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Mandela Atlanta’s faith community hails Nelson Mandela By Valerie J. Morgan


aith leaders in Atlanta, the cradle of America’s Civil Rights Movement, paid tributes to Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s “greatest son.” The revolutionary hero who fought against white domination passed away on Dec. 5 after battling a recurring long infection. Officials said he died peacefully surrounded by family. He was 95. “He is now resting. He is now at peace. The nation has lost its greatest son,” South African President Jacob Zuma said in a televised announcement. Mandela was laid to rest at his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape. As people from around the globe paid their respects, religious leaders in metro Atlanta, hailed Mandela for liberating South African blacks from apartheid. The Rev. Bernice A. King likened South Africa’s fight for racial equality to that waged by her father, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born in Atlanta and became one of the most celebrated civil rights activists in the world. Bernice King said she stood in awe when Mandela visited Atlanta in June 1990. Mandela, who had spent 27 years in South African prisons, had been released in February that year after intense public and political pressure. He visited the King Center in Atlanta and laid a wreath at the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bernice King compared Mandela’s arrival in Atlanta to that of a “pop star.” “I was 27 years old at that time--the same number of years that he (Mandela) had served in prison. I saw Nelson Mandela in the same way that so people saw my father: I was in awe to be in his presence,” Bernice King said. “Outside of Jesus Christ and my parents, he (Mandela) is the one. When I met him, I found a very

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calm spirit, very dignified, a forgiving spirit. It was so comforting to me.” King, who now serves as CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, said that she and her mother, Coretta Scott King, were arrested in South Africa in 1985 for protesting apartheid. South Africa’s legalized system of oppression was implemented in 1948 after South Africa became independent from Great Britain. The government required blacks to carry passbooks and permits when entering white neighborhoods and the best jobs, education and economic opportunities were reserved for whites. Apartheid was repealed in 1991, a year after Mandela, who served 27 years in prison, was released. Following his release, Mandela emerged as the country’s first black President and served from 1994 to 1999. King says her mother personally championed for Mandela’s release. The late Coretta Scott King wrote articles about Mandela while he was in prison. One was entitled “Free Nelson Mandela.” Civil rights icon, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was instrumental in bringing Mandela to Atlanta in 1990, said he never met anyone like Mandela. “He came out head high and spirit free,” Lowery said in describing Mandela’s eventual freedom from prison. “He didn’t look back. He looked forward to what he could do for his nation.” Dr. Cynthia Hale of Ray of Hope Christian Church in DeKalb County lauded Mandela for make an unselfish sacrifice. “Nelson Mandela’s been described as an international icon, one who, through the sacrifice of his life secured freedom, equality and justice not just for South Africans, but for all,” said Hail. “He has shown us what it means to live a life that puts the needs of others first. As we mourn his death and celebrate his life, may we seek to emulate his example and ensure that all persons are treated with dignity and respect.” Mega church leader Bishop Eddie L. Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb County said Mandela leaves a “remarkable” legacy. “Nelson Mandela inspired us, challenged us, and


showed us how to fight for equality and freedom, for all Mankind, without violence. He was a remarkable President, who changed the course of history by overcoming the struggles of hatred and apartheid.” Bishop William Sheals of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Gwinnett County, thanked God for Mandela. “We must thank God for sending the world Nelson Mandela, a brave giant of physical and moral character who saw the world that was and refused to accept it and made a change. In due season, God always sends a Mandela, a king, an Obama. Who will be the next giant champion for the people in the world? Rest Mandela--Job well done.” Dr. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church — where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached — called Mandela’s death the end of an era. Warnock remembered standing in his cell on Robben Island during a visit to South Africa. “It was just deeply moving and humbling to think that this man had moved from prisoner, to president to world citizen,” Warnock said. “As I stood there, I remembered there was no way for him to know how this would all end. Mandela reminds us that the work is difficult, victories are often delayed, but ultimately justice does prevail.” Mega church leader, Dr. Creflow Dollar of World Changers Church International in College Park, said he was recently invited to participate in a special video tribute to Nelson Mandela by the producers of the film, “Mandela:

Photo by Glenn L. Morgan

Visitors placed bouquets of flowers at a monument for Nelson Mandela in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Mandela visited the city in 1990 after he was freed from prison.

Long Walk to Freedom.” “We are grateful and thankful for the results of this man’s life. In the love, in the unity, in just the faith that the people of South Africa could walk in as a result of what he demonstrated,” said Dollar. “We celebrate his life, and we celebrate his legacy.”

Spiritual Quotes From A Man Among Men “Religion is one of the most important forces in the world. Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Hindu, religion is a great force, and it can help one have command of one’s own morality, one’s own behavior, and one’s own attitude.” “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” “I am the captain of my soul.” “There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” — Nelson Mandela

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Remembering Mandela  

Faith leaders in our community take the time to remember Nelson Mandela

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