By Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
The world is sustained by three things: justice, truth and peace (Ethics of the Fathers 1:18) By upholding the values of justice, truth and peace, governments respect and protect the rights of their citizens, providing them with the means to live securely and in harmony.
It was the absence of these values that led to the demise of apartheid South Africa, while these same three things were the essential pillars upon which Nelson Mandela’s world stood. Mandela was an aspiring lawyer in a country that cruelly closed the doors of opportunity in the legal profession to its black majority.
The injustice of the apartheid regime condemned Mandela to 27 painful years of imprisonment on Robben Island. Emerging from this horrendous ordeal, he was indefatigably devoted to the establishment of a democratic multi-racial society founded upon the principles of justice, truth and peace.
The hallmark of Mandela’s legendary contribution was the manner in which he dealt with adversity. He was a man with a deeply forgiving nature, who was willing to cast aside bitter memories of the past in his desire to create a positive and enriching destiny for his people. He had a vision for a glorious future.
Following Mandela’s release from prison, South Africa was on the brink of civil war. His charisma, deeply-held beliefs and skilful leadership gave the country direction, creating, against the odds, a path to peace and reconciliation. At home he leaves a transformed country. In South Africa – and well beyond – he leaves a legacy of hope which has inspired the millions who mourn for him now. May we be inspired by his memory and all that he achieved to do our part in guaranteeing that our world will be sustained through justice, truth and peace.