The Solidarity Peace Trust is united with all those in South Africa and throughout the world who are reflecting on what the passing on of our beloved Tata, Nelson Mandela, means for all of us. The reaction of ordinary South Africans has revealed a mix of emotions – on the one hand deep sadness at the loss of our father and concern about what his loss will mean for our future, and on the other hand a celebration mixed with profound pride about how his person and life has touched each of us in a very special way.
Solidarity Peace Trust has always taken great inspiration from the visionary leadership of an extraordinary, yet humble human being – someone to whom everyone, from the smallest child to the most powerful leaders of the world, could relate in what is most basic to our shared humanness. The fact that he touched so many people, even those in South Africa who feared his influence and bitterly opposed what he stood for, will forever remind us of what is truly important, viz. that we reach out and encounter each other with deep respect, and recognize that together we can create a future in which everyone can participate and the most vulnerable among us can feel safe and begin to dream of a better future.
Nelson Mandela taught us that no matter how great the obstacles and challenges, there is a resource within the human spirit which cannot be conquered. He revealed that to proceed on the basis of fear for the other cannot be countenanced because, fundamentally, this is a denial of what is most precious in all of us – the capacity to translate profound human values into transforming everything which diminishes the dignity of the human being whoever they may be.
His life, so much of it spent in suffering and aloneness in prison, his personhood which was replete with everything we know in our deepest heart is what makes us truly human, will forever place before us this invitation. If he, having suffered so much, could make human dreams and desires for peace, for respect for the other no matter who they are, for creating the conditions in which we can all dream that forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, and commitment to building bridges are indeed possible … then, what does this call us as individuals and as nations to commit ourselves to in the quest for a better world in which the least in our society will find a place in the sun together with all the others? The way we answer that question individually and as communities will determine whether the future will indeed bring hope, healing, transformation of poverty and all forms of degradation and injustice, or whether the future will continue to be a site of struggle without hope. We cannot afford the latter; indeed we cannot afford not to take the lesson to heart of the special life, witness, and inspiration of this great human being – a father to everyone in the world.
Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg, South Africa
Chairperson, Solidarity Peace Trust