Symbol of Christianity

Nelson Mandela encompassed what Christianity is all about and what it should be to people.

That’s the view of Roman Catholic Church spokesman Monsignor Vincent Blackett, who told Barbados TODAY late this evening that his own personal moments with the late South African leader would remain with him indefinitely.

He recalled that while teaching in Birmingham, on news that the released Mandela would be visiting England, all the colleges came together to convene a 1,000-voice choir to celebrate his visit.

The choir, of which the monsignor was a member, performed for him at the Birmingham Symphony Hall to a packed crowd, and Mandela was so moved by the performance he requested the group perform for a special luncheon being held for him the following Monday.

“Most of us couldn’t go. In fact only about 25 of us could; but it was still a very good choir and he came backstage and he greeted us. When he came to me and shook my hand, I said, ‘Mr Mandela, I am from Barbados and I am a friend of Dame Nita Barrow’, and he hugged me and said, ‘You should give her my love. She visited me when I was in jail’.”

The late Dame Nita Barrow, former Governor General, the Catholic leader recalled, was among only five people allowed to visit him during his incarceration on Robben Island.

“That has stayed with me, and then seeing how, after 27 years of imprisonment, he was able to come out and to be so large hearted that he could lead his country without bloodshed, resentment or anger and encouraging people not to have rancour,” said Monsignor Blackett.

The religious leader recalled that even before he left Barbados for England and later to teach in Africa, he was a member of the Southern African Liberation Committee which held a large rally in Farley Hill Park on Mandela’s release.

Blackett said he felt Mandela’s passing, but had reconciled within himself that the world icon would die at some point and was thankful to God for the life of the man all Africa called Madiba.

But he noted, that Mandela’s life had significance for the religious world.

“I would say that he embodied what Christianity is all about. So I put him in the same position as Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr and a whole set of religious icons who have really made and lived what Christianity is all about. I would say his life would continue to be a challenge to Christians to truly live the Gospel, because he lived what it meant.

“Many people talk the talk, but he walked the walk . . . . He has shown us by his life, what this thing called Christianity is all about. But he transcended even Christianity because he was for all people of all traditions, all races; so he was that kind of man; and I think the world will look to him for a long, long time as the iconic leader, and in Barbados I think we can learn a lot too from him to show what it means to rise above the here and now to transcend the ordinary,” said Blackett. (LB)

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