I am writing my thoughts about Nelson Mandela, having the advantage of reading over a dozen commentaries written here by others. These commentaries celebrated his life with views most people can support. There is no doubt he was an iconic figure, the father of his country, triumphing over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. To me, this great man can be more accurately eulogized and admired, in other equally important ways.
Mandela was a political activist and agitator who without universal approval did not shy away from controversy. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced a feerless progressive and provocative platform. Shortly after his death one commentator wrote “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel’”, because of the his Malcolm X moments of anger. None the less, I see Mandela as the inspirational freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.
Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism accusing the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war, all for oil. He saw the Iraq War as an example of American imperialism around the world. He said “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States”.
Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right calling p overty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. He said “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,”. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty:
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enterthe last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”
May his memory be a blessing.
I was driving when NPR announced the death of Nelson Mandela.
My instant response was to recite a verse from Quran 2:156 in Arabic, ”(إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ) Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” It simply means, we belong to God and to God we shall return. I pulled over in the shopping strip, closed my eyes, and prayed. May God bless his soul and grace him with his eternal love. Mandela is with Allah now, Amen!
Then the second thought shook me up from my prayers. How would Muslims receive my response? It took me back to a severe situation I had encountered in April 2003. Prophet Muhammad’s and Buddha’s birthday fell in the same week, and on my Radio shows “Wisdom of religion, all the beautiful religions” I wished Peace be upon Buddha and Peace be upon Prophet Muhammad as I do with all the spiritual masters.
All hell broke loose, I was told to apologize for mixing the two individuals, and that I cannot say Peace to them in the same breath. A fatwa was in my face making my marriage null and void per some technicality. This is an age old technique employed by clergy in all religions, to frighten and to ex-communicate, thank God for the guts he has blessed me with. After considerable exchange of words, I concluded, go ahead and make my day, and no one has made my day yet, except the death threats I receive when I am on Hannity show.
As a Muslim committed to nurturing the pluralistic values embedded in Quran in building cohesive societies where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I am driven to express the sentiments of a majority of Muslims, who have prayed for Nelson Mandela, the man of peace in their own hearts.
God says (Quran, Bhagvad Gita and Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the holy book of Bahá’ís) that whenever the societies goes in disarray, someone from among them will restore the righteousness. God assures that he loves us all and sends a man of peace to every community. Indeed, blessed are the peace makers (Jesus).
Nelson Mandela was one of the righteous individuals; he was committed to freedom, liberty and justice of his people, by extension all people. The Bhagvad Gita says, the whole world is one family, i.e., Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum.
Quran 49:13, “O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.” Indeed, Mandela in the sight of God is the most righteous one.
God does not discriminate between Muslim, Jews, Christians and others, Quran [2:62] “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians or anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day (accountability of one’s actions), and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
So as a Muslim, I prayed for Nelson Mandela, and it is time we all become like God and honor every human regardless of his belief. May God keep his wisdom and the flame of freedom alive! Praying for him in essence is rekindling the spirit of freedom within us.
He is one of my heroes, and I am influenced by his unselfishness and his larger embrace of humanity.
I can never forget the Sunday of February 11, 1990, it was an emotionally charged day for me, I was glued to the TV to watch the historic event happening in my life time; the release of Nelson Mandela from the South African Prison. I choked, and I cried.
Freedom is the most cherished value for me, and to see freedom at last for a man in an apartheid nation was worth crying. A new tone of democracy was going to be set in the world for the first time in the predominantly Black African Nation.
Can you imagine the power Mandela held? He shook the empire, they could have easily killed or poisoned him, but they did not have the guts to do that.
What made Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK successful?
None of them had anything to gain, all they wanted was justice and harmony in the society, and that was their drive, when you become unselfish, you can do a lot of good to the world. It begins with learning to respect the otherness of other and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Nelson Mandela is one of my mentors. Some of the other joy-teary moments that I can recall are – release of Mandela, fall of the Berlin wall, Obama’s election night, Peace treaty between Israeli and Egypt, Peace between Ireland and England, Aung San Su Kyii’s release and Freedom at last for the Egyptian people, and now his departure. This is my way of honoring him.
