Nelson Mandela, South Africa's Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95 - The New York Times


When he was finally released from prison in 1990, Mandela did not succumb to bitterness. All he could think about was the healing of his country and to bring old enemies—the blacks and the whites—together to rebuild in a common cause.

Mandela will be remembered to have lived and died, loving and forgiving. Instead of revenge and retribution for what the white South Africans had done to him and his people, he chose to forgive the apartheid regime and underlined that, “The time for the healing of the wounds has come.”

Imagine if you were a black South African at the time, having been treated with atrocities by those who had taken over your nation, how would you feel?

And, in your own life with mental illness, have you ever been treated badly by people who were not able to recognize you were as human as they themselves—people who thought you were less worthy,  because you were different?

Some of us have been hurt in ways that have damaged us and seem unforgivable. When we do forgive, memories re-appear, and before we know it, we have to forgive all over again. We never find freedom from the pain.

After apartheid, things did not always run perfectly for South Africa either. But is perfect peace ever possible with us human beings? I know one thing: We need to stay close to Jesus and take comfort in knowing that he understands our pain full well.

In South Africa, forgiveness enabled transformation of relationships, positive change and peace. Mandela had a strong belief in empathy and honesty. He believed in the importance of dialogue as a power that could heal the deepest wounds. His graciousness towards those who had oppressed his people and caused him to spend 27 years in prison, won the admiration of South Africans and people around the world.

If Mandela was able to accomplish such great changes and such peace in his country, surely forgiveness would be able to work wonders in our lives as well. Mandela says this: “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear.”

Where could all this have come from if not from faith in a God who loves us all equally? Mandela was raised and schooled as a Methodist, said to have a great faith, though he kept his religion to himself. He did not want to use religion as a political tool, as the apartheid regime had done.

But his faith was illustrated in a 1999 speech to the Zion Christian Church Easter conference, in which he said: “The good news was borne by our risen Messiah, who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind.”

At Mandela’s passing in 2013, then UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said, “We remember Nelson Mandela today. But we should carry his spirit with us every day. It means, speaking out against prejudice and discrimination wherever we see their dark manifestations. It means, standing up against the indignity and deprivation that millions of our fellow human beings still suffer around the world.”


This has been part of the series A Voice of One Calling. Read Part 14 – A Reader’s Story of Rejection.