South African social justice advocate, the Rev. Michael Lapsley, will speak today (Tuesday, April 21) at the Westport Arts Center.

The program is from 6 to 8 p.m. at the arts center, 51 Riverside Ave.

Lapsley will discuss his evolution from victim to advocate, and his insights on spirituality and healing, according to arts center publicity for the event.

Lapsley was a chaplain for the African National Congress when he lost an eye and both hands after he opened an anonymous letter bomb in 1990.

A member of the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order founded in 1893, he has worked in countries in Africa and across the world to help build healing and empowerment for prisoners, war veterans and those affected by political violence, the press release states.

Born in New Zealand in 1949, Lapsley became chaplain to students at both black and white universities in Durban, South Africa, during the height of apartheid in 1973. In 1976, he began to speak out on behalf of schoolchildren who were being shot, detained and tortured, according to the center.

In 1990, three months after African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela's release from prison, Lapsley was sent a letter bomb by the Civil Cooperation Bureau, a covert group of the apartheid security forces. It was hidden inside two religious magazines. He lost both hands and the sight in one eye in the blast.

Lapsley is a graduate of the Australian College of Theology, the National University of Lesotho and the University of Zimbabwe. He has honorary doctorates from the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom.

He has been awarded the Queen's Service Medal by the government of New Zealand for service to southern African communities. He is also honorary consul for New Zealand in Cape Town.

"The Westport Arts Center is honored to have Father Michael Lapsley share his unique perspective on spirituality and empowerment with us," said Helen Klisser, the arts center's artistic director.

The event is open to the public free of charge, with a suggested donation of $20 per person.

For more information, call the arts center at 203-222-7070 or visit