What made these men and women unique and powerful? They were free from the pettiness and were all embracing and affectionate like the spiritual Masters of all religions. Several things were common to them; among them are:
1) No wall between them and another soul
2) No religious and political boundaries for them
3) No preference when it came to serving another human
4) The good they did, benefited larger humanity than self
5) Justness was a paramount value for them
6) No bone of prejudice in them.
7) Their world is the same size as God’s world.
God bless Mandela, Amen!
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and
offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day atwww.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest onSean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.
In 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.
My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.
I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.
Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.
I read with interest your memorial pieces on Nelson Mandela.
There were various metaphors and comparisons to angels, to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but little discussion of the reality of this complex political figure who was on USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008! Don’t get me wrong, I’m am a great admirer of Mr. Mandela and in fact the international plea for his release from prison was the start of my very long career as an Amnesty International Urgent Action writer.
But let’s not forget that Mr Mandela’s incarceration was lengthened due to his unwillingness to renounce violence as a means for gaining his people’s emancipation, and his unwillingness to denounce those committed to this cause who felt violence was indeed their only recourse.
As a pacifist I feel conflicted with this stand as indeed non-violent resistance yielded no result for this cause and it would seem they were right that the Afrikaner minority and international community only noticed their actions when they turned violent and when the rightful rulers of South Africa governed from behind the bars at Robben Island.
I think it was Homer who pled “Paint me with all my warts!”. I feel we do not honour Mr Mandela’s memory by glossing over his warts, and the gravity, the reality of his life and work.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone in Washington would imulate Mandela and try to put the country first and work together for the betterment of the ol USA.
Just think of all the less fortunate in South Africa that are better today because he “raised all ships”.
On The Journey of Madiva Nelson Mandela…
Many will know you from his story books. Others from the news, with all its peculiarities. Still more from what they have heard, or stories yet told.
For those of us privileged to have lived as you lived, we will remember you… remember as you non-violently faced the ugly face of unspeakable inhumanity…remember you tried using the law to challenge an immoral system repressing just us. And when you picked up your spear, our people faced gas, guns and tanks; standing up as they fell down.
From across oceans of blood, and mountains of diamonds and dollars we heard your song, Madiva.
We heard the echoes from all those cells, on and off the island. We listened, learned and witnessed the transformative power of dying for a cause; and not just because… Oh, but if these young brothers would hear you today!
We celebrate your walk on this side. They rolled away the stone that was your prison door and we witnessed you walk among the people as if on air.
We heard your voice and saw the workings of your mind as a nation transformed itself when seen in the light of your mirror. You challenged, and you changed; now its on us to do the same.
Bless you for being a blessing to us all. Meegwetch.
Reginald Meeks is a Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, representing parts of Louisville
Nelson Mandela’s incredible example and leadership not just in South Africa, but globally, is one that we not only remember from the past, but must seek to emulate in our future.
Through some of the worst injustice a person can face at the hands of government, Nelson Mandela emerged believing that government could still be a force for good, change, and justice in the world. And then he lead and did the work necessary to make that happen.
Mandela supported so many causes that are still crying out for that kind of continued leadership and support from government today – organized labor, human dignity, and freedom from poverty, just to name a few.
Nelson Mandela reminds us that each person can make a difference in the world around them. I had the opportunity to meet his daughter, Zindzi Mandela, in New York at a premiere for “Long Walk to Freedom” just a few weeks ago, and heard her story firsthand – an incredibly powerful experience.
Mandela changed a nation with a steadfast and unwavering belief in what is right and just for all. A belief I still hold today, and an example I can only hope to live into a part of.
His example is one not only for his time, but for all time. I hope that we continue to hold up Nelson Mandela not only for the work he did, but for the work he can continue to inspire all of us to do.
Elisabeth Jensen is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress in the Sixth District of Kentucky.
I am very familiar with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, having read the book. President Mandela and Desmond Tutu embody what we Christians like to believe we are like.
