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Stories from our past
13 November 2016
David Williams remembers the visit of Nelson Mandela to St Matthew’s in 1995
Rev Dr David Williams
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Throw a few of you who put your hands up before and said you were here on that time a few years ago, 21 years. So, Nostalgia might be a little bit easier. I'll have a wee bit of nostalgia at the beginning and then move on to some more directly relevant comments on the reading from Isaiah and the week ahead of us. So what I do remember, if the Nostalgia bit is, there's a row of Marty people over there, Joe Hawk Mighty far to her nice.
Them and one of money Oporto sang a song. I don't know whether you can remember it, but it's so Jimmy Cliff song and he just want to just did the wire 244 Nelson's Corridor to us and the suit.
I can't sing it as well as mine Armani, a portable do. She was just been inducted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame last month. And said, some very nice words about me in the New Zealand. Listen, ER as well apparently I inspired some of her activism which is good. Well, so this was the song from Jimmy Cliff, if the rebel and me can touch the rebel in you and the rebel and you can touch the rebel and me and the rebels we be is gonna set us free. And then the next one, if the lover and you can touch the lover and me, and the lover and me can touch the lover in you, and the lover we be will bring sweet harmony. So bring out Love, bring out the love, bring out the love to me but I mean she sang a much better. So after the thought that we don't normally associate Rebel and lover together just as the reading from Isaiah, has the wolf and the lamb feeding together and the lion eating straw, like the ox. So that's the sort of the theme for the Today, the rebel and the lover, the wolf, and the lamb, the lion eating straw with the ox and they are important contrast. Obviously, we don't always see the world and binaries and neither should we, but these are binaries and what do we make of them chapter 65 of the book of Isaiah is said by those who study these things to be traitor.
Isaiah or third Isaiah and speaks of the coming of a new age. The imagery is similar to the imagery of the New Testament book of Revelation specially in chapter 26. So it's Endtime stuff eschatology words like that. Well, the Disciples of Jesus rather expected the new age to come quite soon, but they died and another generation died, and another generation died, and we're still being born and die.
Dean and the end times don't seem to have quite arrived just yet. Mind you, I don't know what you think, but maybe the election of President Trump and the death of Leonard, Cohen are signs of the end times.
It certainly is for music for me. You've got Leonard Cohen was a man whose conscience. I went to Pella quite a lot of money to enjoy on more than one occasion, but I suspect probably the new age has not yet dawned and we have to wait her.
The while. But whilst we wait, we don't just do nothing. And so that's why it's quite important to focus on how Nelson Mandela's life and achievements relate to the hugely difficult issues. We face. Now, in 2016, not quite the same issues as we Face 21 years ago but sort of issues that we need to struggle with and for which the may not be one, correct answer.
But certainly, it needs to be said because the the lovely rainbow Nation, gentle man, who was the president of South Africa in the 1990s, is someone whom people find it quite easy to love but comrade Mandela was a rebel. He was a rebel indeed. He was a terrorist for some many nations had his name and the name of the African National Congress on their list of terrorist organizations.
Is he played a pivotal role in the movement of the African National Congress from its 50 years of adherence, to completely nonviolent opposition to apartheid to including armed struggle as one of the options in the struggle to end apartheid, the leader of the ANC at the time was Chief Albert, Le to lie and he had won the modal Nobel Peace, Prize in 1964.
Tea for the work of the ANC to seek to bring about peaceful change in South Africa.
But the very next year in 1961, it was the young man. Nelson Mandela who successfully moved at the ANC conference that year that there should be formed in compte, where says, way the Spear of the nation, the armed struggle of the African National Congress. And one of his Conrad's was Conrad, Joe slovo, the member of the South African As party. So it's not hard to see why some people would have called him a terrorist and why certainly the state authorities in South Africa? Hunted him down, put him on trial, contemplated executing him but decided thank goodness to send him and many others of the African National Congress to prison for what turned out to be a very long time.
I had to struggle with these issues about whether armed struggle was an appropriate response to the iniquities of apartheid in South Africa because I for some years lived in Tanzania in East Africa at the time when many A and C are Exiles, were also living there. And at a time when frelimo, the front for the liberation of Mozambique was engaged in an armed struggle against The Portuguese Imperial domination of their country. Mozambique and I had to struggle with that because when I was a young man, I had registered myself as a conscientious objector, if I should happen to be called up, but my birthday didn't come up and I never had to answer questions about that. And here I was supporting the ANC Solomon, not Language School in the Morgado in Tanzania where We're young men were being educated but also indoctrinated in the idea of armed struggle as well. And I found myself giving my own blood to the full emo organization, to assist, those who were wounded in the struggle. So I had to argue with myself and I continue to argue as myself. I don't some years I think I'm a pacifist and other years. I think I'm not and it Zone. What the causes are that seemed to be here at the time and I don't know where the others of you have that same struggle, but if you don't, I invite you to have it. And if you do, I invite you to continue to struggle with these sorts of issues because I supported the ANC and frelimo and other Liberation movements, whose headquarters were based in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. At that time. I, um, Had a question very recently. When I applied for a visa to the United Kingdom, I want to stay there for more than six months. I need to apply for a Visa to stay beyond that six months. And there's a question there that said, have you ever advocated terrorism and to the consternation of my wife? I ticked. Yes.
