Half a world away from South Africa, the University of Northern Iowa held a remembrance service for anti-apartheid hero and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
“I am tinged with sadness that we will no longer have his presences in the global community,” Rev. Canon Suzanne Peterson of Trinity Episcopal Church in Waterloo told the UNI community during Monday’s event.
Peterson lived in South Africa from 1991 to 1994 and then again from 1998 until 2012. During those 17 years, she worked with multiple churches and even had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela during one community event. Peterson has seen firsthand the damage the apartheid and racism have done to the people of South Africa.
"Your designation as you racial type determined everything. It determined where you went to school, where you could live… People sometimes tried to get it changed to see if they could not be 'Black' or 'African' anymore but be 'Colored' because it would just make a difference for their children," Peterson said during an interview Monday.
Mandela's battle against apartheid landed him in prison, but he kept his hope and moved forward after his release.
"One of his biographers said he didn't come out not angry, he was angry, but he learned that that wasn't going to take a country forward," Peterson said. "He just said to everyone, 'We can't live angry. We have to learn how to forgive.'"
Peterson says she hopes everyone can learn a few lessons from Mandela.
"I just hope that for all of us that we can really try to live the life of forgiveness and creative justice and creative ways of living," Peterson said. "The world needs more Nelson Mandelas.”
UNI is also collecting a book of condolences that will be sent to South Africa. If you are interested in contributing, contact Dr. Michael Blackwell at email@example.com.
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