How did the late Nelson Mandela, a mortal man; born and bred just like all of us, strode the earth with unprecedented tenacity and peculiar character which has earned him iconic status?
Before and after Mandela, passed on early this month, great words have been spoken about the fallen hero. The powerful, famous and ordinary people have given inspiring observations about Mandela’s character and legacy; often imploring people especially leaders to emulate him.
Even places of worship have talked openly about the life and times of Mandela, his positive ideation, integrity and passion for a just and free South Africa.
As we continue to shower accolades to the departed South African patriot, we need to interrogate how he managed to endure suffering without faltering or wavering on the hands of the British Empire.
Many of us can collapse in the court room if we were sentenced to serve even two years in Kamiti maximum Prison. Mandela did it with zeal and perseverance. The mystery is how he derived the profound energy and passion to stick to a cause firmly and faithfully.
Mountaineer Edmund Hillary once said these, “people do not decide to become extraordinary.” They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” Mandela did it with tenacity and zeal; without knowing that the World will one day reverence his name with pomp and splendour as seen after his demise early this Month.
Those who thought that Mandela, will come out of jail tormented with rage to pursue revenge on his enemies were shocked when he employed a conciliatory tone. He was ready to mend fences for purposes of reconciliation, racial harmony, forgiveness and building a united post-apartheid South Africa.
We therefore need to question ourselves as to whether it’s easy to emulate the ideals of Nelson Mandela, and apply it in our everyday life because, saying is one thing and doing is another!
It’s ironical that even dictators; leading autocratic regimes have expressed admiration of Mandela, but I wonder if Mandela’s character has inspired them to build avenues of justice, freedom and equality for their citizens.
Mandela cherished freedom and justice. Through is fearlessness, he went ahead to challenge USA President George Bush, for invading Iraq during the second gulf war in 2003. He termed the invasion immoral and an aggression to a sovereign nation.
In fact, he never feared stating his position on controversial geo-political conflicts where many leaders usually remain ambivalent especially on the Israel and Palestinian conflict.
Urging people to emulate certain heroes in society is just mere talk. Mandela talked the talk and walked the walk. His faith kept him going. His jailers had every opportunity to hang him the way they did to our Dedan Kimathi and many other Kenyan freedom fighters but they would not.
From here, we need to look beyond his physical strength but also internalize on how he was able to withstand his tribulations by looking at his divine or spiritual path throughout the struggle.
God bestowed Mandela; with grace, which manifested itself through his passion for liberation and the bravery to endure 27 years behind bars. This is how God works in humans. He uses people to do extra ordinary things in all spheres of human existence. He used Mandela, to showcase his wisdom, based on love, compassion, meekness, humility forgiveness and tolerance.
These universal tenets envisioned by Mandela define the true character of God. While he never talked quite openly about his faith, if Mandela were to be a Christian Minister, a Rabbi, an Imam, a Buddhist or a Hindu Guru, he would have made the best. This is because; all these religions have a similar approach towards humanity.
They all have a consciousness grounded on love of self and love of neighbour; which Mandela, did with excellence; often mingling freely with all and sundry without prejudice or discrimination. He never respected the rich more than the ordinary poor.
In Christianity, God wants us to lead a life of denial, free of vengeance and bitterness. He wants our lives to be tampered in forgiveness, modesty, humility and meekness. As the scripture says in John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
As the fallen South African sage rests in peace, we will always revere him for pursuing the path of rekindling hopes for the afflicted through his own afflictions. Even though he is gone, he will always remain a true replica of heroes and heroines who came before him like: Mother Theresa, Matma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Like Gandhi, Mandela was never aggressive in pursuing material things like most World leaders. Even if he did, it was for purposes of benevolence. Like Mother Theresa, he was charitable and always remembered the poor. Like King, he was prepared to die for a cause in order to liberate the South Africans from racial discrimination.
Unlike men who preach water and drink wine, Mandela’s actions spoke volumes about what he spoke. We knew him by his fruits and he was a good tree, because he bore good fruits if I borrow from the Gospel of Mathew 7:16-18.
Mandela has exited the stage but those who want to bequeath his legacy should evoke God for divine Wisdom to serve humanity well. Those who are fighting to conquer oppression, injustice, dictatorship, corruption prejudice and other vices in order to rekindle hope for the downtrodden, they need to ask God for guidance.
You may never know; the prayer Nelson Mandela said to his God. This is because, extra ordinary qualities by extra ordinary men in the World mostly takes a spiritual or divine dimension. Their efforts are mostly grounded on God for strength and bravery.
From Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and Matma Gandhi all personified divine strength in their quest to help humanity. In a more direct bearing, our own heroes like Dr. Reverend Njoya, the late Archbishop Manases Kuria, Bishop Okullu and Bishop Alexander Muge; had bravery grounded on faith in God.
Mandela’s character is further illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:22: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith. This is a reflection that it’s the power of God that worked in Mandela that made him overcome the torture, suffering, anger, hate, revenge and impatience. Fare thee well Madiba. You were born, suffered, endured and conquered. We will always cherish and relish your ideals.