On the passing of Nelson Mandela…
Who will be the voice for those who have no voice? What happens when no one speaks up against the wrongs around us?
Nelson Mandela was spoke out against injustice. Though it cost him prison and other hardships, he spoke up when others were silent. Those like him who did protest had their voices silenced by a powerful system that denied humane treatment of others because of the colour of their skin. Their injustice had a long reach, beyond what may have imagined.
Recently I have been reading the works of South African scholar David Bosch. Bosch was one of the greatest missionary theologians of our time. His work is regarded as one of the seminal works in our current understanding of the theology of the role of mission and the church. A pastor and teacher, he was an opponent of racism.
The story of his death poignantly tells of the long reach of injustice. In the words of Bosch’s friend and colleague Stan Nussbaum:
“In April 1992, two years before the end of apartheid, Bosch tragically bled to death after a head-on traffic accident in a rural area of South Africa. Passerby [sic] called for an ambulance to bring the ‘jaws of life’ and cut his feet free so the bleeding could be stopped. When they called a second time to ask what was taking so long, the emergency dispatcher reportedly replied, ‘You didn’t say he was a white man.’ A later investigation of whether this actually occurred was inconclusive, largely because the tapes of the two phone conversations disappeared.
“How ironic that one who lived as an enemy of racism should die as an un-offical victim of it. But racism was not the victor in the story. Bosch’s death exposed racism for what it really is–an ideology that kills even when it does not intend to, an ideology that cannot silence those it wishes to silence. How could it, when mere death is its ultimate weapon?”
Today, such prejudice remains. Christians are being martyred at rates as great or great than ever in history. (See the website for Voice of the Martyrs, https://www.persecution.com.) The poor are being run over throughout the Global South. Children have lost their innocence and are being forced to fight another’s war in Africa. Who will be the voice for them? Such injustice has a long reach–maybe even to you.
On the passing of Nelson Mandela, let us give thanks to God for the picture of courage in the face of such odds. May we follow Christ’s example to be the voice for those who have no voice. May we follow Christ’s example to speak up against the wrongs around us.
Quoted text from Nussbaum, Stan. A Reader’s Guide to Transforming Mission / Stan Nussbaum. Maryknoll :: Orbis Books, 2005.