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Mandela remembered for courage, conviction, ‘lack of bitterness’ comment (0)

December 12, 2013

Former South African President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s ‘long walk to freedom’ has ended. He died Dec. 5 at age 95 at home after months of declining health.

“All of us in the country must accept that Madiba (as Mandela was affectionately called) is now old,” South African President Jacob Zuma had said when Mandela seemed near death this summer. “As he ages, his health will trouble him.”

Mandela rarely discussed religion outside the arena of religious freedom, but a transcript on NelsonMandela.org quotes his comments on religion in a 2000 Christian Science Monitor interview.

“Religion has had a tremendous influence on my own life. You must remember that during our time — right from Grade 1 up to university — our education was provided by religious institutions. I was in [Christian] missionary schools,” the transcript records Mandela as saying. 

“You have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid where you could see the cruelty of human beings to each other in its naked form. Again, religious institutions and their leaders gave us hope that one day we would return,” Mandela said.

Nigeria native Adeniya Ojutiku, a Southern Baptist in the U.S. who fights for Christians and their livelihood in his homeland, described Mandela as “an epitome of forgiveness, kindness and love” who had “a dogged resolve for the pursuit of peace and justice.”

“His extraordinary life story, witty sense of humor and lack of bitterness toward his former oppressors has ensured global appeal for his type of charismatic leadership,” Ojutiku told Baptist Press.

“He rekindled hope in the humaneness and greatness of the black, colored and white races as he soared above the petty confines of party politics and prejudice,” Ojutiku said.

Mandela was inaugurated in May 1994 as president of South Africa, the first black and the first leader democratically elected to the post, stepping down after one term as he had vowed. Mandela chronicled his life in his 1994 autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” published in several languages.

In addition to the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize he shared with former South African President F.W. deKlerk, who had joined hands with Mandela in defeating apartheid, some of Mandela’s honors include Time’s Person of the Year, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the UNESCO Peace Prize, the Indira Gandhi Award for International Justice and Harmony and the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.



Missionary's reflection

Growing up in the Deep South in the 1960s and early 1970s, a middle-class white girl ... I was aware of racial inequities in my world and the world in general. Struggling to understand civil rights ... I was drawn to those who spoke with eloquence and passion as they advocated for racial equality.

Mandela and the African National Congress ... were involved in the freedom struggles of many African countries, but ... their beloved South Africa continued in the stranglehold of the government-sanctioned oppression of apartheid.

(After his release from prison) he expertly navigated the turbulent times that characterized South Africa emerging from apartheid. I was as thrilled as my national friends when he was elected as the first black president of South Africa in 1994.

In 2010, I was privileged to view an excellent display of the history of South Africa ... and I was drawn to one (Mandela) quote: “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. ... I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” (BP)

EDITOR’S NOTE — Toni Braddix served in Africa for 20 years with the International Mission Board. 

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