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Triumph Over Torture: Father Michael Lapsley

Triumph Over Torture: Father Michael Lapsley To Give This Year's Michael Hirschfeld Memorial Address

The ex-patriate New Zealand activist priest Michael Lapsley will give this year's Michael Hirschfeld Memorial Address in Wellington on Monday 4th December.

The topic is "Triumph over Torture" and Father Michael, the founding director of the Institute for Healing of Memories has been brought out from his South African home by Amnesty International New Zealand (AINZ) to highlight the recently launched worldwide Campaign to Stamp Out Torture.

"Amnesty International New Zealand is delighted to have a man of Father Michael Lapsley's stature back home to address New Zealanders, particularly as he has done so much to counter apartheid in South Africa and to offer hope and healing to torture victims. It is the sharing of those insights we look forward to hearing," says AINZ Chair, Susie Blowers.

"His own story is a triumph over torture and his journey of sacrifice and suffering has given Father Michael a wisdom that has helped not only South Africa but the world in choosing hope instead of hatred," adds Blowers.

Father Lapsley's story is extraordinary (see attached biography). While he had long been a thorn in the side of South Africa's apartheid government, he came to international attention when in April 1990 he was sent a letter bomb by the South African government. In the explosion his eardrums were shattered and he lost both his hands and an eye. He spent one month in hospital in Harare and six months in two Australian hospitals.

Rather than weaken Father Lapsley's resolve, once his wounds were healed he undertook an extensive speaking tour of the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Canada and The United States reflecting on his own bombing, survival and the situation in South Africa. Father Michael's voice has continued to be heard ever since.

The Michael Hirschfeld Memorial Address was instigated as an annual event to honour the memory of Michael Hirschfeld, the first Chair of the Freedom Foundation of Amnesty International

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The Michael Hirschfeld Address is at the James Cook Centra Hotel, Wellington
12 noon-2.30pm Monday 4 December 2000.

Father Lapsley will also visit Auckland from December 8-10

More information or media interviews with Father Michael Lapsley can be arranged by phoning Margaret Taylor on 09 445 9871 or emailing her at margie.taylor@xtra.co.nz.

Michael Lapsley - a biography

1998 Became the first Director of the Institute for Healing of Memories. Played a major role in developing a model which assists faith communities in the process of healing the psychological, emotional and spiritual wounds of the apartheid years.
1997 Awarded a Friendship Medal by the Council of State of Cuba.
1996 Michael Lapsley's biography "Priest and Partisan" by Michael Worsnip published with a foreword by Nelson Mandela.
1993-98 Appointed chaplain to Cape Town's Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture. Chair and founding member of the Adult Education and Skills Training Programme of the Cape Town Refugee Forum.
1992 Chaplain of the Anglican Student Federation of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, a post Michael had previously held in 1976.
Returned to South Africa and became Director of the ecumenical Theology Exchange Programme.
1991 Awarded the Queens Service Medal (QSM) by the New Zealand Government for service to the community in the countries of Southern Africa.
1990 Undertook an extensive speaking tour of the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United States reflecting on his own bombing, survival and the situation in South Africa.
1990 Michael was sent a letter bomb by the South African government one week after returning from a visit to Canada and Cuba. In the explosion his eardrums were shattered and he lost both his hands and an eye. He spent one month in hospital in Harare and six months in two Australian hospitals. The New Zealand Government by a unanimous Cabinet decision paid the Australian hospital bill.
1987-90 Michael worked as a theological consultant and co-ordinated an ecumenical program of popular education about apartheid and destabilisation, under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation.
1985-86 Was a parish priest in a very large African township parish.
1983-92 Michael lived in Zimbabwe, initially reading for a Masters in Religious Studies from the University of Zimbabwe. His master's thesis was published as Neutrality or Co-option? -Anglican Church and State from 1964 until the Independence of Zimbabwe.
1982 In December, while Michael was away from Lesotho, the South African Army massacred 42 Lesotho citizens and South African refugees. The Church authorities believed Michael to be a target and forced him to leave the country "for his own safety and that of others". Spent nine months of the year living at an SSM Priory in Manchester in the United Kingdom. Spoke all over the United Kingdom, in Sweden, Holland, Canada and the United States in support of the ANC and against apartheid.
1976-83 Michael lived in Lesotho, where he completed his BA at the National University of Lesotho, and also attained a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education with distinction. As well as studying, he was also Chaplain to the University and for three years was also responsible for training priests for the Diocese of Lesotho. During this time, Michael joined the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) which was conducting an underground guerrilla struggle against Apartheid. For many years Michael also functioned as a chaplain of the ANC.
1976 When Michael was in his third year of undergraduate studies at the University of Natal, Durban, his student permit was withdrawn. He was expelled from South Africa and lived outside the country's borders until 1992.
1971-73 Michael worked as an assistant curate in the Parish of All Saints, Ainslie in Canberra. In June 1973 he was ordained as a priest and in September of that year, the SSM transferred him to Durban in South Africa. As well as pursuing full-time university studies at the University of Natal, Michael assisted and subsequently became chaplain to two black and one white university campuses in Durban. At the time of the SOWETO uprising in 1976, he was elected National Chaplain of Anglican Students.
1971 Michael became a professed member of the SSM and was also made Deacon in the same year. He was awarded a Licentiate in Theology
1967 Went to Adelaide in Australia to begin his training as an Anglican Priest. At the same time he was a novice of an Anglican Religious Community called the Society of the Sacred Mission (S.S.M.)


Michael Lapsley was born on June 2, 1949 in Hastings and attended the following schools: Mahora Primary School, Heretaunga Intermediate and Hastings Boys High and gained University Entrance.


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