Tribute to Mandela

Michael Cassidy & Nelson Mandela

Michael Cassidy & Nelson Mandela

Pietermaritzburg, 1992

Michael Cassidy and Nelson Mandela share an amusing moment. Michael had just presented Mandela with a copy of Billy Graham’s, Peace with God, as requested and personally signed by the evangelist.

During their conversation Mandela told Michael that he never missed a Bible study or church service while he was in prison. He also said that while he was in prison he had been “much blessed” by a sermon he had heard on television by Dr. Billy Graham. During Mandela’s first visit to the United States after his release he asked to meet with Dr. Graham but the meeting fell through when Dr. Graham was hospitalised with a leg complaint.

Later, in 1996, Michael was to work with Mandela at his request, along with Bishop Makhaye and Bishop Mmutlanyane Mogoba on “Project Ukuthula”, (Zulu for peace), during a time when 20 people a day in KwaZulu-Natal were dying in conflict between ANC and IFP Zulus. This was threatening the holding of the province’s first Provincial Elections.

“We politicians cannot fix this thing,” confessed the President, “maybe you church people can do it.” Thus was launched “Project Ukuthula”.

“The three Christian leaders were in almost daily contact with KwaZulu-Natal Premier Frank Mdlalose, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and other key players on different sides of the conflict. In the next six weeks, led by the Natal church leaders and AE, the Christians of Natal were activated into the mechanisms of peacemaking and reconciliation. Christians in the police, the military, the media, schools, industry, business or wherever, were urged to change the rhetoric of violence and talk peace and pursue it. Once again, as in 1994, multitudes in the churches committed it all constantly to prayer.

As “Project Ukuthula” advanced under the Natal church leadership and AE, so the death rate dwindled. By the time the elections were due, the daily death rate was down to zero. As the provincial elections went ahead in peace, Time magazine again commented on three of the most peaceful days in KwaZulu-Natal in several years”. (Extract from African Harvest, Anne Coomes, p 472)

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