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Against apartheid amongst believers

· Mandela fought for respect and dialogue between religions ·

Cape Town, 9. Nelson Mandela, a baptized Methodist, fought not only against apartheid in ethnic groups, but also against every injustice and abuse committed in the name of religion. This perhaps little known characteristic of Mandela emerges from the many condolences and testimonies with which religious representatives now remember the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African President who died on Thursday, 5 December. “Madiba knew that freedom conquered with the contribution of all social sectors and all religions, whether a majority or minority”, said Anglican bishop Jo Seoka to Missionary International Service News Agency. Bishop Jo Seoka is the President of the South African Council of Churches, an ecumenical organization to which Mandela was closely tied to. Not surprisingly, many of this organization's leaders have been key figures in the fight against apartheid, including Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dutch Reformed theologian Dr Beyers Naude, and Frank Chikane, the President of Apostolic Faith Mission International.

 

Mandela was a Methodist, although his membership was never highlighted. Even so, the Anglican bishop continued, “Madiba had an ecumenical vision and, more so, was aware of the need for dialogue among faithful of all religions. As President, he widely favored inter-faith meetings, ensuring that not only the Christian Churches were represented, but also the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhists and followers of traditional faiths. He was convinced that freedom, respect of human rights and justice could only be achieved with the contribution of all”.

 

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, also dwells on Mandela's ecumenical motivation: “As far as I know Mandela did not practice any particular religion during his adult life. In any case, he always showed a genuine respect for people of different faiths and was aware of the role of religion and faith in society. We are grateful because he has brought peace to South Africa. We still have many challenges that await us in the future, so that we may achieve a true and just peace and that the oppression of poverty, crime and corruption may be eradicated. But his vision inspires us to continue to face these challenges”, said Brislin.

 

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