Nelson Mandela passed away on Thursday.
He had a remarkable life, full of drama and suffering and redemption. Despite his early associations with communism and his undeniable youthful participation in terrorism, he emerged from prison as a man of peace, and a man of genuine courage and integrity.
When he was released from prison, many feared that he would seek vengeance. There is no doubt that the policy he fought-- apartheid-- was manifest evil and a crime against humanity. Oddly, Mandela was a (tempered) socialist, although he devoted his life to tearing down a government-imposed system of racial stratification that was the last full measure of socialism.
After living his life under a system that denigrated his humanity, he showed astonishing mercy and forgiveness once in power. It might have been expected that he would seek vengeance against his jailers and against the racists who treated him and most South Africans as less-than-fully-human. Yet he showed astonishing mercy. He spared his nation much bloodshed, and brought to public life a rare dignity and decency. A comparison to Lincoln is not inappropriate. He fought to free his people, and in power he ruled with malice toward none and charity for all.
He was a devout Christian-- a Methodist. He spoke to the Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference in Zion City, Moria, South Africa in 1992, two years after his release from prison:
This great festival of rejoicing [Easter] marks the victory of the forces of life over death of hope over despair.
As we bow our heads in prayerful worship this day, our minds cannot but dwell on the evil of violence that today stalks our land. We cannot but call to mind the cries of mothers violated, brutalised and outraged by armed foreign mercenaries and killers in our midst.
As we lower our heads in supplication to the Lord of Hosts, the blood-curdling battle cries of armed men, sweeping through a township like a swarm of locusts in a maize field, ring in our ears, and we know that in some home, this night shall be night for mourning.
We pray with you for the blessings of peace! We pray with you for the blessings of love! We pray with you for the blessings of freedom! We pray with you for the blessings of reconciliation among all the people of South Africa!
Khotso e be le lena! May peace be with you!...
I wish to close on a note of hope. May this Easter bring with it the blessings of the our risen Messiah and may His love shine upon you all. May the Almighty grant Your Grace the wisdom to continue in your great work of spiritual guidance. You shall remain in our prayers as we shall be in yours.In his mercy and work for peace and reconciliation, he followed in our Lord's footsteps, just as he had carried his cross for so many years under the vile system he brought down.
He was a moral giant of the 20th century. May God bless him, and welcome him home.
NB: Deroy Murdock has a thoughtful reminiscence on Mandela's life at NRO.