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Linda Biehl (1943 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Linda Biehl (1943 - ) Awarded for:
Displaying outstanding spirit of forgiveness in the wake of the murder of her daughter and contributing to the promotion of non-racism in post-apartheid South Africa.

Profile of Linda Biehl

Linda Biehl was born in Chicago in 1943. She and her late husband, Peter, graduated at Whittier College, California, and had four children. Linda led a relatively normal American life, working as a couture manager at Neiman Marcus. This was until the tragic death of her first-born daughter, Amy, changed her life from an ordinary mother living in California, to an inspiring international peace activist and motivational speaker.

In 1993, Biehl’s daughter was killed by four politically misguided young men in Gugulethu township, where she was dropping off friends she had met during her studies at the University of the Western Cape.

Biehl and her husband turned their painful and irreplaceable loss into an incredible act of forgiveness as they chose to absolve their daughter’s killers.

In 1997, Biehl testified at the amnesty hearings of her daughter’s killers. As a concrete sign of forgiveness, she not only offered sup-port but invited the young men to work together with her and her husband. She wanted to see restorative justice extending to the youth of South Africa.

She resigned from her secure employment and co-founded the Amy Biehl Foundation in a bid to create what her husband called “avehicle of reconciliation and open dialogue”. She asked Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, two of the men who killed her daughter, to join the foundation and work together with her.

The foundation aims to fulfil the following rights contained in the South African Constitution: the right to education, the right to equal employment and the right to health.

Biehl could have justifiably wallowed in the sorrow and grief of losing a child but she chose to look beyond the senseless killing and saw the potential of South Africa’s youth. She honoured her daughter who in her life-time had been deeply involved in conflict resolution. Biehl sought to do what her daughter would have wanted her to do – to serve the youth of South Africa. Through the Amy Biehl Foundation, she is fulfilling the dreams of many young South Africans who otherwise would not flourish. The foundation is embracing hundreds of new friends who want to make a positive contribution to South Africa and the world.

In 2002, tragedy struck again when Biehl lost her husband, who had co-founded the Amy Biehl Foundation. Instead of losing strength, Biehl continues to work hard, having been spurred on by her husband during his last days. He told her to “go for it. Keep this thing we started going” and her reply was “I will. And you’ll be there with me”.

In recent years, as the foundation grew, Biehl has been spending most of her time in South Africa. She is, however, travelling between Cape Town and California where her three children and three grandchildren are. Here in South Africa, she has a large family of numerous young people who call her Makhulu, meaning grandmother.

Linda Biehl is co-founder and director of the Amy Biehl Foundation in the United States of America and the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust in South Africa.