She said I want to go to England. I can't go. If you're not coming because after all you're the visitor at Oxford College and we've got to go together and I said, well, I explained it very clearly. I said, In the view of some people, those who believed in a non-racial democracy in South Africa, who believed in the Democratic, right? Of all the peoples of South Africa to vote for a government of their choice. That was defined by some people as terrorism, not by me, but seeing that you asked, whether I had advocated terrorism, I did Advocate the policies of non-racial democratic South Africa. Well, I got my Visa so I can go to England for more than six months next year.
And and that's a instance to. So I suppose that honesty is usually the best option and whether I find that still, so when I arrived at Heathrow Airport will have to find out, but there we are. So the comrade Nelson Mandela who was convicted of various crimes and sent to long terms of imprisonment when he went to Rome and island off. The Coast of Cape Town. He was indeed a rebel in terms of Isaiah. I think he was definitely in the wolf and lion categories, rather than the lamb. And the ox, when he emerged after 27 years in prison, 18 years of which were spent in that one cell on Robben Island, he had chosen a different path, I visited that cell, it's not very big and and gives you plenty of time.
For contemplation because they let the prisoners out on work party for very short periods of the day. But most of their time was spent in those single cells and after 18 years in that cell and some other more years of prison. While some secret negotiations, went on Nelson Mandela emerged from prison with a different path that he had. Chosen, not the path that he The argued for at the time of his convictions, he wanted truth. Yes but also reconciliation and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was sent up setup.
For Nelson Mandela after his release from prison and the process towards democratic election, in South Africa, for Mandela the wolf, and the lamb could should, and must feed together. And he went to huge efforts to show that visibly.
He went to visit the mrs. Vote mrs. Beaufort was the Widow of the president vote who had been the most Staunch National Party Advocate and implementer of the apartheid system in some of its earlier years president Mandela had the effrontery to wear the symbol of white supremacist sporting prowess the Springbok rugby jersey with number nine on the back to encourage the South African team to beat the All Blacks in the World Cup final.
Famous occasion in New Zealand history one that we reflect on occasionally, when the All Blacks do get beaten. But there was Mandela wearing a jersey, which most people associated with the oppressor and he said, let's not go down that binder binary when he had his inauguration ceremony, he had standing very close by him. The water in Robben Island who had locked him up all those men.
Years. He was personally invited to be present to see his prisoner inaugurated as the president of free and Democratic South Africa.
As president. And in the years after his presidency, he was an old man. But he did not slow down much. He devoted huge energies to alternatives to war rather than the armed struggle that had advocated as a young man, he saw perhaps that there must be Alternatives. And if there are, we must use them as our first choice. If there are threats to peace and security is Or the immediate response. When something awful happens in the world. He was by now, the ex president of South Africa When The War drums were Beating For What became the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he worked with Kofi Annan. The Ghanaian man who was the Secretary General of the United Nations to seek alternatives to invasion.
Indeed, he thought that he should put himself there in Baghdad and he got permission from Kofi Annan. The plane was organized at Johannesburg airport, president Zhou, Bo and Becky said yes, you can go, but by the time, the yes had come from president, Becky shock and, or by means had already started. So the plane didn't leave. And, and he was not Able to put himself in that position of saying, let's try surely there must be better ways than shock and or bombings. So, that was the sort of action that he took after he was the president and out of that particular experience arose, a group called the elders.
And they continue. These are people who have held high office in the various Nations and international institutions of our world and they give themselves the job of being people who bother those who are now in power. They say yes, we know what it's like to be in power to have to exercise hard choices. And so we want to come along and talk to you about some of the issues that Happening in your nation right now. And I had the privilege of hearing a group of Elders speak in Oxford.
In 2014 amongst those there was Kofi Annan by now. The former secretary-general of the United Nations Mary Robinson, Robinson, former president of Ireland, Jimmy Carter, former president of the United States of America and some other people who were talking In about issues that the elders had engaged in in the last year or so, in particular, the transition to democracy in my mm are some of the issues in South Sudan and the reconciliation processes in Rwanda. And the roles of women in bringing about peace in each of those three nations. Now, just to put you slightly off guard, these initiatives by the elders, Funded in a very quiet and private Way by a man called Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines and virgin. Empire may not be your cup of tea but there is. He never puts his name on anything but he is the man that has been funding, these Elders to support the initiatives that Nelson Mandela asked of him. And so they continue to meet and do their work.
So, it is pretty clear that this man. Where is he there? Wearing that? Gorgeous shirt. I wear shirts like that. And my wife says they so gaudy, and I think they're beautiful. We've all got different tastes, haven't we?
What he, I'm sure what asked of us is to think about this coming week in Auckland is what is our response around the world to issues of War and Peace? And what is the most obvious and first response to violent and terrorism violence and terrorism? Should it be War? Well, Nelson Mandela in his old age most certainly would have given a clear answer. No, we must always seek for other alternatives.
