Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Mandela’

Young Anglicans in South Africa create garden on ‘Mandela Day’

Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Posted on: July 19, 2017

Photo Credit: GreenAnglicans

Young people from a parish in a suburb of Cape Town have cultivated a garden at their church as a way of remembering Nelson Mandela on what was his birthday, July 18th.

Nelson Mandela International Day commemorates the lifetime of service Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa and the world. It was launched on his birthday in 2009 via a unanimous decision by the UN General Assembly. “It is in your hands to make of the world a better place,” he had said a year earlier, calling on the younger generation to take up this task.

The tradition has developed of taking 67 minutes to do something for others on Mandela day.  It is based on the idea that each person has the power to change the world and celebrates the 67 years that Mandela dedicated to social justice.

Green Anglicans _SA_2

The young people of Holy Spirit church in Heidveld spent their morning creating a beautiful vegetable and indigenous garden and they also cleaned up rubbish from around the church.  Each parish group – Sunday School, servers, youth etc., will be looking after a part of the garden.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Wednesday 19th July, 2017

Latest edition of Anglican World : Archbishop Thabo reflects on ministering to Madiba

Posted on: July 3rd, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Posted on: June 30, 2017

Photo Credit: ACNS

The Archbishop of Cape Town has been telling Anglican World magazine how his faith was deepened – by the memorable experience of ministering to Nelson Mandela, in the last few years of the former president’s life. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is bringing out a book on this shortly and has given Anglican World his exclusive reflections ahead of its publication.

The latest edition also focuses on “Intentional Discipleship” – a theme which has its roots in the 2016 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. There is a special report from the first meeting of the international co-ordinating group set up to bring life to the vision.

A delegation of Anglican women from around the world gathered recently at the UN in New York, for the 61st UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) and found the encounter “transformative.” The article about their two week encounter explains why.  Also in this edition, women in Argentina explain how the local branch of the Mother’s Union has transformed their aspirations and deepened their faith.

There’s also a report from the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, on a passiontide retreat in the north of England with an international group of bishops – that involved lots of listening and some frank conversations.

Anglican World brings you stories about the Anglican Communion’s life and mission from around the globe. Published quarterly, in full colour, it contains news, features, interviews and more. It is delivered to your door for just £2.50 a quarter.  To find out how to subscribe and browse through some earlier editions, click here.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Saturday 1st July, 2017

Leadership as loving enemies

Posted on: February 15th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Mural of Nelson Mandela in Brooklyn

Bigstock/Leonard Zhukovsky


The ministry of reconciliation is fundamental to what makes Christian leadership Christian. The stories of Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela set a moral compass for our aspirations, says L. Gregory Jones.

“How would writing your book ‘Embodying Forgiveness’ affect the way you would lead us as dean?” I thought I had prepared for all of the questions the Duke Divinity School search committee would ask me in those early days of 1997. But I had not anticipated questions about connecting my scholarship to my leadership. I offered the best answer I could muster: “Well, I do have a chapter in the book on ‘Loving Enemies.'”

Over the years, I have come to believe that my response was more than a clever retort. The Chinese general Sun Tzu, writing in the 5th century BCE, famously advised leaders to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” But our call as Christian leaders is more than that. We are called to a ministry of reconciliation, of bearing witness to God’s reign in a broken world.

Abraham Lincoln, as portrayed in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” offers an example of what such a practice might look like. He is remembered for saying, in the face of criticism for uttering kind words about the South, “Don’t I destroy my enemies if I make them my friends?”

In our own time, I have been drawn to the witness of Nelson Mandela’s moral leadership, brilliantly described by John Carlin in his recent book “Playing the Enemy.” To be sure, Mandela understood the tactical significance of keeping your enemies close. While in prison, he learned Afrikaans, the language of his jailers and of the government that had unjustly imprisoned him. When he became president, he recognized that promoting sport would further his goals of reconciliation and healing. And so he used sporting events — especially rugby, the favored sport of the Afrikaner and, thus, a symbol of oppression to black South Africans — as an opportunity to win over people who had been his political enemies.