However, I cannot think of Nelson Mandela without thinking of this song that haunted me at the time. It is prescient and hopeful and quite moving. I still play it on YouTube when working and it reminds of what can be accomplished by those who never give up hope.
I was in the hospital in New Zealand at the time, and the Kiwis were having their own problems with the South Africans.
” (known in some versions as “Free Nelson Mandela
“) is a song written by Jerry Dammers
and performed by his Coventry
-based band The Special A.K.A.
- with lead vocal by Stan Campbell – released on the single Nelson Mandela / Break Down The Door
in 1984 as a protest against the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela
by the apartheid
South African government. Unlike most protest songs, the track is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa. The song reached No.9 in the UK charts and was immensely popular in Africa
If you have never heard it, check it out.
My wife, Bonnie and I just returned from 10 days in South Africa which included our “Nelson Mandela Day” last Friday. That day we visited the amazing Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, stood in Nelson Mandela’s house (now museum) in Soweto, visited Desmond Tutu’s house on the same street, took in an African restaurant for lunch in Soweto and the toured some of the adjacent neighborhoods. We also drove by and took pictures of the guarded compound in Jo-burg where he was spending his last days.
That evening, we went to see the opening of the movie “Mandela” because we wanted to view it with a local South African audience. It’s a powerful piece based on his autobiography and at several points during the movie, the audience laughed at things that were said in the movie – things that frankly passed over our heads. The audience was of mixed race – white Afrikaners (who speak Afrikaans), black Africans, Indians and others. There were a few mixed race couples – something that would have been a criminal offense just a few years ago. The audience was predominately white, perhaps because the cinema was in an upscale urban shopping mall on the Nelson Mandela Square in Jo-burg. The movie was very well received and the audience applauded at the end.
I had begun reading Mandela’s autobiography on the flight over. Like many chapters in history, you read them and wonder in retrospect how much attention you paid to the major events at the time they were occurring. I remember protests in the mid-seventies on my university campus encouraging the university to divest itself of its endowment holdings in companies doing business in S. Africa. I’m sure I read a few articles in Time magazine or the newspapers about the events unfolding across South Africa, but I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t more aware of the intensely racist system of apartheid that existed.
Mandela was truly a giant of the 20th century. I feel fortunate that last week I caught a glimpse of his history and profound contributions to humanity while he was still alive.
David Adkisson is the CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
Nelson Mandela was a great man whose life and work was a blessing to humanity. I say that even as I recognize it took me longer than it should have to realize it. Like a lot of campus conservative types in the mid-1980s, I knew little about Mandela while I was in college, but never let that stop me from having a lot of opinions about him, South Africa, and the ANC, and also making a lot of predictions about the future that sound pretty idiotic in retrospect. Truth is, he surprised his enemies and not a few of his friends by his post-Robben Island career. All I can say is that I am delighted to have been proven wrong so decisively by a man who left prison as he entered it, determined to free his people, but then set an example for all people of the politics of racial harmony. His actions and statements after his release transcended mere tolerance, challenging us to build a world where all work together respecting every fellow human being.
Did he completely succeed in translating his vision into reality? Is South Africa a utopia of racial transcendence? Certainly not. Human frailty being what it is, we all still have a lot of work to do everywhere. But in our efforts to do that work, we can all profit from the legacy of words and actions that Mandela has bequeathed to us.
In my faith tradition, we have a word for people whose exemplary lives inspire us to greater good. We call them saints. I use the term here carefully, not wanting to put off secularists, or to provoke reactions from my more religious brothers and sisters. Nevertheless, the ecclesiological analogy is important as we consider the political world. Saints are great not only because of what they believe, but because of what they do with that belief. They do not merely proclaim their personal purity and leave the world to burn. They see their own virtue not as a secret they can hoard and smugly lord over others, but as a responsibility, a trust to be put to use here on earth. Their works, their example, offer a spark of the Divine. That spark can and should kindle in every open heart a redoubled desire to do better, to be better, and to embrace our common human responsibilities.
Nelson Mandela is free from all care now. It is up to us to continue the work he began. His legacy inspires us, offering strength for the challenges to come.