Keith recently dug out his ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ button badge and posted it on facebook. I remember those badges, and the tune that sung out the strap-line for the campaign. I was young then. My strongest memory is our childhood joke ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ – PAUSE – ‘with every six gallons of Shell.’ For us it was a very funny teenage joke, and the underlying issues lost in our perceived cleverness.
Even with the release of Mandela, which I remember watching, I was more aware of wondering if this man could live up to the hype which was surrounding him. The fact he has is what the world is grateful for. Thank you Nelson!
It was only with the reading of a book that I appreciated what had happened around his life. I can’t find it on my bookshelf, or remember its name, or even why I ended up acquiring and reading it, but it was a pivotal book. It wasn’t about Mandela, but about the clandestine meetings that the church in South Africa organised so that the different party leaders could meet in secret, as people, and learn to respect one another, from which apartheid finally started to crack. It was done over food, fellowship and fun.
It was seeing the church in action in the pages of that book that lowered my resistance to being collared, and was part of the process that led me to ordination.
Nelson has a lot to answer for.
The vast majority of it seems to have been good – Nelson following footsteps he could see, and others came to recognise as a result of his courage.
Even out of captivity, he remained a free man.