PM leads Mandela tributes
AN OUTPOURING OF tributes flowed from Parliament for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela yesterday as Prime Minister Freundel Stuart led off yesterday’s sitting by stating that forgiveness was an easier option than revenge.
On the day when the Republic of South Africa mourned its first black president, Barbados’ Prime Minister said it was confidently believed that Mandela’s response after his release from prison would have been one of revenge, but he chose to rebuild his fractured country with love and reconciliation.
Mandela, like Martin Luther King and others, concluded that it took more energy to hate than to love, said Stuart.
“Love comes easier than hate . . . . Forgiveness is an easier option than the pursuit of revenge, and therefore Mandela . . . opted for reconciliation and sought to unite his country rather than to avenge himself on those who had so cruelly wronged him,” he added.
Likening Mandela to the Apostle Paul who wrote some of his greatest letters while imprisoned in Rome, Stuart said the South African freedom fighter who died last week at the age of 95 could have squandered his 27 years in prison by nurturing bitterness, hatred, self-pity and despair.
“He used the prison cell for personal redemption rather than to allow himself to get mired in a quagmire of despair and hate. He was not the first person to do that. Most theologians know that when St Paul was imprisoned at Rome, he too had before him the option of squandering that prison experience, but he did not. Some of the finest letters ever written, and those constitutue the bulk of what we know as the New Testament today, were written by St Paul when he was in prison,” he said.
Applying this to daily life, Stuart said many people may never enter prison physically but life places every individual in some kind of prison at some time; whether one is constrained by poverty, illiteracy, a broken home, unemployment or a culture of domestic violence.
“Whatever prison life puts us in at any time, we have a choice in determining whether we’re going to continue to be prisoners or whether we’re going to use that experience and lift it to a completely higher level, using it as a mechanism for personal redemption. That is precisely what Mandela did, so that today it is he who has to remind people that he is not a saint,” Stuart told the Lower Chamber.
Liberally quoting passages of poetry and historical facts, the Prime Minister gave details of Mandela’s life as a young man fighting the system of apartheid which was made law by the Nationalist Party in 1948, and the horrendous loss of many lives in “that very dark period”.
He also recalled that Barbados had long championed the cause of ending the apartheid system, which was described in a July 28, 1970 ministerial statement by former Prime Minister and National Hero Errol Barrow as “the most odious and detestable [regime] the world has seen”. (RJ)