Rev Mark Fairweather Tall
, minister at Norwich Central Baptist Church,
was with a church team from Norwich
on a two-week mission trip to Soweto
in August 2008.
During that time, they had the privilege of attending a concert to celebrate the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela.
The highlight was to be his appearance, recounted Mark.
“Entertained by music and dance for some hours, excitement mounted in the crowd as the time approached for Mandela to come on stage.
“The love, admiration and pride in him amongst South Africans was clear in any conversation in which his name was mentioned. Here was a man who had guided them through to an era of peace and stability as the country dispensed with the evil of apartheid in favour of multi-racial democracy.
“His message of forgiveness and reconciliation; the demonstration of grace through the absence of bitterness to his treatment; his stubborn determination to do what he could to oppose that which was unjust, is to be admired,” said Mark.
“In fact there was much in Nelson Mandela’s life after his release from prison that embodied important gospel themes.
“He has left South Africa and, indeed, the world a better place because of his example. He will deservedly go down in history as one of the greats,” said Mark.
“That is why I feel so privileged to have been there to clap and cheer with others as he was supported on either side to slowly and carefully walk across the platform to his seat. His health was already fading but his legacy will last for many years to come.”
consultant anaesthetist, Craig Oranmore-Brown
(pictured right), who was born in South Africa
and is now chief executive of Mercy Flyers
charity based in Zambia,
also paid tribute to Mandela.
“President Mandela was, without question, the greatest leader of our generation and one of the greatest leaders of all time. Like all great leaders he found a cause to fight for and paid a heavy personal price to see his dream of a free, democratic South Africa realised.
“In spite of suffering at the hands of his enemies he never allowed this to embitter him, instead he chose to take the stance that he believed would most likely create the outcome he desired,” said Craig.
“When there was no alternative but to stand up and fight, he fought. As soon as there was an opportunity for negotiation (an opportunity he created himself while in prison) he grabbed it with both hands. He led from the back by empowering his people with a vision and the passion to see it realised for themselves. He was the greatest cheer-leader of all time.”
Pictured above is Nelson Mandela and wife Graça Machel, at the Soweto church in 2008.