Honoring Mandela

The best way to honor Nelson Mandela isn’t by sharing his words, but by believing in them and breathing life into them. Madiba’s words were loud but his deeds were louder, and this is what made the difference he was prepared to die for…[1]

It is always hard to see great people depart. Part of it has to do with the feeling that they will take something away with them, what made them sources of inspiration and models to emulate. This, despite the fact that what makes them great in the first place is that their impact has already transcended their grasp and can hardly stop its course even after they are gone.

Nelson Mandela’s long and arduous walk to freedom cemented his place among the most remarkable and influential figures of our times.  His struggles not only paved the way for monumental transformations in South Africa and the end of apartheid, but the ramifications of which extended worldwide on so-called North-South relations and on the meanings of freedom, activism, human will, perseverance, militancy and liberty. With great men like him, seeds are planted during a fruitful life, leaving generations to carry the torch, solidify the struggle and never stop harvesting the fruits…

Mandela meant different things to different people at different stages during his lifetime, just as this simplified yet succinct visual so beautifully portrays. As a result, he left something behind for all of us to remember, learn from, and live by, of course, only for those who have the modesty and courage to realize that his life was a life worth remembering, learning from and living like. And this is more so in the Middle East, which provides a live stage for many of the struggles Mandela himself faced in his own country. The most obvious example is apartheid, a system comparable to what Palestinians are being subjected to on a daily basis by Israel. And even though Mandela did engage in violence during his early years, it could be argued that it wasn’t this violence that led to his release and the eventual fall of apartheid. The Palestinian case is certainly not the same as the South African, but lessons are to be learned from the more peaceful methods used by South Africa to bring an end to such an inhumane system.

At the same time, Mandela’s strong belief in African nationalism (regardless of color and creed), his ability to channel the scourge of human indignity, humiliation and poverty into a righteous struggle for freedom, and his life-long noble humility, provides too much for Arabs and Arab leaders to learn from and apply in a lifetime. At the very least, Mandela provided a real-life example that although change isn’t easy it is not impossible, while proving that the most valuable characteristics of a true leader, a visionary and an icon, are humility, modesty, commitment, and a life to prove it and not ride on borrowed glories. Reading Mandela’s extensive autobiography or simply his defense at the Rivonia trial, truly restores our so-called ‘faith in humanity’ and reinforces the long way that the Middle East has to go to restore its own…

[1] On 20 April 1964, during his statement at the so-called Rivonia Trial after which he was sentenced to life in prison, Mandela concluded: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

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This entry was posted in Activism, Apartheid, Arab World, Middle East, Nelson Mandela, Palestine, South Africa and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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