At the same time, however, Mandela also loved his enemies in a deeper way. Carlin describes Mandela’s stubborn love of others, even the most hardened Afrikaner administrators of apartheid, by evoking the language of “better angels” from Lincoln’s First Inaugural: “Yet Mandela zeroed in on that hidden kernel where their better angels lurked and drew out the goodness that is inside all people.”

As a result of these deep commitments developed through years of patient and challenging practice, Carlin concludes that “the political mask became his real face; Mandela the man and Mandela the politician became one and the same.” That became symbolically and dramatically visible when President Mandela donned a jersey of the national rugby team, the Springboks, and went out on the field before the World Cup Rugby Final in 1995 in Johannesburg. He not only scored a tremendous political victory; he became a sign of national reconciliation himself.

The stories of Lincoln and Mandela set a moral compass for our aspirations, ennobling us to recognize that the people in our institutions, the people with whom we work and are in ministry, all have “better angels” to which we can appeal — even if, or perhaps especially if, they are opposed to decisions we make. Even if they oppose our very leadership.

We are most likely to lead our institutions, and our people, in service of our end, our telos — thriving communities that are signs, foretastes and instruments of the reign of God — insofar as we are able to create institutions that are themselves thriving communities. This means creating space for diverse voices to be heard, including our enemies, even if the act of leadership does not allow for every member of an organization to support every decision.

To be sure, when faced with serious antagonists, it is tempting to demonize or dismiss them. When so tempted, I return to the example of Mandela, who once was taunted for a full three minutes on the radio by an unrepentant and antagonistic Afrikaner, a public figure involved in planning violence during the transition to a new government. After the Afrikaner had finished, there was a tense pause. Mandela then replied: “Well, Eddie, I regard you as a worthy South African, and I have no doubt that if we were to sit down and exchange views I will come closer to you and you will come closer to me. Let’s talk, Eddie.”

Eddie didn’t know how to respond, other than to say, “Uh…right, okay, Mr. Mandela. Thank you.” And then he hung up.

It takes courage not to demonize or dismiss, but to learn to love deeply one’s enemies and practice reconciliation. “Let’s talk” is a worthy place to begin.

True reconciliation must reflect shared values, says former PM

Posted on: November 9th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Former prime minister Joe Clark urged the new Liberal government to set up a national council of reconciliation at an event hosted by Cathedral Arts, a program of the diocese of Ottawa. Photo: Art Babych

If there is to be true reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous  Canadians, it must “reflect and combine significant values from each side,”  says former prime minister Joe Clark, who is an honorary witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.

Many non-indigenous Canadians have a “folkloric view of Indigenous people,”  he told the 130 dinner guests in the Great Hall of Christ Church Anglican  Cathedral in Ottawa November 4. It’s a view that “stigmatizes the values of  Indigenous peoples as being just part of the past, not really relevant to  the so-called modern world and certainly not a factor in the future,” he  said.

There is a growing body of proof that “this backward-looking caricature is  false, but that is not evident to many non-Indigenous Canadians of inherent  generosity and goodwill,” he said.

Advocacy and public relations alone won’t persuade those Canadians who  “through no ill intent, cling to the caricature,” said Clark. “They need to  see for themselves that some Aboriginal values are central to their own  well-being and to their future.”

Clark, in his talk entitled “Beyond Reconciliation: A new partnership with  the Indigenous Peoples of Canada,” also called for a national council of  reconciliation to be set up by the new Liberal government.

Now is a rare opportunity “to build that kind of strong, practical inclusive  partnership which will let us move forward together,” he said.

“This a moment in time where, if we displayed the generosity of spirit that  [Nelson] Mandela and [F.W.] de Klerk showed when they drew their nation  [South Africa] back from the abyss, and displayed the inclusive vision…we  can do it.”

