Friday, December 06, 2013
Remembering Nelson Mandela
Yesterday, Nelson Mandela passed from this world to the next, and the world is brimming with tributes to his life and legacy. And there is good reason. Through his life, Madiba became a symbol of freedom, of forgiveness, and justice being lived out by a human being.
The first time I remember hearing about Nelson Mandela, I was in junior high school, and I saw a music video called "A.F.R.I.C.A." by a band called Stetsasonic. At the end of the video was a chant to "Free Nelson Mandela." While I was in high school, Mandela was released from prison. Unfortunately, in my teen years, I didn't know much about the life of Mandela. I couldn't do a google search or anything like that. But the idea of someone being in prison for trying to help people and end an injustice really bothered me. And the idea of striving to work to make the world a better place really inspired me. Thankfully I was not alone.
There are quite a few aspects of Mandela's life that have been inspiring for me to live to see, and if you were not privileged to listen to the Stetsasonic song I heard in the late 80s, or maybe, like so many of us, you have not been attuned to world events and leaders, you may have missed much of it and find yourself wondering about this man.
In the time since his imprisonment, he has been an example of radical forgiveness of his oppressors, and after his release from prison, he served as president of South Africa for a season and helped bring great unity to a nation torn by racial segregation. He became a modern example of the power of loving others, even our enemies, and the power of never giving up.
And, freed from his prison cell, he became a champion for justice. And one of the greatest injustices he saw in our world was the injustice of extreme poverty. As he spoke on London's Trafalgar Square in 2005, "Like slavery, and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings." Later in that same speech, he challenged his listeners to "Let their greatness blossom."
Around the time of this speech was the same season in my life that I was awakened to the issue of extreme poverty as the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, and I also became burdened with the necessity that we become dedicated to seeing the end of it.
And as I write this morning, my resolve is hardened, and I find myself even more inspired to live a life filled with radical forgiveness, radical love, and a passionate pursuit of the end of extreme poverty. I hope you will join me in this pursuit and that each of us can honor the life and legacy of this incredible human being. May we be the great generation that sees the end of extreme poverty.
Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.