Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday at the age of 95. He was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politican and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.
After studying law in university he became a lawyer. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Mandela published his biography and opened negotiations with President de Klerk to abolish apartheid and establish multi-racial elections in 1994. As South Africa's first black president, Mandela formed a government of national unity in an attempt to defuse racial tension. He also promulgated a new constitution and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Mandela subsequently became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata ("Father"). He is often described as "the father of the nation".
USA Today recently listed a collection of quotes that personify his spirit:
1. "Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."
2. "It always seems impossible until it's done."
3. "If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man."
4. "I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles."
5. "Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people."
6. "A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."
7. "Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
8. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
9. "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
10. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
11. "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
12. "Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front."
13. "Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
14. "I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days."
15. "A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."
We pray for God's comfort for his family and friends at this time of loss and grief. May his impact live on through his great example of love for all people and forgiveness of those who hurt him so deeply.