Clark was speaking as a director of Canadians for a New Partnership (CFNP), which, according to its website, is working toward “a better, stronger Canada” that builds “a new partnership between First Peoples and all Canadians.”

Stephen Kakfwi, a former premier of the Northwest Territories, and president  of the NWT Dene Nation, first advanced the concept for Canadians for a New  Partnership.

Following his talk, Clark fielded questions from members of the audience,  touching briefly on the Liberals’ election campaign. “There’s no way in the  world that they could have anticipated, prior to the campaign, all of the  changes that they want to take account of now,” he said. “And I think they  would welcome constructive suggestions” on how to move forward on building a  new partnership between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples.

Hosted by Cathedral Arts, a diocese of Ottawa program that holds  benefit concerts and hosts a guest lecturer series, the event included a  traditional Algonquin buffet prepared by an Aboriginal catering service.

The former prime minister was accompanied to the event by his wife, author  and lawyer Maureen McTeer. It was noted in his introduction that Clark  remains the youngest person to become prime minister of Canada, taking  office the day before his 40th birthday. The new prime minister, Justin  Trudeau, is 43.


Anglican Journal News, November 05, 2015

Desmond Tutu: “God Is Not A Christian. Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu…”

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


In this exclusive interview with Real Leaders, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and social rights activist Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu says he is not threatened by the beliefs of others. He believes the world should become more aware of our shared humanity to avoid future conflicts.

You represent a very specific world view, Christianity, yet have managed to mediate between opposing belief systems and make people aware of their common humanity. How have you managed this?

It doesn’t matter where we worship or what we call God; there is only one, inter-dependent human family. We are born for goodness, to love – free of prejudice. All of us, without exception. There is greater commonality in our belief systems than we tend to credit, a golden thread expressed in the maxim that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. I don’t believe in the notion of “opposing belief systems.” It would be more accurate to say that human beings have a long history of rationalizing acts of inhumanity on the basis of their own interpretations of the will of God.

In your view, what does the world need more of in order to become more peaceful?

Our failure to recognize the humanity in others lays the foundations for selfishness rather than selflessness. It leads to gross inequity and hideous disparities in qualities of life – and, often, the degradation of environments in which relatively poor people live. A world that recognizes the equal worth and vulnerabilities of all its people will be a much more peaceful place.

Has the role of religion changed over the last 10 years?

Peoples’ interpretation of religion can change, but I don’t believe the role of religion is changeable. Religion does not just concern one’s personal relationship with God; it’s more about the manner in which we interact with others – about our broader responsibilities to the human family and the earth we share.

Figures suggest many young people are turning away from the church. Is it possible to be a good human being without being religious? 

Much as I’d love to see all the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues and temples overflowing with humanity, how good we are is not measured by the number of times we attend formal religious ceremonies. Among the most heartening trends I have noticed on my travels over the past dozen or so years has been the spiritual strength of young people. They don’t necessarily occupy the front pews on Sunday, but they seem to have been born with an enhanced sense of tolerance and a deep understanding of our inter-dependence, on each other and a functional world.

The phrase “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” has been used by various people and political groups across the world to justify their actions. How do you reconcile such opposing viewpoints in people who are all convinced they are fighting for freedom?

Many have argued that people committing acts of violence in pursuit of just objectives should be regarded as freedom fighters, not terrorists. Nelson Mandela is a leading recent example of this dual identity. He was undoubtedly a freedom fighter who, at a particular stage in the struggle against apartheid, concluded that non-violent means of struggle were failing to achieve democracy and convinced his organization to take up arms. Although the resistance army that he commanded initially targeted infrastructure, rather than people – and was ultimately of significantly greater symbolic than military value to the liberation cause – Mandela and his comrades were branded terrorists at home and abroad. I don’t believe there is ever a valid justification for violence, it only begets more violence. Where people are not free they should struggle for their freedom through non-violent means. In the 1970s and 1980s, with the help of our friends abroad, South Africans developed a non-violent toolbox of boycott, sanctions and divestment. Together with mass resistance – people swimming together in pursuit of a righteous cause are unstoppable – we brought the apartheid state to its knees.

