides – and then to act to make it a reality.

The Arch had an extraordinary conviction, rooted in his faith, that the end of apartheid – whether in South Africa or Palestine – was not only possible, but inevitable. In this, he was anchored in hope. 

As Solnit notes: “Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.”

May we all embrace uncertainty and, within it, find the power of hopeful action that can drive towards the outcomes of justice and peace – which might well be somewhere just over the horizon.

– Janet Jobson is the CEO of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

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