Thursday, November 04, 2010

What Mandela Taught Us On Robben Island

Gordon MacDonald recounts:

A few years ago I had the privilege of having a personal introduction to Nelson Mandela.

It is one of the most memorable moments of my life. Not because I am a hero-worshiper, but because of the experience I had in his presence.

When he entered the room and joined one other person and myself, I felt as if I was being enveloped in a cloud of grace. The man simply projected a spiritual force that left me dumbfounded.

What Did Mandela Teach?
Years before meeting Mandela, I had interviewed a man who had been imprisoned with him on Robben Island for five years. “We had rooms [cells] next to each other,” he told me.

“What did he teach you?” I asked.

“He taught us to forgive,” came the answer. “I was a bitter young man, and Mandela picked it up immediately when we first met.

He said to me, “Son, you are of no use to our movement until you learn to forgive the white man. You can hate his cause, but you cannot hate him.”

When I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela, I felt that gracious power that accounted for his splendid resilience. To come from twenty-seven years of imprisonment (the majority of his adulthood) and walk into the light and challenge the South African people—white and black—to forgive was the single most important thing that saved a nation from catastrophic bloodshed.

Gordon MacDonald, A Resilient Life, Nelson Books: Nashville, 2004, 129-130.

Geoff Pound

Image: “He taught us to forgive.”