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Morning over the bay

Nelson Mandela: An Appreciation

Available languages: Deutsch, Español

  • Nadir Martello

    In regard to the eulogy by the author on Nelson Mandela, my comment was: “I do not subscribe to this kind of political propaganda. Nelson Mandela was not a hero to me but a terrorist. Thanks to him and his “sponsors,” South Africa is worse off today than during apartheid. Thank you, Nadir Martello My words, “I do not subscribe to this kind of political propaganda,” were not directed to the author per se but to the mass media, in particular. It is the mainstream media that I had in mind when wrote that comment. Because it is the media, for its political reasons, that hold Nelson Mandela in a great esteem as a great “hero” and a modern secular “saint.” I do not. Hence there was neither ill feeling nor any intent to offend the author in my doing so. I apologise for any misunderstanding I involuntarily caused. Nadir Martello

  • Nadir Martello

    I do not subscribe to this kind of political propaganda. Nelson Mandela was not a hero to me but a terrorist. Thanks to him and his “sponsors,” South Africa is worse off today than during apartheid. Thank you, Nadir Martello Pilate therefore went into the hall again, and called Jesus, and said to him: Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus answered: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it thee of me? John 18:33-34

  • Jerry Chance

    What a lovely eulogy for a humble and brilliant man!! Nelson Mandela once said "NO ONE IS BORN HATING ANOTHER PERSON BECAUSE OF THEIR COLOUR OF THEIR SKIN, OR THEIR BACKGROUND OR THEIR RELIGION. PEOPLE MUST LEARN TO HATE, AND IF THEY CAN LEARN TO HATE, THEY CAN BE TAUGHT TO LOVE, FOR LOVE COMES MORE NATURALLY TO THE HUMAN HEART THAN ITS OPPOSITE" How very true! My prayer would be, why can't present-day politicians here, and globally, take serious note of these sentiments and learn how to run our countries accordingly. If they did, war and violence would end and paradoxically they would go down in history as great people. No he wasn't a saint but I truly believe that he was strongly influenced by the most precious Holy Spirit. May he rest in perfect peace. Jerry Chance

  • George Nye

    Thank you for your comments, especially about the most important chapter of his life beginning at age 71.

  • Karl Dolson

    Unfortunately, for all the very good things Mandela did, he was VERY anti-life and VERY pro-abortion in thought, word, and deed, which negates any of the good he did.

When Nelson Mandela died on December 5 at the age of ninety-five, headlines invariably mentioned his long life. But even more impressive, to me, was his age way back in 1990, when he was released after twenty-seven long years behind bars. Recalling that day, Mandela once said, “As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt – even at the age of seventy-one – that my life was beginning anew.”

I have just turned seventy-three. Most people my age feel that their lives are winding to a close; that it is time to wrap things up. Many even talk about putting up their feet. They feel they’ve done their part and made their contribution to society. In contrast to this, at a juncture when most people in his position would be happy to settle into retirement, Mandela emerged from prison with the energy of a young statesman – bent on liberating his people, healing his divided land, and uniting a whole continent in the fight against hunger, infant mortality, and AIDS.

When I speak to high school students about the importance of finding good role models, I often draw on Nelson Mandela’s amazing life. There are few better examples I can think of when it comes to personal sacrifice, tenacity, and – most significant – the readiness to be a peacemaker. Here was a black man who suffered the worst excesses of racial cruelty and humiliation, and once vowed to overthrow his white oppressors by violent means. And yet, through suffering, he discovered the common bonds that link all humans – even prisoners and guards – and eventually became one of his century’s most zealous advocates for forgiveness and reconciliation. (As a writer, the endorsement I have treasured most is Mandela’s encouraging response to my book Why Forgive?)

Certainly Mandela had feet of clay just like the rest of us. He was far from perfect: his private life saw plenty of turmoil, including three marriages and two divorces. But he was also humble enough to acknowledge this. “I am not a saint,” he once said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” Despite his all-too-human flaws, he gave himself tirelessly, year after year, and ended up inspiring millions. How many people can claim to be their country’s most notorious prisoner, its best-known president, and its most revered peacemaker?

In the end, of course, fame and honor count for very little. Mandela’s influence has been on the wane for years, and the country he once led is as embattled as ever – riddled with pockets of violence and still deeply divided. As a new generation struggles to pick up and carry his torch, his legacy is already being undermined. So the challenge of Mandela’s life remains, and not only for South Africans. Whether famous or obscure, and whether we have one year or twenty (or even fifty) ahead of us, life calls each of us to keep shining our light and bearing fruit – and to keep striving for the kind of sainthood Mandela embodied: as sinners who keep on trying.

Johann Christoph Arnold is the author of eleven books, most recently Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life.

Bust of Nelson Mandela beside the Royal Festival Hall, London
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Contributed By Johann Christoph Arnold Johann Christoph Arnold

A noted speaker and writer on marriage, parenting, education, and end-of-life issues, Arnold is a senior pastor of the Bruderhof, a movement of Christian communities.

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