Nelson Mandela – the difference he made to me

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“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Testimony has been a significant part of my faith journey and Nelson Mandela’s testimony is one that genuinely has changed the world and I wanted to give testimony to the difference he has made to t me. Nelson Mandela gives me hope, hope that the world can be a different place, that love really can make a difference, that we have the power to choose how we react to the most difficult of circumstances. I first became aware of South African issues through sport as a very young child with Basil D’Oliveira playing cricket for England and explanations as to why he could not play for South Africa. It just seemed wrong. I picked up along the way that you didn’t bank at Barclays and I protested outside of the on campus branch of Barclays as a student and went to Union meetings in Mandela Hall. I met Peter Hain who visited my University when he was trying to mobilize support for the anti-apartheid movement. A few of us gathered in a room as he shared stories which were so deeply sad about how humans oppressed humans because of differences that people were born with. The quotation above is so apt and as someone who has devoted her life to either teaching children and young people or training people to do that, I keep wondering how we teach people to love, to accept, to build community. As Mandela also said
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” and it feels at the moment as if we are not taking that comment to heart. The figures on poverty, health and well-being for children in the UK, let alone the wider world mean that we have much to do. As Mandela also said “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Hopefully the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s death will be a greater determination to do right, to forgive, to reconcile, to try and ensure that each person has the freedom to become all they might be.

We were deeply privileged to visit South Africa in 2011 for a conference. We were driven past Nelson Mandela’s house, had a meal in Soweto, visited the Apartheid Museum and Freedom Park where the picture above comes from. I don’t think we always realize the impact people have had on our lives until we sit down and think and track back threads that have run through our lives. I thank God for Nelson Mandela and the difference he made to me, may his flame live on eternally in this world and the next.

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