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Rev Berkley at Mandela memorial: Continue fight for equitable society
The world continues to pay tribute to former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who was buried in his native village on Sunday. Here in Trinidad, the Anglican church held a memorial in his honour at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-of-Spain, on Monday. Following is the sermon delivered at the service by the Rt Revd Claude Berkley:
We continue with the rest of the world to give thanks to God for the life and work of former President of South Africa, freedom fighter, champion of the peoples, peacemaker and world leader—Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He has been described as “A hero of his age, one of the great figures in the history of the twentieth century”. His story has become the birth legend, or creation myth, of “the new South Africa”.
President Mandela’s name made him appear to be larger than life itself—and he was symbolic of “the struggle for justice, equality and dignity” in South Africa and around the globe. His sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. That call to work diligently on behalf of human progress remains as important today as it was during his struggle.
We encounter Mr Mandela as a human being formed by the traditions of his community as in—“listening carefully” to his elders and to all who spoke at tribal gatherings, and watching a consensus gradually emerge under the guidance of the king, the chief or the ‘head man.’ Habits of discipline, order, self-control and respect for others were demanded by both traditional authority and the educational institutions at which Mandela studied.”
A young man of strong convictions, he slipped away from what would be an arranged marriage according to his indigenous culture, he would part ways with his nephew over the question of co-operation with the apartheid state. He was traumatised at his accidental killing of a snake.
He claimed with conviction, his embrace of the Christian faith. He felt that he was competent in two strands of cultural influence, his indigenous culture and western culture. He celebrated the influence of positive persons on his life—Tambo, Sisulu, Matanzima and others of the African National Congress (ANC).
In respect of his Christian faith and indeed his religiosity one can identify certain distinct biblical admonitions, in the way the drama of his life unfolded. For example: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9). Or consider this: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Similarly, Paul continues: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12: 17). And in the words of Jesus, the Christ we read: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6: 35a). Moreover, Jesus offered the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have then do to you” (Luke 6: 31).
In some way, we believe that Mr Mandela lived out his Christian faith in all humility, when he defined a saint, (to Stengel)—as a sinner who keeps trying.
What then can we deduce from his precious memory that can help us as a nation and as people of the world? We can underscore the importance of positive community influence and the need to facilitate this. We must continue to work on an education system that will produce habits of discipline, order, self-control and respect for others. We must respect and take seriously, the agents of religious influence or other moralising agencies which shape a reasoned faith and pursue a redeemed humanity.
We must work our way to creating, nurturing and sustaining a cadre of persons of positive influence and hope. We need to organise our society differently. Our society must find a way to demand of our public officials and all citizens, a commitment to the pursuit of certain life-giving principles—of justice, freedom, forgiveness, reconciliation and the focus on the bigger picture.
A word in respect of those who contend that Mr Mandela did not do enough, he did not complete the reversal of fortunes that was required to fix the situation. That may be so, but can we begrudge his life-giving sacrifice and leadership in dismantling the formal structures of injustice? And is there not a call to others to continue the struggle for a more equitable and just society everywhere, patterning the template of the great champion?
Today we remember Mr Mandela and we celebrate his life and we will do well to commit to its process of advancing human progress. We are reminded that perseverance, endurance, faith, hope and love are crucial to the redeemed humanity which will transform our world. Habits of discipline, order, self control, respect for others and a deep commitment to advancing the social order, work together for the triumph of the human spirit, and each of us has the capacity to participate.
For our dearly beloved departed brother, Nelson Mandela, we give God thanks, we salute his legacy to the world and we commit to the inspiration that he will always provide, for the advancement of a redeemed humanity. Rest eternal grant unto Nelson, oh Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
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