BOB ABERNETHY, host: Tributes to Nelson Mandela have been pouring in from around the world, including from the religious community. Pope Francis praised Mandela for promoting human dignity and forging a new South Africa “built on the firm foundations of nonviolence, reconciliation, and truth.” Other religious leaders called him an example of overcoming hatred and bitterness in order to promote the common good. In South Africa, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said his close friend’s legacy of peace and forgiveness will live on. Mandela was 95 years old. He led South Africa out of the apartheid rule of its white minority over the black majority and into a multiracial democracy, and he achieved that transition peacefully, without a civil war. Under apartheid, which often provoked violence, the white government controlled where all blacks could work and live. No blacks could vote. As a young lawyer in the 1940s, Mandela joined the African National Congress and oversaw a violent campaign against apartheid. For his resistance, he was sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. He told his supporters he would give his life, if necessary, for a democratic society:
NELSON MANDELA: It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
ABERNETHY: By the time Mandela finally was released from prison after 27 years, he had become a worldwide symbol of all campaigns for freedom, racial equality, and democracy. He had refused to bargain for his release, but international pressure helped free him, and he went on to become president of the African National Congress and then the first president of the post-apartheid South Africa. In 1993, Mandela and the man who had led the all-white South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, shared the Nobel Prize for Peace. Mandela resigned after one term as president. He travelled extensively, promoting both democracy and the need to prevent and treat AIDS. Last summer, President Obama and his family visited the cell on Robben Island off Cape Town, in which Mandela had been held for 18 years. Mr. Obama wrote in the visitors book that his family was “humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.” On Thursday (December 5), the president said the entire world can draw strength from how Mandela lived.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, so it falls to us as best we can to, for the example that he set, to make decisions guided not by hate but by love, to never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
ABERNETHY: When Mandela became president, after all the brutality of apartheid and his own 27 years in prison, he did not seek revenge. Reconciling the races to create a democracy was more important than getting even.