When President Clinton met President Mandela he stood outside the cell where Mr Mandela had been a prisoner. President Clinton said, “Mr Mandela I want you to know that the day you were released from prison I was watching on television and I noticed, as you came across the yard, the cameras focused on your face and before you reached the prison gates there seemed to be anger and hate in your eyes. I now look at the man of peace standing before me today. What made the difference?”
Nelson Mandela replied to Bill Clinton, “I wasn’t aware the cameras were on my face, but you are right. As I walked across that prison yard I did feel hate and I did feel anger, because I felt I had no cause to return to. My friends had been killed; I had been brutalised with others in prison and I wondered what on earth I was returning to.
But as I walked towards the prison gates, I heard an inner voice saying to me, ‘Nelson, you have been a prisoner on this island for twenty-seven years but you’ve always been a free man. And now you are going out into the wide world and they are setting you free. Don’t let your past make you a prisoner in the present.”
Source: David Coffey, Welsh Baptist Assembly, Cardiff, 2004.
Image: Nelson Mandela