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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 17:41 GMT

Despatches: Africa
Richard Downes
From South Africa

In South Africa, representatives of all the main religious communities are giving evidence to the Truth Commission about their role in the system of racial segregation known as apartheid. Commission chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged the religious groups to come clean about their shortcomings during the past. Richard Downes reports from Johannesburg:

"Archbishop Tutu said that no religious organisation in South Africa could afford to gloat about its role during the apartheid years, pointing out that his own Anglican Church paid different salaries to white and black priests until very recently. The commission is hoping that the submissions by the churches will help to renew the country spiritually by showing genuine remorse for the sins of the past. The South African Council of Churches, which was the most radical of the religious groupings, in its submission, said it was far too reactive in opposing racial repression and did not speak out loudly enough in defence of the victims of apartheid. The most eagerly awaited testimony will come from the NGK, the Afrikaans-speaking Dutch Reform Church, which enthusiastically supported apartheid and repression until the 1980s. NGK church members have had the most difficult time admitting to past wrongs, even though the church hierarchy condemned apartheid as a sin more than a decade ago."

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