Africa Faith & Justice Network proudly bestows its Faith and Justice Award for 2013 to the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) located in Maseru, Lesotho. TRC is an ecumenical nongovernmental organization that since 1979 has advocated for justice, peace and participatory development for poor and marginalized people. Today its focus is to promote–in Lesotho–democracy, human rights, the rule of law, water and environmental justice, library and information dissemination, interactive debate and the strengthening of the country’s parliament.
But the roots of TRC stretch to 1951, when James and Joan Stewart arrived in Lesotho from their native South Africa, where James, a lawyer, was forbidden under apartheid to practice his profession.
James and Joan taught school for a time at Pius XII College in Roma, Lesotho. When they departed Lesotho, they left behind crates of books that would later seed the TRC library. Their travels eventually took them to the University of Notre Dame where James taught before returning to Lesotho in 1978. There, the Stewarts shared their vision of an ecumenical group working for peace and justice. They founded TRC in 1979 to support nonviolent change in the Southern African region, in particular South Africa.
In 1980, TRC organized workshops in Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe on issues of peace, Christian social action and development.
In 1983 TRC began publishing its quarterly newsletter, Work for Justice, and, soon after, its Sesotho supplement, Litaba tsa Lesotho. Through these two publications, TRC shares what it has learned from its own research and from community groups with whom it works.
In 1984, the Stewarts died in a tragic car accident, and the TRC team organised a workshop with supporters to map a strategy for continuing the founders’ vision.
The end of apartheid in 1994 spelt a new era, and TRC abandoned its regional focus for an internal one with emphasis on the challenges faced in Lesotho: democracy education, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and conflict management.
Today TRC is a vibrant NGO with four main projects: The Library has broadened its variety of media from books to periodicals, newspapers and audio-visual materials. The Democracy Project holds workshops for teachers on education for democracy in the classroom, the constitution, and voter education. In the national elections in May 2012, TRC played a crucial role in educating the Basotho about the leadership choices they faced. The Water Project focuses on effects of dam construction in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Field workers help affected communities express their needs. TRC also monitors the resettlement process. With completion of the Mohale Dam, the work of TRC shifted to helping resolve compensation issues. TRC continues to work with the people of Lesotho on the challenges presented by the Lowlands Water Scheme which is designed to build another dam near the capital of Maseru.
TRC Board Member Sister Bathilda Heqoa, snjm, will accept the award during the AFJN 30th Anniversary Celebration and Conference at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana on March 2, 2013. Lesotho native Sister Bathilda Heqoa is a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary who currently serves on her SNJM Congregational Leadership Team in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada.
The ward was presented to TRC at AFJN’s 30th Anniversary conference held at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana on March 2, 2013