Mandela shaped by his faith

Much has been written and said in recent days about one of the greatest leaders of our time: Nelson Mandela.

Much has been written and said in recent days about one of the greatest leaders of our time: Nelson Mandela.

We have been told of his royal roots in an obscure South African village, his frustrating years as a human rights lawyer, his clandestine activities as a young revolutionary, his unspeakable suffering in prison, and his astonishing emergence as a forgiving and unifying leader who belatedly attained the presidency of his divided country.

Accolades have poured in from dictators, democrats, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Christians and atheists alike, lauding his conciliatory leadership and self-effacing dynamism. One effusive fan even gushed, “Mandela: the Black Jesus has died.”

Hearing all of these tributes, one would think he was super-human, but he offered no pretensions.

What motivated him and made him a humble servant of the people? The media have been strangely quiet about that.

In the Dec. 9, 2013, edition of World, there is an article entitled Nelson Mandela and his faith. With regard to Mandela’s motivation, we read that “… most believe he was a Methodist. He attended a Methodist church school growing up, and was baptized in a small Methodist stone church in the eastern Cape village of Qunu.” Wikipedia confirms his religion as Methodist. The article continues, “In his autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom, he talked of his early experiences with Christianity, praising its engagements with the society around him. ‘The church was as concerned with this world as the next. I saw that virtually all the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about as a result of the missionary work of the church.’ ”

At university, he joined the Students Christian Association and taught Bible classes on Sundays in nearby villages, according to the article. “Among other factors, it was Mandela’s Christianity that steered him away from communism and the class struggle that was spreading into South Africa in the 1940s.”

He famously declared that “until I changed myself, I could not change others.” Upon his release, he built on this by remarking, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Later, he proved he was serious about it by initiating, with the help of Bishop Tutu, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which probably averted a bloodbath in South Africa.

At the Zionist Christian Church’s Easter Conference in 1994, Mandela stated: “Each Easter marks the rebirth of our faith. It marks the victory of our Risen Saviour over the torture of the cross and the grave.” And racial injustice, too, we might add. If there were any doubt about his motivation, this declaration surely would have dispelled it.

I am reminded of the fourth-century admission of Emperor Julian: “Galilean, thou hast conquered!” For through Mandela, He has done so once again.

Jacob M. Van Vliet

Red Deer County

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 has been climbing up since Jan. 20 at Red Deer's Olymel meat processing plant. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
Some Olymel workers return for training, plant reopening date not set

Union calls for delay of opening as workers fear for safety

Artist Lorne Runham's COVID Bubbles abstract work (shown here as a detail) can be viewed in an online art show on the Red Deer Arts Council's website until April 18. (Contributed image).
Art created in Red Deer in the time of COVID can be viewed in new online show

The show by members of the Red Deer Arts Council runs until April 18

Activists against open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains hung a protest banner outside Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s Rocky Mountain House constituency office. Exploratory coal leases in the Nordegg area were recently granted by Nixon’s UCP government, and many local residents say they feel betrayed, as they had been promised eco-tourism opportunities by Clearwater County. (Contributed photo).
Anti-coal mining activists post banner on Environment Minister’s Rocky constituency office

Activists call for clean water protection, ban on strip mining

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

(Image from Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer students enter Skills competition

Regional competition begins this month

UCP MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr. (File photo)
MLA Ron Orr: Benchmarks were achieved but goalposts were moved

Orr responds to concerns, calls on province to fully open Step 2

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award during the NFL Honors ceremony as part of Super Bowl 55 Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Annual NFL women’s forum enhancing career opportunities

When Sam Rapoport envisioned conducting virtually the NFL’s fifth annual Women’s Career… Continue reading

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), speaks during a news conference with Toshiro Muto, left, CEO of Tokyo 2020, after a council meeting in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)
Fans from abroad unlikely for postponed Tokyo Olympics

Olympics scheduled to open on July 23

FILE - Singer Jhene Aiko poses for a portrait on Dec. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. Aiko will host the 63rd GRAMMY Awards on March 14. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jhene Aiko to host Grammy Award premiere ceremony

63rd annual Grammy ceremony set for March 14

Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault holds a press conference in Ottawa on November 3, 2020. The Heritage Department is committing $40 million to a “COVID-safe events fund” designed to encourage arts and cultural plans to move forward in the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Heritage minister unveils COVID-19 events fund for arts and cultural sector

Financial support tops out at $100,000 per eligible applicant

opinion
Opinion: Crisis in long-term care must include data-driven change

More than 19,000 people in Canada have died from COVID-19 – more… Continue reading

The Dawe family home in the Michener Hill subdivision in Red Deer. This house was designed and built by Robert G. Dawe, a local engineer, in 1911 and has remained in the family ever since. (Contributed photo)
Michael Dawe: 65 years of Red Deer history

As a major milestone birthday looms, I thought that it might be… Continue reading

Most Read