Monday, April 27, 2009

Freedom Day

Today is Freedom Day in South Africa. It marks the day in 1994 of the first post-Apartheid  elections, allowing all citizens to vote for the first time in South Africa's history. Nelson Mandela would become the country's first black president and a time of justice and healing would begin for a country that had been torn apart by so much bigotry, racism and hatred.

Many images that I have seen over the past few months come to mind as I reflect on this day and what it means to the people around me. Most specifically images from the Apartheid Museum in Jo'Burg dance across my thoughts. Our training group was the first to have the opportunity to visit the museum, and it was definitely one of the highlights for me. If anything I wish we could have had more time to spend there.

I was twelve-years-old when Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in a South African election, when he led his country out of Apartheid. I don't remember knowing anything about it at the time. It would be a few years later that I would read Alan Patton's Cry, The Beloved Country for the first time, but it was without context and understanding. And although my general knowledge of what Apartheid was has grown since that time, it was not until the past few months that I have truly come to any real understanding of the word and what it was and still is for South Africa.

On Wednesday of last week, South Africa held parliamentary elections again. The majority went to the ANC (African National Congress), the party of Nelson Mandela and the party that has been in power since the elections of 1994.

I am no expert in South African politics, and as a guest in this country will voice no political opinion. What I will say is that the right to vote is the most extraordinary of rights that we as humans have created and recognized. The right for your voice to be heard is a part of human dignity that should never be denied. And the ability of a government to recognize and hear the voices of its citizens is the essence of a stable and high-functioning government.

It is my hope for South Africa that the voices of the disenfranchised, the poor, the suffering, the abused and the sick will be heard. And not only that they will be heard, but that they will be listened to and responded to. It is my hope that South Africa will continue to press on towards healing and a future for all of its citizens.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
        for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
        because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
                                           Matthew 5:3-10

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