Empathy and Forgiveness for Apartheid's Most Condemned Man: Confronting the Human Side of Evil




Gobodo-Madikizela, Pumla

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School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution


“In this paper, Gobodo-Madikizela focuses on the very micro process of reconciliation and the issue of apology and forgiveness. She asks, ‘How can we understand forgiveness in the context of tragedy?’ She argues that forgiveness derives from the ‘sheer humanness’ of an encounter between victim and perpetrator of evil and the ensuing empathy and understanding. She provides a detailed, nuanced account of her encounters with one particularly notorious individual, Eugene de Kock, one of the apartheid government's chief assassins, and her personal struggle with empathy. She seeks to understand how he reached his decision to apologize and how the act of apologizing transformed him. Her meetings with de Kock led her to question the nature of evil, and how empathy can distort the boundary between interviewer and subject, and how the human touch alters relationships.”


The Lynch Lectures