Normally I write impersonal commentaries of issues that affect the church, Israel or society at large. This one is personal. Mandela’s name was unfamiliar to me even as I grew up only a few miles from where he spent 27 years. Living in the fairest Cape and playing on its beaches we saw Robbin Island every day. As a white child – we never heard about the “terrorists” locked up on the island. Their names like those in “Gitmo” today, were unfamiliar to us. I learned the truth about my country only after I left it.
NELSON MANDELA 1918-2013
1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
1943 Joined African National Congress
1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial
1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison
1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life
1990 Freed from prison
1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1994 Elected first black president
1999 Steps down as leader
2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer
2004 Retires from public life
2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness
From “Enemy of the State” to “Head of State” Nelson Mandela led a remarkable life. He joins Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King as heroes in a struggle against legalized oppression.
With a word or a raised fist Mandela could have unleashed a race war to rival Africa’s bloodiest. Instead he oversaw the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that brought enemies together to discuss their crimes, and each found forgiveness and amnesty in the tears and hugs of their victims. Thank you “Madiba” on behalf of my family in Africa, for bringing us peace on a continent known for civil war.
These short quotes from his own speeches give us a sense of the gravity of the man, the zeal of his conviction, and the steel of his resolve.
- What are you going to do? Will you come along with us, or are you going to co-operate with the government in its efforts to suppress the claims and aspirations of your own people? Or are you going to remain silent and neutral in a matter of life and death to my people, to our people? For my own part I have made my choice. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.
- During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
I see in him a zeal and commitment that rivaled the Apostle Paul’s. Like Paul, Mandela had this question….What are you going to do? Like Paul, he showed us what a committed life looked like when it embraced the struggle.
Phil 3 v 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize .………..
Mandela showed us how to confront evil, suffer the long consequence of doing that, and then emerge victorious and ready to forgive the defeated. In a world of so much injustice…perhaps that is his eternal gift.