U.S. family mourns, urges peace in S. Africa

October 11, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

GUGULETU, South Africa -- In a black township riven by violence, in a nation echoing with calls for race war, the grief-stricken family of Amy Biehl tried to turn her vicious murder here into a fervent plea for peace.

One by one yesterday, the American family knelt, cried and placed red, white and pink carnations against a roadside gas station's white wooden rail where the 26-year-old Fulbright scholar was dragged from her car, hit in the face with a brick and stabbed to death by an angry mob chanting anti-white slogans on Aug. 25.

The family insisted they had come here from Newport Beach, Calif., with neither anger nor remorse. Rather, they said they hoped that Amy Biehl's dedication to bringing multiracial elections and democratic change to South Africa would help heal and inspire a deeply divided land where racial hatred and political murder have claimed an estimated 16,000 victims over the years.

"What she was involved in is much bigger than her, and much bigger than all of us," said Peter Biehl, 50. "We want to make sure that's not lost sight of. . . . That's the main reason we made this trip: so that elections are held next April and peaceful change can occur."

At a Mass at St. Gabriel's Church in Guguletu, the Rev. Basil van Rensburg told the congregation to remember not just the idealistic Californian who had studied the Xhosa language and worked among them, but also the 16,000 South Africans who died without headlines.

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