And if War does happen, we must be put in place as soon as possible. The Network's to create peace afterwards because Wars don't go on forever and peace has to break out some time and the need to be people to bring other people together in the aftermath of War. So how would he respond to the issues that we have in this city in this coming week? It's the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Evie, there will be Sailors in town. Everyone likes a sailor in uniform, don't they? There's a former sailor down there. Where's your uniform? Pat, there are there are Sailors in town from a parent. Apparently up to 30 Nations.
As I walked up Queen Street this morning, I noticed that there's a Tavern in town. That's offering quite reasonably priced tots of rum for what it calls. The Defense Forces special for the week in that particular Tavern.
We could perhaps celebrate the fact that New Zealand's nuclear-free warships, policy stands, and remains in place. That's what Nicky Hager is said. And many people think of Nicky Hager is out on the extremes, but he has said, we shouldn't be opposing the United States warship coming. We should welcome them because they're coming on our terms and that that effort in the 1980s has borne fruit. And now we are welcoming people from 13 Nations.
Who are all complying with New Zealand's nuclear-free? Legislation on the other hand, there are other people who normally admire Nicky Hager who disagree with him and they say, we don't think that the should be a New Zealand Defence industry Association Fair where a number of companies advertising the type of equipment that a It's Wars to take place in different parts of the world. So there is a New Zealand Defence industry association meeting. There's also the Auckland peace action protests that are taking place. There's a talk by dr. Helen held a Helen caldicott at aut on Tuesday. She is the Australian Doctor Who had such a big influence on your Zealand, Public Opinion in the 1980s and has dedicated her life to speaking about the global arms trade, and it's in a canned and it's how inappropriate it is.
If that's not enough for you next Friday, there's something on the Monday as well. Some of you are going Joys and they've, what was that one? You're going to not met. They can announcements. All right on Friday, there's dr. Jenny to par formally principle of to recognize here at Saint. John's College speaking on just war in the so and library. And then if you are Keen, you can hear Margaret beds.
And others have a day of reflection in the Cathedral on the just War Doctrine. All of these events of next week. I think invite us all to think about the just War Doctrine because it's a Christian doctrine. Put in place by people like Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas.
For whom it was a doctrine of self-defense and for self-defense only. Whether that still an appropriate Doctrine for the Church of all churches, or people of Christian. Faith is a matter which has been debated this year, and I'm sure that Nelson Mandela would have encouraged that debate. The Catholic pontifical Council for justice and peace met in Rome in April.
Year and came to the conclusion, that it would be better to replace the just War Doctrine with a just peace Doctrine. And Pope Francis has urged the pontifical council to proceed with their work towards such thinking and Theological reflections.
Well, whether to join in or not in any of these options available to you next week, is the sort of Truth and Reconciliation work that I believe Nelson Mandela would have invited us to inquire into and there may be more than one right answer. Just as in Nelson Mandela's life, there was more than one right answer and his own life Journey, his opinions changed and if we're not open to have art, It was changed, we probably need to have the that prophet, Isaiah read to us. Again, if all the seems too difficult and you want to get out of Auckland and get away from it, all and reflect and pray, I will put another hat on and that is that. I'm the chair of the Schnauzer to Retreat House. Trust in open, only in the hokianga. And may I commend to you some Retreat time at Saint Isaac's Retreat House in the hook. Yeah.
Unga. It's a place of quiet and Beauty. It's not as Spartan as Nelson. Mandela's, Robben Island cell, but on the other hand, it's not very luxurious either. Is it Helen? I think you've been there and wanted to others.
Have been there. Margaret Berger good comes quite frequently. It's a it's a place to contemplate and take time and final. My final thought is that it's an Isaac's is based as dedicated to Saint.
Like of Nineveh, the Reverend Clementina Gordon, who founded the snow sticks Retreat House. Trust was a woman who read the grips of the scriptures in Greek for the New Testament, Hebrew for the Old Testament and Syriac for both.
She loved the Syriac tradition of Christianity. She loved Saint, Isaac of Nineveh, and the chapel is and the and the retreat place is It to Isaac of Nineveh. And in case, you're wondering what the connection is Will. Where is Nineveh? Nineveh is the other planes in, what is now Iraq, but what was then that Syria where the capital city is a place called mosul? And so, if you are praying this week, please pray for the people of Nineveh and for the Traditions that come from Sanaya.
Like that part of it was all Syria but it got cut up by the British and French after the Great War and it was one of the most diverse ethnically religiously linguistically parts of the world. It's now in serious serious strife and there was war going on there. But after the war, there will be peace. Sometime there will be peace and who are going to be the people who bring it together.
So there we are. Do you think the Wolves amongst you will feed with the Lambs beside you? Do you think that there are any Oxygen in here who are prepared to put up with a lion trying to eat straw? It's a very crazy idea, isn't it? But there we are. That's what third, Isaiah suggested to us. That's what I think. Would be a good idea for us. All to think about for this coming week. Praise and glory to God. And my my my words resonate a little in your hearts and if not may you rest in your Journeys this week in a thoughtful and prayerful way Army,