The death of the iconic Nelson Mandela of South Africa at the ripe age of 95 brings to conclusion a man’s life that not only shaped the politics of his native South Africa, but brought hope to countries across the world that struggle against injustice and dream no matter how desperate, there can be a positive outcome.
Mandela captured the admiration and respect of not only his staunch supporters, but even his perceived enemies and people with philosophical differences revered Mandela. Not only did Mandela receive the Noble Peace Prize in 1993, and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom from America, but Russia anointed Mandela with the Soviet Order of Lenin from Russia.
One would be hard-pressed not to declare that from the over 225 awards, commendations, and declarations received by Mandela worldwide, Mandela had universal appeal and acceptance which are extremely rare when one considers the conventional and radical ideologies that are represented on this tortured planet.
There are several calls on what Nelson Mandela’s personal philosophy represented, one being a devoted Christian, another being a multi-religious advocate, or an agnostic humanist who merely used religion to achieve his ultimate goal. Mandela would represent a crowning achievement to any belief system as a vehicle of validation, however Mandela purposely avoided being linked to anything specific.
In a 1999 speech to the World Parliament of Religions in Cape Town, Mandela declared,
"It was religious institutions whether Christian, Moslem, Hindu or Jewish in the context of our country, they are the people who bought land, who built schools, who equipped them, who employed teachers, and paid them. Without the church, without religious institutions, I would never have been here today".
Mandela was grateful to major contributions by religions that assisted his country's growth, but he never let on to what the personal meaning meant to him. Some claim he was a secular humanist that embraced all religions and this call could be the closest to reality. However Mandela did not demonstrate any disdain towards religion as many do that cling to more secular ideology.
Government subsidies to Christian schooling were halted in South Africa in 1994, but not because of disliking Christianity, but to model similar concepts of America by not having the government prefer one religion over another. Abandoning Christian mores left a detrimental impact on South African society as a wave of immorality, crime, and social double standards resulted.
If there was a criticism of Mandela’s policies, it is the lack of prosecution for the murder of over 3,000 white farmers since 1994 which has given rise to lawlessness. The South African Institute of Race Relations estimated that between 1995 and 2005, 841,000 white South Africans have left South Africa.
The respect of Mandela from all the factions kept South Africa from slipping into civil war. Radicals on both sides of the aisle regarding South Africa’s racial animosity were kept in check by Mandela’s supernatural capacity to forgive and reconcile with the very tormentors that imprisoned him for 27-years.
It was a defining moment for Mandela’s character when he became president of South Africa two years after he was released as a political prisoner. Mandela sought neither revenge nor retribution when he well had the power and a compelling reason to punish those that deserved to be punished. It was a practical demonstration of mercy rarely seen.
It would be fascinating intrigue to know what motivated Mandela specifically or if it was a combination of life experiences that matured him far beyond the wisdom of common man. South Africa is indeed fortunate that Mandela achieved understanding far above those that judged him both harshly and incorrectly.
Without a doubt Mandela left a South African society far better off than what he inherited.