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TEXAS FAITH 119: How do you assess Nelson Mandela’s complex legacy?

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

How do you assess the complex legacy of Nelson Mandela?

There are so many ways to get into this question. So, let me start with these three quick summaries of his long journey:

In a powerful and controversial move as president, he set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid officially ended. The commission allowed those who testified about crimes in the apartheid era to step forward and tell the truth without fear of retribution. The sins of the past were acknowledged in exchange for individual amnesty.

On the other hand, Mandela was part of a group in the early 1960s that decided to take up arms against the apartheid government. They decided that rising up militarily against their oppressors was the best strategy. Of course, that was not the non-violent approach that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Ganhdi embraced.

And then there was this revelation in Bill Keller’s obituary of Mandela in the New York Times:

Mr. Mandela said he regarded his prison experience as a major factor in his nonracial outlook. He said prison tempered any desire for vengeance by exposing him to sympathetic white guards who smuggled in newspapers and extra rations, and to moderates within the National Party government who approached him in hopes of opening a dialogue. Above all, prison taught him to be a master negotiator.

There are many aspects of his long, storied and complicated fight for justice. So, let me stop here and ask you:

What do you make of Nelson Mandela’s complex legacy?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

Undoubtedly his most powerful contribution is "culturally many, spiritually one."

It is a fact that on the bodily level, all people are different. But those who can see the spiritual spark in other beings, as beings that are qualitatively one with oneself, they can make great progress in moral standards and leadership.

Those who have no inkling of this information may try to do good but only succeed in hurting others. For without such vision what is there to unify us?

There will always be a group discriminated against because of the color of their skin, their sex, their species, their position within or outside the womb. The understanding of how we are all spiritually one, that the symptoms of life indicate the presence is the soul, is the beginning of spiritual life

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.