Long Walk to Freedom
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s long walk is over and he is forever free. South Africa ― indeed, the entire world ― is now mourning his passing and celebrating his life.
Mandela was an ordinary man who responded to an unjust world in extraordinary ways. In the plethora of this week’s news coverage coming out of South Africa and the tributes for Mandela pouring in from around the world, the words of one Canadian TV journalist stood out for me. He reminded us that it is difficult today to imagine how the very idea of a peaceful outcome to the end of South Africa’s apartheid regime seemed like pure fantasy more than 30 years ago.
Mandela showed remarkable grace in finding a way to forgive and demonstrated remarkable political skills that were instrumental in birthing a new South Africa. Without him, I doubt I would have ever travelled to what for me was one of the most beautiful and most complicated countries I have ever visited.
Today was a National Day of Prayer and Reflection in South Africa. South Africans gathered in churches and mosques and synagogues to reflect on and give thanks for the man they call “Tata” ― the isiXhosa word for “father.”
One of the places where South Africans gathered was St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. St. George’s is known as the People’s Cathedral for its role in the resistance against apartheid. It was one of the few places during the apartheid regime where people of all races were free to worship together and it was here in 1989 that Archbishop Desmond Tutu first referred to South Africans as the Rainbow Nation. I visited this cathedral in 2011, which is when I took this photo.
If I could have been anywhere on the planet today, I would have chosen this church, this city, this country.