By Arthur Brown
Today has brought with it a mix of emotions for me. As the father of an African-Lebanese little boy who celebrates his first birthday today there is joy. Jonathan, who we are in the process of adopting, came into our lives eight months ago and has transformed me and my family. However as I woke up to the news that one of my other hero’s died last night, my heart grieved for the loss of a man who has inspired countless members of our human race towards the search for peace, justice and reconciliation.
Nelson Mandela – or Madiba as he was known in South Africa – truly was a global leader who brought people together. Perhaps what separated him from the rest of the world’s political leaders – and most of us for that matter – was his capacity to forgive. Along with this was his capacity for hope and his ability to inspire hope in others.
Nelson Mandela changed the course of history not only in South Africa, as it emerged from apartheid rule, but around the globe. He inspired people into action, motivated by a love for humanity, regardless of race. He challenged not only that blasphemous ideology that dominated South Africa for so long, but inspired others to do the same. He also led people to break down other forms of social and cultural divisions separating ‘us’ from ‘them’.
As I look back at what Mandela achieved in South Africa, I can’t help but ask if there is anyone like him in the Middle East context. Who might rise up in Syria to be a prophetic voice for reconciliation between the warring factions? Who might be this voice in the midst of the never-ending Israel-Palestine conflict?
To be honest, I do not see anyone of the stature of Mandela rising up within our own setting. While I grieve for the loss of a hero, I also grieve that there are so few like him who are willing to lay aside their differences in order to bring about hope and reconciliation. I don’t see many people willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of their nation or for others in general for that matter. There are some voices that challenge the status quo, but by and large these voices remain on the sideline. Self-interest, be it political, religious, or nationalistic, has for too long been the dominant voice.
Please join IMES today in praying for those who have been inspired by Nelson Mandela to rise up and become the prophetic voice this region so desperately needs. May Jesus Christ inspire us all to walk in the way of peace and non-violence. May many more of us join this struggle for a hope-filled future!