What role should business be playing in solving serious social issues?  

Corporations have wider responsibilities than enriching their shareholders; the pursuit of profits “at any cost” to people and the environment is morally bankrupt and destroying the earth. By considering the effect of their enterprise on others, and embracing a sustainable and more equitable future, corporations become active agents for social change, for societal good. It is not charity or philanthropy that I’m speaking about, and it goes beyond corporate social investment. It’s about the necessity of developing a world in which all feel valued, in which the dignity of all is taken into account. It’s the new way of thinking: Practice it at home and unleash it in your communities, your organizations, associations and boardrooms. Consider it in your negotiations and your contracts. Consider the effects on others. This consideration will not just benefit others’ (though there’d be nothing wrong with that!). It will benefit all in the village. Conducting business ethically need not equate to a reduction in profits.

Was there a personal “aha” moment growing up, when you realized that you wanted to make a positive difference in the world?

The closest I can think of to an “aha” moment occurred in my childhood, when a white priest greeted my mother politely in the street. The same priest, Father Trevor Huddleston, later visited me regularly when I nearly succumbed to tuberculosis. He taught me invaluable lessons about the human family; that it doesn’t matter how we look or where we come from, we are made for each other, for compassion, for support and for love. I called my son Trevor, and Bishop Huddleston, as he later became known, went on to lead the International Anti-Apartheid Movement.

What makes you the most frustrated and angry? 

I get frustrated when people fail to achieve their potential, or get in the away of others reaching for their dreams.

What makes a good leader?  

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela told of the lessons about leadership learned in his youth from the acting King of the Thembu people, who was his guardian following the death of his father. He described how King Jongintaba would always listen to the views of everyone else present before speaking himself. Mandela compared good leaders to shepherds walking behind their flock. The sheep think they are following the one in front of them, when, in fact, they’re being directed from behind. But there were times that required the shepherd to walk out in front. His secret decision to initiate talks with the apartheid government was such a time, he wrote. Mandela’s lessons about leadership are applicable to all spheres of life. They are based on a consideration of the views and dignity of others.

What is the key to overcoming future conflicts?

The key to overcoming conflict is to treat others as we would have them treat us. Or, conversely, not to treat anyone as we would, ourselves, not wish to be treated.


Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Daily Summary, June 08, 2015

The highs and lows of leadership

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


The highs and lows of leadership


Leaders must assess their status in any given situation — and sometimes improvise to change it.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, February 18, 2014


Archbishop of Canterbury gives first New Year message

Posted on: January 6th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews


‘It’s not about politics, it’s about love’


[Lambeth Palace] Starting somewhere new is always a bizarre experience. There’s so much to get used to, and things come at you at such a pace. It’s been a huge year of contrasts. It’s had some incredible high points. One of them being the baptism of Prince George, and to be honest I had to pinch myself to think I was actually there.

And another one was my installation at Canterbury Cathedral, a wonderful service in a packed cathedral, very exciting, and a weight of history coming down on one’s shoulders.

And then there’s been other real high points, and one of them is today, coming here to this Church Urban Fund-supported center, the Ace of Clubs [where he recorded his New Year message for broadcast in the United Kingdom].

They care for people on the very edge. They enable people to find their way back into the mainstream of life when they want to. And that’s one of the greatest excitements of this job – being part of an organization that is in many places that’s holding the whole of society together.

Whenever Christians speak out on issues of poverty or social issues of all kinds, we always get letters saying “Why don’t you just talk about God and stop getting muddled up in other subjects?”

