Retracing footsteps of their grandparents

FIVE Americans are on a journey of a lifetime to South Africa that will see them pass through the Eastern Cape.

Prominent anti-violence advocate Father John Dear fulfilled a dream he has held for 40 years when he entered the country last Monday. He is due in the Eastern Cape this week.

His four travel companions – siblings Gertrude, Cecilia and Father Ray East, as well as cousin Bobbye Dones – have literally come back to the "motherland".

The Easts' and Dones's grandparents, James and Lucinda East, served as Baptist missionaries in Middledrift, Eastern Cape, during the early 1900s.

Dear revealed the trip, which he described as a private pilgrimage, had been inspired by his admiration for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the late former president Nelson Mandela, whom he said were great gifts to the world.

"We are here to see, listen and learn. We are also in search of answers on how people forgive. We want to take what we learn here back to the States," he said.

Dear has led countless anti-war protests both in and outside of the US and his activism saw him endorsed for a Nobel Peace Prize nomination by Tutu in 2008. He has been arrested more than 75 times.

"He [Tutu] wrote to the Nobel Committee on my behalf, and the letter is available on my blog,"

Dear said he hoped to meet Tutu this week. He also plans on visiting Robben Island.

Meanwhile, the Easts and Dones will retrace their grandparents' footsteps when they enter the Eastern Cape this week.

"James and Lucinda came to South Africa on their honeymoon. They fell in love with the Eastern Cape and got into the spirit of the people," Dones revealed.

"My grandmother learnt to speak Xhosa and my grandfather was involved in agriculture," she explained.