Reflecting on the life of Nelson Mandella

From the moment I heard that Nelson Mandella died I was taken by the expressions of grief by famous people and the outpouring of grief that affected so many Australians. His death certainly caused me to reflect on what caused him to be so highly lauded.

“He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows.” Muhammad Ali”

“That was Mandella all the time – the personal care he took in his relationships.” Gordon Brown

“He also made us understand that we can change the world – we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions.” Aung San Suu Kyi

There were so many more.  Soweto Choir

Yet despite these incredible tributes, there seems to be much more behind this incredible man. How could this past revolutionary leader come out of prison after 26 years without seeking to destroy his weakened enemies and vindicate the rule of his new government?

Instead, together with the new South African leadership, he set up a process to try to discover the truth and achieve national reconciliation. It wasn’t universally successful. There is a vast space between the path of violence and the path of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.

What enabled him and others to transcend the primitive violence that has ordered human culture since its foundation? Did it come from a materialist mindset? Was it simply a powerful individual ego determined to succeed where others failed? Or was it through a faith grounded throughout 26 years in prison? When one considers South Africa in the present was it an act of leadership strength, or weakness?

One further comment that took me came from Jack Swart, a man who closely guarded Nelson Mandela at Robben Island. Asked what it was that made Mr Mandela so special to him he’s reported as saying, “I can only give you one word for that – forgiveness. That’s all.”

This morning, I heard another tribute. There was an image of Nelson Mandella, alongside one of his quotes, “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.”

The speaker then went on and referred to Mandella’s Christian upbringing, which must have been tested by decades of injustice and brutality against his people.

Does the answer to his greatness in the minds of so many lie in the one he followed during his life? Confession, forgiveness and reconciliation! Logically, this is a captivating answer for the universal emancipation of all suffering people, in whatever form.  The reason is that it changes attitudes, and it changes perceptions. We begin to see the beauty among all the ugliness.

Bob Simpson


The Australian Media Engagement Project (AMEP)

About Bob Simpson

Bob is project manager of The Australian Media Engagement Project (AMEP). He believes that ethical and independent journalists are vital to the continuing freedom of Australian citizens. You could argue that In recent decades media organisations have subtly subverted journalism to their own private commercial interests, and away from an integrated sense of fairness, well being and shared prosperity in Australian society, especially for the disempowered. AMEP aims to change general media narratives towards greater fairness, well being and shared prosperity in Australia.
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