Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in , to the Thembu royal family. Educated as a lawyer, Mandela joined the struggle against apartheid in 1943. In 1964 he was sentenced to life at hard labor at the notorious Robben Island Prison in S Africa for attempted violent overthrow of the government. Mandela became an international symbol of the oppression of racism and apartheid. While continuing his struggle for racial justice and an open and free democracy in South Africa, even during his prison sentence, he also became a symbol of persistence and hope. He helped to negotiate an end to apartheid and was finally released from prison in 1990. After an open and free political campaign, he was elected and inaugurated in 1994 as the first black president of South Africa. Although the transition from apartheid to an open and inclusive democracy was not without violence, Mandela’s commitment to nonviolence and a peaceful transition prevented all-out civil war. South Africa became a shining example of how hope, persistence, nonviolence and reconciliation can transform a society.
Holy One, we ask for your loving care for all those throughout the world who suffer from racial discrimination, political exclusion or social rejection. We pray that all men and women will be treated with respect and dignity. May we listen to each other’s hopes and dreams with open hearts and accept each other with compassion. Like Nelson Mandela, inspire us to hold on to what we know is right, to work for what we know is possible, and to create the world we wish to live in.