March 30, 2011 – Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP), an Institute of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), warmly welcomed Piet Meiring back to its campus for three days in March. Meiring presented a workshop , participated in a special “Evening of Story and Song,” also featuring musician Cara Luft, and shared personal reflections of his faith journey, in conversation and a chapel presentation, during his visit.
“We are blessed to have Piet Meiring to share with us,” said CSOP Co-director Val Smith, introducing Meiring during his March 14 to 16 visit. “Piet has taught, spoken, and advised on reconciliation, restorative justice, and truth in settings worldwide – in Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, Ireland, Fiji, and Canada. He is a wise and humble person who seems equally at home speaking a prophetic word to government leaders…and telling stories of African elephants to my kids.”
For three decades, Meiring was involved with the church’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and he had to challenge his own denomination on this issue. He served with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Meiring is an emeritus professor at the University of Pretoria and an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church.
“He has lived a life guided by his faith in Christ, a life that is a model of faithful living in difficult circumstances, a life through which God’s face has been allowed to shine,” said Smith.
Participants in the March 14 day-long workshop had an opportunity to engage with Meiring during his session, titled, “The Perennial Quest for Truth and Reconciliation: Learning from one another’s experiences.”
The “Evening of Song and Story” on March 15 featured a time of sharing with Meiring, and performances by renowned singer, songwriter, and guitarist Cara Luft, who shared her music with an appreciative crowd.
An artist steeped in folk and traditional roots music, Luft enjoys stretching the boundaries, unafraid to bend genres and styles. Luft is a former founding member of Juno award-winning folk music trio The Wailin’ Jennys. Her sense of honesty, integrity, personality, and spontaneity permeate and resonate in her music and her live performances.
At the March 16 Chapel service, Meiring shared reflections on God’s “windows of faith, hope, and love” that sustained him during the apartheid period and throughout his TRC work. He describes his time serving on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as “this painful, wonderful, agonizing journey through South Africa, (to) make sense of the past, and find our way into the future.”
“The Lord opened my eyes in many, many ways – and made me look through his windows at the reality,” says Meiring.
“The future of the world, of reconciliation,” says Meiring, “…does not depend in the first instance on better structures, important though they are. It is dependent on people’s hearts, on personal relationships between people. I came to realize that time and time again in South Africa. It was love that reined: the willingness to forgive. People astounded one another. It was a painful but exhilarating experience.
“…Stand at the window of love,” Meiring says, “and you are astounded at what God has done for us. But you are also from time to time astounded if you see how people are translating their profession of love into action. And when that happens, you will know that swords are beaten into ploughshares and that spears are turned into pruning hooks… My prayer for you in Winnipeg is that Winnipeg will stand out as a place where a monument is erected for faith and hope and love for the world to see.”
Canadian Mennonite University, through Menno Simons College (CMU’s campus at The University of Winnipeg) and through its south Winnipeg Shaftesbury campus, offers one of the most comprehensive undergraduate program in peace and conflict studies in the world. CMU has over 1,700 students at its Shaftesbury Campus, at Menno Simons College in downtown Winnipeg, and enrolled through its Outtatown discipleship program. CMU is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.