A Tribute to Nelson Mandela
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9
Today, December 10, 2013, marks the Twentieth Anniversary of Nelson Mandela receiving the Noble Peace Prize in Norway's Oslo City Hall on December 10, 1993 (along with F.W. de Klerk).
In addition, today his family, world leaders, and the people of South Africa said goodbye to the extraordinary man, Nelson Mandela, who passed on Thursday night, December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. As was said at the passing of another great leader, Abraham Lincoln, now, Madiba "belongs to the Ages."
Nelson Mandela, a true inspiration to millions around the world, has been accorded many accolades: Father of Modern South Africa, Giant of History, Fearless Freedom Fighter, Lawyer, Defender of the Oppressed, Moral Compass, Greatest Leader of Our Age, Unifier, Colossus of World Leaders, Liberator, and Global Icon. Yet, the one I like best is 'Peacemaker', for Nelson Mandela personified the Peacemaker's true spirit with his tremendous strength of moral character in the face of South African apartheid, one of the world's most brutal regimes, and his enduring power to accept and forgive his oppressors. WOW! As has been famously said, "We will never see the like of Nelson Mandela again."
Defying all odds, Nelson Mandela, a young South African lawyer, endured harassment, apartheid, and political imprisonment, yet emerged with dignity, grace, and respect to embrace and forgive his former jailers, oppressors, and political enemies. In his moving autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote, on the last day of his 27-year imprisonment, "As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." And his extraordinary ability to leave the bitterness and hatred behind, empowered Mandela to become one of the world's most truly beloved, influential, and transformational leaders.
In 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first elected black President. Instead of seeking revenge against those who had brutally oppressed the African majority, Mandela the Peacemaker, sought reconciliation. He spearheaded South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where victims of racist violence and torture could testify to what they had endured, and perpetrators could tell their stories, as well. The Commission granted former government officials and employees amnesty for their honesty about what they did. This process was a triumph of compassion and mercy that, most definitely, helped to begin the healing of the nation's deepest wounds. It was truly a giant step toward the establishment of a democratic, non-racial South African state.
In a recent piece in TIME, Bono, who considered Nelson Mandela a personal role model and mentor, relates that Mandela's vision went far beyond racial reconciliation, which in itself was huge. Mandela saw the fight against extreme poverty as part of the same struggle as the fight against apartheid and racial injustice. Mandela campaigned for economic justice and development, not only in South Africa, but for all of Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout the entire under-developed world. Indeed, Mandela's tireless efforts have helped Africa experience its best decade of economic growth and poverty reduction.
Nelson Mandela was one of the most vocal leaders in the campaign against HIV/AIDS around the world, and especially in South Africa. He fought against corruption in governance in Africa, and across the planet. In addition, Nelson Mandela was a world leader for the dignity of, and assistance to those with disabilities and special needs. The Nelson Mandela Foundation carries on his remarkable work today.
Nelson Mandela, the Peacemaker, modeled Christ-like forgiveness for the world. He stated, "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are roads that lead to their goal. Two of those roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness."
While Nelson Mandela's long walk to freedom is over, let us follow those roads, Goodness and Forgiveness, and continue to work for racial reconciliation, social justice, human dignity, an end to the hunger and grinding poverty that still ensnare so many around the world today, and reach out to those with disabilities and special needs.
Nelson 'Madiba' Mandela, May You Rest in Peace. God Bless.
Until next time,
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Hi! I'm Kenneth Lillard, author, ordained minister, and motivational speaker. This blog is an expression of some of my thoughts and opinions. I'm glad you stopped by. Hope you'll share some of your comments while you're here. Be Blessed!