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Tending deep wounds

Dec 05, 2013

In October, Prison Fellowship South Africa held its last scheduled Sycamore Tree Project® (STP) course for 2013 in Pretoria Women’s Correctional Centre. The 18 prisoners and six victims addressed many issues related to crime and the harm that it causes. For one, the programme offered an opportunity to address the deep wounds of racism and violence from her country’s past.

Dimakatso arrived a half hour late for the first session with the hope of being turned away. She was angry and did not feel like participating in the STP. Even worse, the facilitator, Connie, was white. For Dimakatso, this was more than enough to avoid the programme. She grew up during South Africa’s “apartheid era” and associated all white people with pain. Yet, in response to the outward animosity, Connie extended respect and the love of Christ inviting the angry prisoner to join the session and give the STP a chance.

In the second session, Dimakatso continued with the negative attitude by being argumentative and showing aggression as an assertion of her identity as a strong, tough woman in prison. For Connie, it was an opportunity to truly hear Dimakatso and her feelings. She invited the other woman to express her views and emotions including her anger at Connie for being white and at all the harm caused by whites both to Dimakatso personally and to the country during apartheid.

After Dimakatso said all she wanted to on the deep wounds left from those dark days, Connie acknowledged the harm that the woman had experienced. She acknowledged the pain caused both by her white ancestors and the former government.

 In the third STP session, Dimakatso abandoned her earlier aggression to actively participate in the session activities. She was a different person. Since her participation in the course, she has been acquitted of the crimes for which she was incarcerated. She has asked to be trained as an STP facilitator so that she can deliver the programme in the correctional centre in her home town. Dimakatso wants to share what she learned in the encounter under the Sycamore Tree.


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