Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela Wins 2024 Templeton Prize for Work on Trauma and Forgiveness

2024 Templeton Prize Winner Pumla Gobodo-MadikizelaSubmitted Image

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, PA — The 2024 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a distinguished scholar and psychologist known for her groundbreaking work on trauma and forgiveness in post-apartheid South Africa. Dr. Gobodo-Madikizela is a professor and the South African National Research Foundation’s Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma at Stellenbosch University. She also directs the Centre for the Study of the Afterlife of Violence and the Reparative Quest.

Dr. Gobodo-Madikizela’s model for social healing, which she calls “the reparative quest,” addresses the complex processes of trauma and forgiveness. Her approach has gained global recognition for its effectiveness in helping societies recover from conflict and violence.

“The 2024 Templeton Prize winner, Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, has a remarkable grasp of the personal and social dynamics that allow for healing in societies wounded by violence,” said Heather Templeton Dill, President of the John Templeton Foundation. “As a psychologist, scholar, and commentator, she has served as a guiding light within South Africa as it charts a course beyond apartheid, facilitating dialogue to help people overcome individual and collective trauma. Her work highlights the significance in contemporary life of cultivating the spiritual values of hope, compassion, and reconciliation.”

At 69, Gobodo-Madikizela has an impressive career marked by significant contributions to human rights and social justice. She was an influential member of the Human Rights Violations Committee of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission aimed to address the injustices of apartheid by fostering a process of truth-telling and reconciliation.

Her award-winning 2003 book, “A Human Being Died That Night,” recounts her conversations with Eugene de Kock, a former commander of state-sanctioned death squads. The book explores themes of remorse, accountability, and the possibility of forgiveness, offering deep insights into human behavior and moral transformation.

Gobodo-Madikizela’s efforts to repair the damages of past violence and build toward healing form the core of her concept of the reparative quest. Through international lectures and publications, she demonstrates keen empathy and humanity toward both victims and perpetrators of traumatic events.

Heather Templeton Dill further praised her achievements: “Her accomplishments mark her as a leading figure in understanding and confronting the deeply rooted psychological scars borne by those who experienced unimaginable loss.”

In her statement for the Templeton Prize, Gobodo-Madikizela reflected on her experiences and research: “Through the many encounters I had in my work when I served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I learned that ordinary people, under certain circumstances, are capable of far greater evil than we could have imagined. But so are we capable of far greater virtue than we might have thought. My research is based on this possibility of human transformation, on probing deeper to understand the conditions necessary to restore the values of what it means to be human—to want to preserve the dignity and life of the other. This is the essence of an accountable Ubuntu, a word from my language that is a foundational moral force that reaffirms our shared humanity. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this prize. The great opportunity it opens for me to work with the next generation of future leaders who will pursue research on these urgent questions is a rare gift.”

The Templeton Prize honors individuals whose work combines science and spirituality to expand our understanding of human existence. Dr. Gobodo-Madikizela’s contributions highlight the importance of addressing historical traumas to foster a more compassionate and reconciled society. Her work emphasizes that while humans are capable of great harm, they also possess an immense capacity for healing and transformation. This recognition not only celebrates her past achievements but also empowers her ongoing mission to educate and inspire future leaders in the field of trauma and reconciliation.

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