Father Michael Lapsley, an Anglican priest known internationally as an advocate for reconciliation and forgiveness, will spend 12 days in the Twin Cities this fall as the visiting scholar for a program sponsored by the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium.

Father Michael Lapsley (Photography by Brian Moody. © The Forgiveness Project. Not to be reproduced without permission.)

The symposium was established in 1999 to encourage discussion on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Symposium speakers have included Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, who gave the inaugural address, and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The symposium since has evolved into a yearly scholar-in-residence program that is a partnership of the House of Hope Presbyterian Church, Weyerhaeuser Preaching Ministry, the Minnesota International Society and the University of St. Thomas in cooperation with the Czech and Slovak communities.

Lapsley, 63, is a native of New Zealand and was ordained in Australia. Soon after moving to South Africa in 1973, he became a prominent figure in the struggle against apartheid. Expelled from South Africa in 1976, he became a chaplain to the African National Congress in exile and traveled the world mobilizing faith communities to oppose the apartheid system.

Soon after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, Lapsley opened a letter bomb meant to assassinate him. In the explosion Lapsley lost both hands, sight in one eye and was seriously burned. Following his recovery, he worked for the Trauma Center for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town and assisted Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 1998 Lapsley launched the Institute for Healing of Memories and has become an international advocate for reconciliation, forgiveness and restorative justice. He is the subject of the biographical book, Priest and Partisan: A South African Journey, with a foreword by Nelson Mandela. Lapsley’s book, Redeeming the Past: My Journey From Freedom Fighter to Healer, was published this year and has a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Lapsley will speak at programs and deliver homilies throughout the Twin Cities, and in Collegeville, from Oct. 4 to 14. He will discuss citizenship in light of some of the choices he has faced on his life’s journey, and how he answered the challenges they posed.

He will deliver the principal Havel Symposium lecture, “Courageous Citizenship: Redeeming the Past and Building the Future,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

He also will speak at these public events:

  • “Pain Knows No Boundaries: An Interfaith Journey of Healing and Hope,” 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2, Pellegrene Auditorium, Peter Engel Science Center, St. John’s University, Collegeville.
  • “Pain Knows No Boundaries: An Interfaith Journey of Healing and Hope,” with responders from the Jewish and Muslim communities for discussion, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, Bigelow Chapel, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
  • Preaching at 10 a.m. service Sunday, Oct. 7, House of Hope Presbyterian Church, 797 Summit Ave., St. Paul.
  • Speaking at adult enrichment program, 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, House of Hope Presbyterian Church.
  • Speaking at educational forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, House of Hope Presbyterian Church.
  • Homilist at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Masses Sunday, Oct. 14, at St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis.

All lectures are free and open to the public; copies of his book will be available for purchase and signing.

For information about the Vaclav Havel Civil Society Symposium, contact Dr. Kimberly Vrudny of St. Thomas’ Theology Department, at (651) 962-5337 and kjvrudny@stthomas.edu, or House of Hope Church at (651) 227-6311.  A list of all symposium events can be found on this website.