Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela+ (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Rightfully so, a lot of media attention is being given to Nelson Mandela this week. An interesting, if brief video on his life appeared via the New York Times. To view it, click on the link below.

New York Times Video on Nelson Mandela

A more in-depth documentary appeared recently on PBS's Frontline. You can watch it here.

Today's "Sightings" post by Martin Marty (read it here) draws attention to the connection between Mr. Mandela's moral vision and the Methodist tradition in South Africa, a tradition that Mandela said had deeply influenced him as a young boy and teen. The study of that religious connection would make for an interesting doctoral dissertation.

Late last week a former colleague of mine, Bob Schmidt, who was my dean at Concordia University, Portland, reminded me about how the World Council of Churches provided grants to the African National Congress (ANC), Mr. Mandela's party, and other liberation movements in Africa, after 1969. While some of these funds came from churches and church people, most of it came from the governments of the Netherlands and Sweden, who channeled their contributions through the WCC. 

Bob himself did his doctoral work on the WCC's support for these liberation organizations. According to him, "The motivation for helping the liberation movements was not Communist inspired" (contrary to those who labeled the WCC's actions in precisely those terms). "Rather, it came from the experience of some of the founders of the WCC who had spent World War II in Nazi prison camps or had barely survived as refugees. For them state-sponsored racism was the epitome of evil and needed to be resisted. When apartheid became the official policy of the South African government, the WCC stepped in with its contributions."

That aspect of Mr. Mandela's story ought to be more well-known and further studied, too.

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