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The world lost a towering figure this month with the passing of Nelson Mandela at age 95.
The father of a free South Africa, the great humanitarian leader endured more than a quarter century in prison, most of it under extremely harsh and cruel conditions.
His ability to leave prison without hatred, and to focus on peaceful reconciliation in his country is an inspirational example that may never be matched. It is one that no doubt has particular resonance for Christians preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ, but it is a universal message that is also embraced by many people of all faiths, as well as atheists.
Mandela’s struggle became the symbol of the fight to end South Africa’s racist apartheid system.
Many of us remember the South African divestment campaigns that swept American college campuses in the 1980s. The divestment effort definitely contributed to bringing an end to apartheid and to Mandela’s finally being released from prison in 1990.
Today, students at New York University, The New School and elsewhere across the country advocating for their schools to divest from major fossil fuel companies take inspiration from Mandela and the anti-apartheid divestment campaign that occurred during a previous generation.
Mandela was a profound figure. President Obama has cited his transformative influence on his life.
Even arch conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz recognize the importance of Mandela, and what his struggle and what he stood for mean for all of mankind. It’s a welcome change for mainstream conservatives, who attacked Mandela three decades ago.
Mandela embodied humility, and also forgiveness. After his liberation from prison, he remarkably found it within him to befriend his former jail guard.
Thankfully, Mandela never gave up — during his long incarceration on Robben Island or afterward, and his steadfastness, fortitude and courage helped forever change South Africa…and our world.
And, thankfully, it was Mandela upon whose strong shoulders such an inhumane burden, and then, after his release — as he became his country’s leader — such great responsibility, was thrust. Very few others could have done it.
As they used to say during the struggle, power to the people: Amandla! Awethu.”
Hard copy holiday for Downtown Express
Downtown Express is taking a break for the holidays, skipping one hard copy issue, but we are not going on vacation. We will continue to post articles on our web site and send out our weekly email blasts.
To get our latest news or to sign up for email updates, go to downtownexpress.com, follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook.
We are also changing our print day to Thursday so our next hard copy will be distributed Jan. 16, 2014.