The reality of the situation is that in the 40 years that it took Ishtiyaq to summon up the courage to reveal “his truth”, the priests have changed
Ishtiyaq Shukri’s youngest brother, who himself was a victim of abuse, has called on his brother to release the names of the priests involved.
“Face them head on and give the church, that you so clearly despise, the opportunity to right the awful wrongs you have had to live with for four decades. If you fail to do this, your continued silence will be an injustice to all who have suffered under their hands,” was the plea yesterday from “Angus”, Shukri’s brother.
Shukri, an award-winning South African author, broke his more than 40 years of silence in an open letter to the press last week on sexual assaults he allegedly endured from various priests at the St Cyprian’s in Kimberley.
Yesterday his brother, who identified himself as “Angus”, wrote his own emotional letter in which he described his own pain and sorrow when reading Shukri’s statement against Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the Anglican Church.
“I’d like to state clearly upfront that any physical and sexual abuse is unforgiveable and leaves scars that last a lifetime. In some cases, victims of abuse never recover; perhaps this is why reading Shukri’s scornful statement against Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is so painful to me.
“As Ishtiyaq’s youngest brother, I can unfortunately confirm that I too was a victim of abuse. That’s why I’d like to echo the words of Desmond Tutu . . . ‘I am mortified’.”
Angus states that what deeply saddens him is the fact that his eldest brother, Ishtiyaq, used the topic of sexual abuse to publically lash out at the 86-year-old Desmond Tutu. “What is more concerning is that Ishtiyaq is attacking Tutu for stepping down as an Oxfam ambassador in the wake of a serious sexual scandal that rocked the organisation.”
Angus states further that he has seen first-hand the good work that Tutu and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has done. “Reading his (Shukri’s) public announcement, I am also reminded about the fact that when I tried to speak out, my family reprimanded me and accused me of lying. I had nobody to support my story, nobody to confirm my allegations because the victims of abuse that came before me stood silent,” Angus points out.
“Ishtiyaq admits that he knew and took comfort in the fact that others were being abused. Ishtiyaq and I were raised in a family that stood up against apartheid, no matter the consequences. Our grandmother, mother, aunts and cousins played an influential role in the fight against injustice. Ishtiyaq blaming his silence on apartheid South Africa is a low-hanging and inexcusable excuse.
“Ishtiyaq is more than a decade older than me. Yet, his 40-year silence resulted in countless victims falling prey to these vile individuals. Unfortunately, Ishtiyaq’s sudden revelation offers no comfort or justice to the victims of sexual abuse but only serves to taint the reputation of a great man, Desmond Tutu,” Angus says in his letter.
“I shouldn’t have to remind Ishtiyaq that Tutu played a pivotal role in our household. He was emotionally distraught while he listened to callous, hurtful and heinous truths in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He spoke out against the apartheid government, the ANC and even former president Jacob Zuma.
“He constantly stands up for what is right, speaks out against all types of abuse and leads not only Anglicans, but people from all walks of life by setting a firm example. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is and will continue to be a pillar of morality and freedom in my family.”
Angus adds that he “is convinced that if Ishtiyaq said something earlier Tutu would have listened”.
“Tutu and the Anglican Church are unable to address issues of abuse that was not reported. Publically attacking them 40 years later, and failing to mention the names of the sexual offenders leaves Tutu and the Anglican Church with no option but to apologise and plead with him to reveal the names of these perpetrators.
“Perhaps speaking about the ordeal and uttering the abusers names are too painful. But publically slating the church in which his family was raised and many of us still worship is in itself a painful situation for all of us to deal with. Without warning, this revelation of abuse is thrust onto us in the most callous way.
“Suddenly, the church where I was baptised, sang in the choir and where I married my wife is plastered on the front page of the DFA. The reality of the situation is that in the 40 years that it took Ishtiyaq to summon up the courage to reveal “his truth”, the priests have changed. A new breed of exceptional religious leaders are at the helm of this institution and now face the prospect of having to apologise for an injustice that they had no knowledge of.”
Angus points out that now is the time to bring the real perpetrators to justice.
“It’s a sad day for me in particular. I stood up to my abusers, I faced them head on. One of them was arrested and charged. The amount of evidence collected against him was so convincing that he had no choice but to plead guilty to the charges. This is something I dealt with alone in 2003. My family, who failed to listen to my pleas for help, was no source of comfort. Instead, I found my peace and healing from the supportive members of the Anglican Church.
“For the past five years, the members of St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kimberley have helped me overcome the incredibly upsetting secrets perpetuated by Ishtiyaq and the rest of my family.
“Even though I no longer live in Kimberley, The Anglican Cathedral of St Cyprian the Martyr has become my spiritual home. It is my pillar of hope in a country that is in desperate need of courage and exceptional leadership.
“I am by no means perfect, I too have said and done things to family that I regret, but the one decision that I stand by, is the decision to speak up and face the truth. Doing this is humiliating; it’s like scratching at an open wound that will never heal. The truth is, watching your abuser being locked up doesn’t erase the past but it does bring closure.
“Forty years is a long time to keep these dark secrets hidden. It allows the evil of the abusers to fester inside you. Perhaps it caused Ishtiyaq to question himself – it followed him daily like a never-ending plague. Because he kept silent for so long, he eventually revealed it in an uncontrolled manner.
“For this reason, I encourage all the victims of abuse in every institution, not only the Anglican Church, to make themselves heard. Don’t allow this hatred to grow inside you.
“Have the courage to speak out, find someone you trust and let them know what is happening. Most importantly, use the right channels like the police or your church to bring your abusers to justice.
“This is why I would like to challenge Ishtiyaq to stand up and do the right thing. Release the names of the priests that have caused this wrong against you. Face them head on and give the church, that you so clearly despise, the opportunity to right the awful wrongs you have had to live with for four decades. If you fail to do this, your continued silence will be an injustice to all who have suffered under their hands.”