Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela
On 18 July 1918, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Qunu in the Transkei, South Africa. Born to African royalty, Mandela (a Methodist Christian) studied and practiced law, joined the African National Congress during its Gandhian nonviolence stage, and later came to lead this central organization in the struggle against apartheid(racial separation) in South Africa. After the Sharpesville massacre (1961) of unarmed students, Mandela led the ANC to abandon its commitment to Gandhian nonviolence and take up arms in a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare (terrorism was rejected). On 05 August 1962, Mandela was arrested and tried for treason and spent the next 27 years in prison where he was often tortured. In 1990, the ANC was unbanned, Mandela was released from prison, and in 1994 became the 11th President of the Republic of South Africa–the first non-white president and the first to be elected in free and fair elections open to all races.
This amazing contemporary leader is not without his faults. He is now married for the third time and has been a largely absentee father. His autobiography is painfully honest about what his dedication to the freedom struggle has cost in family life. As a Christian pacifist, I criticize his abandonment of Gandhian nonviolence during the anti-apartheid struggle–and I am persuaded that ANC’s choice to resort to sabotage and guerrilla warfare did NOT speed up the end of apartheid and may have even delayed that end. Nevertheless, it must be said that Mandela is one of the few revolutionaries who maintained his ideals once in power and continues to grow and stretch as very public moral leader.
Mandela has been honored with over 100 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Although he himself engaged only in sabotage, he has admitted that not only the white government, but also the ANC, committed human rights violations during the years of struggle, especially the 1980s. He has sharply rebuked those who have tried to have statements in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission removed which have given evidence of ANC human rights violations. Since leaving the presidency of South Africa, Mandela has led the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and has become a champion of the environment–and one of the most vocal of global leaders in strong opposition to the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush.
From Mandela’s closing remarks at his trial for treason:
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
UPDATE: Note, all (polite) comments are welcome, but some visitors to this blog from Africa seem to have the mistaken idea that this is a good place to send birthday greetings to Mr. Mandela. As far as I know, Mr. Mandela does not read this blog and is unlikely to see any birthday greetings you leave here. You would do better to send those personal wishes here. Thanks for stopping by anyway.
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