Nelson Mandela’s recent feting in Britain represents one of the more remarkable turnarounds in the fortunes of an individual and a race of people. The liberation of the oppressed black minorities in South Africa through the efforts of Mandela and others has been a major step forward in the cause of peace and the recognition of the equality of all peoples.
But there is a silent hero in the midst of this. One whose actions contributed significantly to liberation, and yet whose name is not -in the minds of many - strongly associated with these changes. The name of F.W. de Clerk.
As President, de Clerk argued strongly for the unification of South Africa. In so doing, he was setting the scene for the loss of his own job. But he fought on, convincing those in his own party, then the white population that this action was right. In succeeding, he consigned himself to lead an opposition party, losing considerable power.
How much easier to fight for justice when we are the underdog, the oppressed, the needy. For we have something to gain. When we are the oppressors (or one of their number), it is much more of a sacrifice to fight for truth and justice - because we will lose as a result.
It is a reminder of the description of Jesus: “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, himself... and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” In fighting for the liberty of others, he gave up so much, even though he was not responsible for their plight.
May we, like Jesus, learn to fight for justice, even when we have something to lose as a result.
July 28, 1996
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