When I go to my Bible and think, okay, what’s God saying and how do I talk more about God and get closer to God, and encourage other people to get closer to God, the thing I find is that God says: Love me, and show you love me by loving your neighbor. And if you love your neighbor you’re going to be deeply concerned in the things that trouble them, whether it’s about heating bills, whether it’s about insecurity in families and the need for good community life.

The church is involved in those because we want to demonstrate that we have freely received the love of God and we want to share that with others. It’s not about politics, it’s about love.

I know it’s the New Year, and I don’t want to sound like Scrooge, but I never make New Year resolutions, I’m just hopeless at them. It’s not that they aren’t a very good thing, it’s just that I know I’m not going to keep them, and I have this vague sense that there’s no point in doing them.

Except there’s one I want to think about this year. I want to suggest this year that each of us makes a resolution to try and change the world a bit where we are.

Nelson Mandela said that dealing with poverty is not an act of charity, it’s an act of justice. He said every generation has the chance to be a great generation, and we can be that great generation.

I look around and I see many signs of hope, but also there are many communities, many families, many individuals struggling.

Perhaps our New Year’s resolution is therefore not just to do something slightly differently, but to set our eyes on changing the world around us. That would really change our country in the most amazing way.


Episcopal News Service, January 2, 2014

A beautiful spontaneous musical tribute to Mandela in a grocery store

Posted on: December 19th, 2013 by CEP Administrator No Comments


A beautiful spontaneous musical tribute to Mandela in a grocery store

A few days ago, another farewell to Nelson Mandela arose, seemingly spontaneously, in a Woolworth’s grocery store in Johannesberg, Big Think reports. Singers from the Soweto Gospel Choir posing as cashiers and shelf stockers broke out in a soaring call-and-response rendition of “Asimbonanga,” a song Johnny Clegg composed for Mandela during his incarceration in the 1980s.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, December 16, 2013

Communiqué of 2013 IASCUFO meeting

Posted on: December 14th, 2013 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews



[Anglican Communion News Service] Gathering in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, as the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO), at the invitation of the Rt Revd Dr Howard Gregory, Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, we have been acutely aware of the season of Advent and the promise of Isaiah and John the Baptist that God is doing a new thing: ‘A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots’ (Isaiah 11.1); and ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matthew 3.2). We have been enlivened and enriched by our anticipation of the coming of the Christ and in our receiving from one another.

We give thanks for the life of Nelson Mandela, whose death occurred while we were in Jamaica, a land which, like many others, was inspired by his courageous leadership. As we consider the obligations of leadership in church and society, we see in him a model of how to pursue peace and reconciliation with justice.

Encouraged by reports of the 15th Anglican Consultative Council in Auckland, New Zealand, and the 10th World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, Korea, we welcome the new energy for ecumenical relations and in our life together within the Anglican Communion. We also look forward to what God will do through new leadership in the world Church, asking God’s blessing on the ministry of the Most Revd Justin Welby as 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Tawadros II as Patriarch of Alexandria and Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome.

Meeting in the context of daily prayer and the Eucharist, we have valued the shaping of our discussions by our Bible studies on the Epistle to the Ephesians. We have been emboldened by Christ’s breaking down of the dividing wall (2.14) and the Church’s calling to make known ‘the wisdom of God in its rich variety’ (3.10). We have been challenged to steadfastness and maturity and to pursuing our calling to build up the body of Christ in love (4.14–16).

To this end we commend engagement with the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Faith and Order Paper The Church: Towards a Common Vision. The fruit of twenty years of consultation among Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic churches, it offers a high degree of common understanding of the theology of the Church. We welcome this publication overseen by the Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut, Director of Faith and Order for the WCC and himself a member of IASCUFO, and believe it offers a rich resource for the understanding of our common mission as Christians.

We also received reports of ecumenical dialogues including the draft text of the final report of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission (AMICUM) and various local initiatives. We rejoice at the re-convening of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission after 12 years and note its agreed statement on Christology which has been sent for consideration by the churches of the Anglican Communion.

