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“Forgiveness is a funny thing, it warms the heart and cools the sting.” William Arthur Ward

Desmond Tutu was Archbishop of Capetown from 1986 to 1996.Throughout his life Desmond Tutu worked tirelessly against apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was a system that treated people differently because of the colour of their skin. People who were non-white were not given the same rights in the country as white citizens. For example, they had to live where the government told them to, they were not allowed to vote, had to use separate transport, go to different beaches and use different cafes.

There was much violence and oppression in South Africa during the years of apartheid, and when it finally ended in 1992 some people were left feeling bitter and angry and wanting revenge. In order to give everyone a chance to talk about the things that had happened to them Desmond Tutu set up the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’. Many people who had behaved badly could hear from those they had hurt. There was the chance to say sorry and sometimes receive forgiveness. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped to provide an opportunity for a new beginning for South Africa, a chance to build what Desmond Tutu called a ‘Rainbow Nation’ in which everyone had the same chance in life no matter what the colour of their skin.

Talk about forgiveness together…

Everyone makes mistakes, it’s part of being human. Sometimes our mistakes hurt others and then we need to say sorry. Sometimes mistakes made by other people hurt us. When this happens, we need to be able to forgive. Forgiveness can be difficult and costly but without it a new start is impossible.

Talk together about:

-A time when you needed to say sorry

-A time you didn’t say sorry but wish you had

-A time when you had to forgive someone who had hurt or upset you

-How it feels when you are given a new start because someone has forgiven you

Zacchaeus the tax

Zacchaeus was a little man. He was a tax collector and had become rich by making others pay lots of money in taxes to the Romans and to him. He didn’t have many friends.

When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was in town, he wanted to see him. But Zacchaeus was short, and Jesus was always surrounded by a crowd. So, Zacchaeus decided to run ahead of the crowd and climb a sycamore tree.

From there he could watch for Jesus. As Jesus drew closer, he held his breath excitedly until Jesus stopped right beneath his tree. Jesus looked straight up at him! “Zacchaeus,” said Jesus with a smile, “come on down. I want to stay at your house today!”

Zacchaeus hopped down. “You are welcome at my house, Jesus,” he said with a huge grin. But others grumbled, muttering to each other. “Why does Jesus want to go home with the rich, cheating tax collector? He isn’t good enough for Jesus to come and stay at his house.” Zacchaeus heard what the people were saying about him, and he wanted to put things right. He turned to Jesus and said, “Master, here and now, I promise to give half of my money to the poor. If I have cheated anyone in taxes, I will pay them back four times that amount.”

Zacchaeus wanted to turn over a new leaf because Jesus believed that everyone deserved a new start and now Zacchaeus believed it too.


“When you forgive you don’t change the past, but you do change the future.”


– Bernard Meltzer