Mandela Will Never Die!
– Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Nelson Mandela is no more! And hopefully, Mandela will never die!
The Mandela era finally came to an end last night (Dec. 5th 2013)-and its time for all of to reflect on what this one man has contributed towards making our world a more human and harmonious place.
When one looks back at the struggles he faced as a child, as a youth and later on as an elder statesman, one is simply amazed by the sheer grit and determination which characterised one of the contemporary world’s greatest figures. A large part of Mandela’s life was spent in isolation during his life sentence in the infamous Robben Island Jail. The torture he was subjected to would make any mortal give up, but with his’ never-say-die’ spirit, Mandela finally came out to freedom and to new world in 1990; and a few years later he became the first democratically elected President of South Africa.
His extraordinary life teaches us three key lessons:
· if the spirit is strong- it will ultimately triumph, despite the powers and vested interests doing everything to subjugate one.
· the belief that a non-violent struggle is the only and sure way to achieve results – something he learnt from Mahatma Gandhi.
· divisiveness of any kind ( particularly racism) definitely has no place in a world which is becoming more and more a globalised village. Mandela believed that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and though we are different in several ways, we are all equal.
At this moment much is being written and debated about Mandela’s legacy to the 20th & 21st century. The hard fact however remains that despite being an icon and an inspiration for millions across the world several parts continue to be ravaged with violence, hatred and divisiveness.
Let us take Gujarat in India, for example, which gave to the world Mahatma Gandhi – one of the greatest apostles of non-violence. If one is a Muslim in Gujarat today, one is confined to specific ghettos or areas across the State. This is sadly evident in the commercial capital Ahmedabad, where a Muslim finds it impossible to buy or rent a house or a commercial establishment in the Western up-market part of the city. The tragedy is that the institutionalisation of this practice is very easily accepted by the majority community. In a State which projects itself as ‘vibrant’ this is a blatant form of apartheid indeed!
Mandela fought against the segregation of the blacks in his native South Africa. He had to endure much because of this but then as history shows us, truth ultimately triumphed over falsehood. He is someone to be emulated. His unflagging spirit gave him the courage to speak truth to power; he did not care about the consequences that followed. What mattered most for him was that all men and women – whether black or white, rich or poor, should be able to live together, walk hand-in-hand and work side-by-side, accepting always the dignity of the other. The great thing about Mandela was his ability not to harbour any rancour or revenge for his white oppressors. He forgave unconditionally and that is why he was able to usher in a new South Africa with a hope of a better future.
The world has truly lost one of its greatest sons! As we join in the mourning -the best way to pay tribute to ‘Madiba’ is to “celebrate” the fact that he gave SO MUCH to this world-It is therefore important that each one of us wherever we are, try to do our best to realise his vision,to continue the legacy he has left us- in the simple, small ordinary events of our daily life.
And if we sincerely do so- Mandela will never die!
6th December 2013