In the aftermath of his death, much has been made of Nelson Mandela's forgiving heart. The fact that he emerged from 27 years of brutal imprisonment with a commitment to reconciliation rather than revenge is the basis for much of the global admiration directed toward the antiapartheid icon who became South Africa's first black president. Forgiveness, which is about moving forward from the pain of the past, is what enabled South Africa to move toward becoming an inclusive, democratic nation rather than another Balkanized society locked in ethnic violence and civil war.
Forgiveness, is a timeless and beautiful -- albeit very challenging -- message. This is especially so during the Christmas season when millions around the world remember the miraculous birth of a divine prophet who taught that we should love our neighbors (including our enemies) as we love ourselves. That same prophet also taught the necessity of making amends with people that one may have harmed. "First be reconciled to thy brother" Jesus commands in the fifth chapter of Matthew's gospel.
So, Nelson Mandela's willingness to forgive those who had oppressed him and his people was only part of the process that transformed South Africa. Acknowledgment of the cruelty of apartheid was also essential. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (RTC), convened in 1995 by President Mandela's government, served the vital purpose of providing victims of South Africa's racist system with a high profile, public platform from which to testify about the horrors of apartheid. The RTC was also a confessional for South Africa's former white majority leaders. F.W. deKlerk, who dismantled much of apartheid and released Mr. Mandela from prison, apologized to the Commission for "the tremendous harm that apartheid has done to millions of South Africans."
Nelson Mandela set the tone for the coming together that made South Africa a new nation. As President Obama stated during his speech at Mr. Mandela's memorial service: "It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well . . . to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth."
The democratic, racially inclusive South Africa – despite its imperfections – stands as a testament to the powerful healing force that is forgiveness. Thank you, Madiba.
Thank you for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.