By Mohalenyane Phakela
MASERU — Anglican priest and political activist Father Michael Lapsley launched his second book Redeeming the Past at Lehakoe Club on Thursday.
Father Lapsley was born in New Zealand in 1949.
He enrolled for a four-year training programme to become an Anglican priest when he was 18.
At the height of apartheid in 1973, he was sent on a mission to preach the gospel to South Africans.
“On reaching South Africa, I realised that blacks were oppressed by the whites,” Father Lapsley said at the launch.
“I would often preach against this injustice telling them that we are all equal in God’s eyes,” Father Lapsley said.
A fighter for civil rights, Father Lapsley said his sense of justice always put him on collision course with other white people in South Africa.
“The authorities used to ask me why I was siding with the ‘monkeys’ while I was one of them (white), and I told them I just wanted to see justice being served,” Father Lapsley said.
His stubborn faith in God and unfailing courage emboldened him to ignore threats from apartheid until he was expelled from South Africa and became a refugee in Lesotho.
“I received a very warm reception here in Lesotho and even studied at the National University of Lesotho where I met King Letsie III and we became friends, although most students were surprised to have a white guy study in their school,” he chuckles.
His joy turned into misery when the apartheid regime raided Lesotho in 1982 in search of ANC refugees.
Father Lapsley had to flee to Zimbabwe. The massacre left many people dead.
Father Lapsley steadfastly continued to preach against the injustice until they thought of another way of getting rid of him permanently.
They send him a letter bomb in 1990 which left him paralysed.
“I received this letter which just exploded once I opened it. But God was always with me as I only lost both hands and an eye.”
Accompanied by prayers, love and support from across the globe, he began a journey from victim to survivor then victor.
He went back to South Africa in 1992 as the dust was settling.
He opened a workshop that enabled all South Africans to tell their stories of anger and suffering so they could be healed.
Six years later he formed the Institute of Healing Memories which provides a platform for individuals to tell their stories in an atmosphere of mutual respect where they can be listened to.
Father Lapsley’s book seeks to redeem the past, manage the present and prospects on the manner in which to address the future.
It explores his journey from freedom fighter to healer.
Addressing guests, King Letsie III paid tribute to Father Michael.
“I find myself privileged to have known Father Lapsley on a personal level and through it emerged a strong friendship. He was an enigma; a political activist whilst a priest.
“I thank God for having brought him here for I believe this will help to initiate the healing process for Lesotho.
“I perceive Father Lapsley’s life as one of determination, belief and courage.”
Quoting the Bible, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Father Michael stressed the importance of prayer, forgiveness and healing.
“Healing can happen when there is both knowledge (of the incident) and acknowledgement (that it happened).
“The presence of His Majesty in our midst proves that this is about a nation as a whole.”
Respective delegations and the public that attended the launch gave out positive remarks about the book and
said Father Lapsley’s life is a blessing.
Among those in attendance was King Letsie III, deputy Speaker of Parliament Lekhetho Rakuoane, High Commissioner of New Zealand to Lesotho and Sehoai Santo, a former lecturer who taught Father Lapsley at NUL.
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