In successive meetings, we have returned to the theology of the human person, known as theological anthropology, exploring what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God in the language of Genesis 1. 26–27. In the face of the challenges and opportunities offered by globalisation, migration and developments in the human and natural sciences, we are seeking to articulate a coherent theological understanding of the human person and human society to support our theological work and to engage our churches in a serious study of what it means to be human in the 21st century.

Continuing our efforts to deepen our common life within the Anglican Communion, we recalled the importance of our lived communion for our prophetic engagement as reconciled reconcilers in the world. Focusing on the inter-connectedness of mission, ecclesiology and life in the Spirit, we have committed to on-going work which will seek to address the global situation and the tensions and divisions within our Anglican family and to witness to the advent of God’s reign in our midst. On-going work will explore the foundational role of the Holy Spirit in our common life. We recognise the need to discern and embrace new and life-giving interventions of the Holy Spirit in our Communion worldwide during the past half-century, with particular reference to the churches in the southern continents.

Reflecting on the discussions and resolutions of ACC-15, IASCUFO has focussed on the need to strengthen Communion relationships in the 21st Century and has again noted the importance of the Instruments of Communion as signs and servants of our common life. We believe face-to-face encounters are essential for the well-being of our Communion and that the Lambeth Conference, in particular, constitutes a crucial part of our life together in taking common counsel and in expressing our common identity.

Daunting as our task is, we take heart from the repeated exhortation of Scripture, ‘Do not be afraid… for nothing will be impossible with God’ (Luke 1.30,37). Therefore we place our confidence and trust in the One who makes all things possible.

‘Now to him, who by the power at work in us, is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever, Amen.’ (Ephesians 3.20–21

Present at the Jamaica meeting

The Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Burundi, and Chair of the Commission
The Revd Canon Professor Paul Avis, Church of England
The Revd Sonal Christian, Church of North India
The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt Revd Dr Howard Gregory, The Church in the Province of the West Indies
The Revd Dr Katherine Grieb, The Episcopal Church
The Revd Canon Dr Sarah Rowland Jones, Church in Wales
The Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and  Polynesia
The Revd Dr Charlotte Methuen, Scottish Episcopal Church/Church of England
The Revd Canon Dr Simon Oliver, Church of England
The Rt Revd Prof. Stephen Pickard, Anglican Church of Australia
Prof. Andrew Pierce, Church of Ireland
The Revd Canon Dr Michael Nai Chiu Poon, Church of the Province of South East Asia
The Revd Dr Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, The Anglican Church of Korea
The Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity, Faith and Order
Mr Neil Vigers, Anglican Communion Office
The Revd Canon Joanna Udal, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs

Unable to be present

The Rt Revd Dr Georges Titre Ande, Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo
The Rt Revd Dr Dapo Asaju, The Church of Nigeria
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka
The Revd Canon Clement Janda, The Episcopal Church of the Sudan
The Revd Dr Edison Kalengyo, The Church of the Province of Uganda
The Rt Revd William Mchombo, The Church of the Province of Central Africa
The Rt Revd Hector (Tito) Zavala, Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America (Anglican Communion)


Episcopal News Service, December 12, 2013

Redeeming the Past – A tribute to Madiba

Posted on: December 10th, 2013 by CEP Administrator No Comments



By Father Michael Lapsley, SSM

Director of the Institute for Healing of Memories

Cape Town


“I am a product of the people of South Africa”

Imagine for a moment what would have happened if Nelson Mandela had walked out of prison and said “Its time to get them”. We would have died in our millions. it is said that revenge is when you drink poison and hope that someone else will die. Instead he said:  “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” 

The world was astonished if not gob smacked that when Nelson Mandela left prison after 27 years .there was not a trace of bitterness – no words of hatred or revenge crossed his lips.  Instead he repeated what he had said before going to prison for life – a commitment to a common society in which we would live together in peace as human beings. The presence of his prison guard in a place of great honour at his inauguration was a potent symbol of a nation in which enemies would become friends.

