We are pleased to dedicate our 100th post here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life to the memory of Nelson Mandela, who died this Thursday, December 5, at the age of 95.
In his younger years, Mandela gained notoriety as a divisive figure: a socialist revolutionary aiming to overthrow the harsh apartheid regime that ruled South Africa. But Mandela will not be remembered as a socialist revolutionary.
He spent twenty-seven years imprisoned under a life sentence on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government. And though his time in prison molded him into the person he was to become, Mandela will not be remembered as a political prisoner.
He was released from prison in 1990 under mounting international pressure, during a time of severe and increasing civil strife in South Africa.
Then began the events for which he will be remembered.
In 1994, as the first black president of South Africa, Mandela held the reins of power in his hands. He had seen the bloodshed and the civil and economic destruction that ravaged many African nations when their black majorities overthrew the ruling white elites. Despite the oppression under which he himself had suffered, he chose a different course.
This is what Nelson Mandela will be remembered for. He will be remembered as the man who led his nation toward multiracial democracy after years of racism and oppression. He will be remembered as the man who, having tasted violence and bloodshed, and having every reason to choose the path of revenge, chose instead the path of forgiveness and peace.
He will be remembered as the former revolutionary who led his country to reconciliation, and showed the entire world that constructive peace and understanding among former enemies is both possible and achievable.
Perhaps his greatest testament is that at his death, he was mourned equally by blacks and whites in his own country, and by people of every race throughout the world.