Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Happy Birthday

Before today ends, I'd like to wish the happiest of birthdays to a man who has been my hero for half my life - since I first heard of him on the news. I wept when he walked out of prison at the age of 71 after 27 years in prison, and his gentleness, integrity and warmth turned him into a worldwide icon, a countersign to the world, an example of what *true* power is. He doesn't speak the familiar rhetoric of threats, war, and 'I have more money/toys' than you have.

But when Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela speaks his truth - our truth - in his quiet, deep voice, asking for peace, reason and human dignity - everyone listens. He is one of the most powerful men on the planet, yet he carries no weapon.

He's my hero, but I know he's human. I'm sure he gets angry, irritable, petulant, and makes mistakes. But I want to be him when I grow up - I want to strive for the authentic power that makes anger merely a tool to galvanise us to strike at injustice, poverty, war. The power that means that you can speak softly and you don't have to carry a big stick.

And so, Madiba, I wish you a very happy 89th birthday, and I wish you many more. God bless and protect you; and thank you for showing us what humanity can truly be and what our leaders should be.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.

We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Amen. Stay with us yet a while, Madiba. We need you.

In his honour, I give you the South African anthem so you can learn the words (and the translation), so you can see the country's beauty (it's the first part of the anthem with Tsosholosa), and, of course, it wouldn't be complete without it being sung at a rugby match.

And happy birthday to another favourite South African - Fr Peter Hunter...*mwah*

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika!

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