Those 27 years were like a crucible, a refining fire. What Nelson Mandela did from February 11 1990 till December 5 2013 was to redeem the past, to bring life out of death, good out of evil.

Was it bad that Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison – yes of course it was an act of evil and should never have happened. Nevertheless the fruit which came out of those years has been a wonder to behold.

Madiba understood very early that the road to freedom lay through sacrifice, especially self-sacrifice. We now know that those closest to him at the treason trial did not want him to say the final words of his speech  “…I am prepared to die” but he insisted.

There were and are countless  Nelson Mandelas who are not characterised by hatred and bitterness.  Particularly because those in the struggle were able to make sense of their suffering.

However even as we go about our daily lives countless South Africans continue to show signs of multiple woundedness which crosses generations.

In the first democratic parliament the piece of legislation which was debated more than any other was the Act which set up the Truth and Reconciliation commission lead by the other moral icon: Desmond Tutu. Madiba understood that he was president of a wounded nation The past would have to be acknowledged and there was a need for us all to tell each other our stories and we would all need to find ways of redeeming our past.

I am a New Zealand born South African.  When I first arrived in South Africa in 1973 Nelson Mandela had already been in prison for years and was portrayed in the media as a dangerous terrorist – so dangerous that we could not read anything he had ever said and his photo could not be published. On home leave in 1975, I went to the public library to borrow “No Easy Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. How shocked I was to find out that the dangerous terrorist was a revolutionary who was fighting not just for black people but also for white people. He understood not only black hopes but also white fears. Nelson Mandela and later Oliver Tambo were to become my lifetime heroes so that I would say: the struggle is also my life.

3 months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, my hands were blown off by a letter bomb hidden inside two religious magazines.   My years in the struggle, and the examples of Mandela, Tambo and Huddleston had  prepared me for the possibility of death although not for permanent major physical disability.  Nevertheless I could make sense of my loss even as I grieved and felt the pain.  Like Mandela how people responded to my bombing meant that my story was acknowledged, reverenced and recognized.  I was prayed for, loved and supported.

In the countless tributes crossing the world so many people have said that in their encounters with Tata Madiba, they felt acknowledged and special.

In my own small way, inspired by Mandela and so many other heroic women and men, I try to make all people I meet, feel special and of great value.

More than that, like Madiba, I  surrounded myself with a collective and we created together an Institute for Healing of Memories.  Greatly encouraged by Mandela’s leadership in creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission,  we seek to create safe and sacred spaces where healing happens – because people feel acknowledged, reverenced and recognised.

A year after Nelson Mandela became President he officially opened the First Southern African Solidarity Conference with Cuba which I chaired.  As much as Madiba became  a close friend of President Bill Clinton he was a firm and close friend of President Fidel Castro who had a lifelong practical commitment to our struggle.  One of the Cuban 5, who are wrongly incarcerated in US prisons  is  my close friend Gerardo Hernandez. He has a photo of Nelson Mandela beside his bed.  What a great tribute to the memory of Nelson Mandela it would be if the huge US delegation at the funeral were to return to the USA and insist that  President Obama must free the Cuban 5 forthwith.

There is never a good day to become an orphan which is part of what we have felt these last few days.   We all lost a father. So we cry and we also laugh and party for the treasure we have been given in the form of the greatest leader of our time.

How wonderful that we and people all over the world, especially our young people are listening to and reading the words of Nelson Mandela inviting us to embody and exude peace, healing and reconciliation.

I don’t believe that Nelson Mandela will rest in peace if we keep naming things after him.  I am sure he will rest peacefully if we live out our lives in the pursuit of  a gentler, kinder, more just and therefore more peaceful world inspired by his example.

Now its up to us.


Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM, Healing of Memories e-newsletter, December 10, 2013