No Future Without Forgiveness

By Desmond Tutu

2,146 ratings - 4.19* vote

The establishment of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pioneering international event. Never had any country sought to move forward from despotism to democracy both by exposing the atrocities committed in the past and achieving reconciliation with its former oppressors. At the center of this unprecedented attempt at healing a nation has been Archbish The establishment of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pioneering international event. Never

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Book details

Paperback, 304 pages
October 17th 2000 by Image

(first published 1999)

Original Title
No Future Without Forgiveness
0385496907 (ISBN13: 9780385496902)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Heather S. Jones

i am so glad this man is in our world! someone who is universally recognized to have done something so great for humanity by trumpeting reconciliation and forgiveness and brotherhood. his compassion is immense. he is the inspiration for the name of my first child -- it is men like this who make me hope.

some of my favorite snippets from the book:

"I would not know how to be a human being at all, except i learned this from other human beings. We are made for a delicate network of relationships, of interdependence. not even the most powerful nation can be completely self-sufficient"

"All I am saying is that the bible and our faith and its tradition declare unequivically that for an authentic Christian existence the absolute priority must be spirituality. . . we must be marked by a heightened God consciousness. Then all kinds of things will happen."

"We are bound together in what the bible calls "the bundle of life". Our humanity is caught up in that of all others. We are human because we belong. We are made for community, for togetherness, for family, to exist in a delicate network of interdependence. Truly, "it is not good for man to be alone," for no one can be human alone."

"To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest."


Wow. There are some great people out in this world. I'll just leave a quote from the book that shows the spirit in which the TRC was created. It shows a bit of the cultural heart that South Africa has. They call it Ubuntu. It gives a glimpse into how God’s idea of justice is not retaliation, but reconciliation.

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu, u nobunu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “ A person is a person through other persons.” It is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.

Harmony, friendliness, community are great goods. Social harmony is for us the summum bonum – the greatest good. Anything that subverts, that undermines this sought-after good, is to be avoided like the plague. Anger, resentment, lust for revenge, even success through aggressive competitiveness, are corrosive of this good. To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me. It gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.


Another re-read of this book. Spent the day finishing the last half of the book with tears streaming down my face. The writing is that of an easily-distracted theologian/pastor so frequently off-topic but also of someone who has seen the worst of what humanity can do to each other and still believes in a God who is so much bigger. The emotion that Tutu conveys when interweaving the testimonies of both the victims and the perpetrators (sometimes one and the same) of apartheid with his understanding of God and of people made in His image and of forgiveness is breathtaking. Loved it when I first read it in 2003 and it's still resonating with and teaching me in 2015.

lizzie mcmanus

This book is brilliant - and a cornerstone for my senior thesis. Tutu's exploration of forgiveness is raw, unapologetic, and ultimately a beautiful confession of faith in the face of atrocity.

Doreen Petersen

Interesting take on post-apartheid politics in South Africa. Worth checking out.


This is a powerful and poignant account of the work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission after Mandela became president and apartheid was dismantled. Tutu and Mandela understood that the only path forward was through repentance and forgiveness. There are clearly important lessons for the US here.

I also found Tutu’s view of reparations very interesting. He realized that it would be impossible to provide true financial compensation for the suffering inflicted during the years of apartheid, but he recognized that the meager payouts still had great symbolic value and were therefore beneficial to promote healing.


Bishop Tutu is not a great writer. That's the only reason this book received four instead of five stars from me. In this book, Bishop Tutu tells the story of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission ofter Apartheid and during the first democratically elected government headed up by Nelson Mandela. I knew that the commission was hailed throughout the world as a new and promising effort to create a civil society out of what had been a barbaric system of oppression but I did not know how difficult was the struggle to create the commission and to operate it. Humans being people, there were still many in South Africa who were dedicated to the hateful attitudes and practices of oppression. Bishop Tutu does not condemn anyone in the book, he just tells about the struggle to make it happen. He certainly makes the case for restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice. He calls on the concept "ubuntu," which used to be a common idea until the enlightenment, which means that we all are all connected. So that whatever brings one of us down brings us all down and whatever brings one of us up brings us all up. The story is simple the concepts and the carrying out of truth and reconciliation is complex. Tutu makes the case for it.

Lulu Opio

Heartbreaking. So many times as I read this book, tears were flowing. I am glad that they took the path of Reconciliation and Truth as a Nation. There is no way you can heal if you do not confront your past

Tomy Wilkerson

It was okay. I think South Africa's story is super important and there's a lot to be learned to how they handled justice. I went in looking for something in particular and it gave me some much-needed for thought. The book itself was just okay.

Diane Gabriel

Right Under the bible in its importance. It is of incredibly magnitude of spiritual and social importance. I don’t know why this was not required reading in school? It should have been