Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela

Scripture: Proverbs 3:13

Happy is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who obtains understanding, for the gain from it is better than silver and its profit better than gold.

In 1964, while being tried for High Treason (punishable by death or life imprisonment), Nelson Mandela began his defense statement from the dock by saying, “I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts…”  What a curious sentence to begin with when one’s life is at stake.

Most modern moral leaders of great caliber received a quality education.  Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Albert Luthuli, to name just a few whose political careers flourished in South Africa, received quality educations.  For anyone, but especially for people of color who have directly or indirectly been oppressed by white supremacy, education often liberates the self and society.

On 18 July 2013, the South African Synod of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) and the Inanda Seminary choir paid tribute to Nelson Mandela in song and prayer at a special service held at his 1962 capture site.  The purpose of the prayer was to wish ‘Madiba’ a Happy Birthday as well as to pray for him and the nation in the midst of his prolonged illness.

The relationship between ‘Madiba’ and Inanda Seminary is long.  While on Robben Island, his daughter-in-law was sent to school here.  On 13 August 1999 and again in 29 May 2001, ‘Madiba’ visited Inanda Seminary in his effort to restore its infrastructure.  In many ways, ‘Madiba’ saved the school and began its physical resurrection.

Inanda Seminary’s vision is to “equip its members for higher education by providing strong academics and Christian leadership under girded by its core values” (honesty, loyalty, respect, self-discipline, sociability and responsibility).

Quality education for black girls in Africa is crucial for their own and their societies’ success.  Higher education gave Mandela the intellectual and legal tools to eruditely articulate his cause and case to his judge and the world.  Perhaps, more importantly, ‘Madiba’s’ education engendered within himself the dignity, integrity and pride required to defend himself against those who considered him inferior.

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela.  Get well soon.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for all that is good and faithful in our beloved ‘Madiba’.  May you strengthen him in this season of sickness.  May you bless South Africa and Inanda Seminary.  May their restorations continue.  May they grow from strength to strength, through your Spirit, thus ensuring ‘Madiba’s’ efforts were never in vain.  Amen.

Love always in Christ,

Scott Couper serves with the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) as a Development Manager of the Inanda Seminary.  Susan serves with Inanda Seminary, Durban, South Africa as the chaplain.