Can anything good come out of South Africa?

nelson mandela
Nelson Mandela

For some time, I wanted to write a post on Nelson Mandela, affectionately called Madiba, but decided to wait till the funeral, grieving, and the media frenzy subsided.  That name Madiba fits Mandela.  As one remarked, it emphasized his clan, his African-ness rather than Nelson, his given English name.  To me both names fit well.  I wish to reflect on the place, person, and people’s reactions, before and after.

I borrowed my title from the Scriptures. When the early disciple Philip sought Nathaniel and exclaimed in elaborate details: “We have found the Christ whom Moses and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth”. Nathaniel scornfully responded: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  It did!  At Christmas, we read how the Jewish king and priests, with their holy books lost, and the Gentile wise men found him, in the Jewish back yard!

Qunu of South Africa and Nazareth of Palestine have something in common. I am not comparing Mandela to Jesus, but attempt to show how God delights in giving pleasant surprises. Who would have thought a small village called Qunu, with wandering chickens and goats and pothole-ridden roads, would gather the attention and honour of the whole world?

This scenario repeats often.  God bypassed the then-civilized nations like Greece, Egypt, and Rome, instead choosing an almost nomadic Israeli nation to manifest His will. God chose Bethlehem Ephratah – one of the least – for Messiah’s birth! The situation in South Africa, as in many other countries, was complex. However, despite the gold and diamond mines, and progress, the sons/daughters of the soil were poor and treated badly, to put it mildly.  Yet suddenly there were two Nobel Prize winners from South Africa, and uniquely both from the same street.

By the way, out of South Africa came another, Mahathma Gandhi, who lived and practiced law there until he got the call to return to India and organize the freedom struggle from the British Empire!    It is a joke in SA that “India gave Gandhi to South Africa a lawyer and South Africa returned him to India a Statesman”.

Born a Xhosa to the Thembu royal family, he went to university and studied Law. But he followed his dream (see my blog on Day Dreaming, 30 November 2013) to free his people from organized oppression.  Despite his own limitations, arrests and prison years meant to break him, through it all, he maintained a dream of a reconciled, united South Africa. Looking back to history I will not be out of place to mention that the freedom of SA surpassed that of many countries including India and Pakistan or even Palestine and Israel.  Those countries were cut apart, followed with bloodshed – not South Africa!

While some leaders of powerful democratic nations did not heed to the cry from Robben Island Prison, their countries sent their heads of States for the funeral. One of them was the main speaker at the funeral.  In praise of Canada, all three successive Prime Ministers gave their full support to Mandela long before his release from prison.

We know about politics, but what part does religion play when it comes to human suffering, a question few wish to pursue?  Religion has an ugly side as well.  It divides people, families and nations. Conspicuously, I have not read much about Mandela’s religious convictions.  Did Mandela see how the religious conducted themselves?  Did Mandela knowingly keep a distance and did not make use of religion as many have done?

I must quickly acknowledge the heroic part played by leaders like Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Archbishop Ted Scott of Canada.

For years I kept a copy of Toronto Star Newspaper dated 24 November 1984. I knew Truth will prevail!  The Newspaper quoted Huddleston, openly challenging a state-enforced racial prejudice.  He called it an “insult to God”.  Later he said that God has identified with humanity, and to allow an assault on the dignity of man “is an affront to God”.  No surprise, he was banned from SA.  Pulpits are not the only places where God speaks to us.  God speaks through nature, dreams, newspapers, and ordinary folks, sometimes even through stars and planets (wise men). I do not know of the stand or actions of Evangelical or Charismatic Church Leaders.

Like other free nations, SA has their work cut out for years to come.  But God showed again that “He is no respecter of persons” or places, whether it is Benares, Bodh Gaya, Mecca, Medina or Jerusalem!  God is universal, though some make Him provincial. “Magnify the Lord” as David sang and do not minimize.  Yes, the good came out of Qunu, South Africa, loud and clear, through a man they called “Son of Africa and Father of Freedom” – Nelson Mandela Madiba.

God bless,   Danny Paul

Looking back

New Year 2014 v2
God Bless in 2014

What a title for the new year!  It should have been the other way around, looking ahead.  Ah, but I have a reasonable excuse.  I started  my blog one year ago and I thought a self review might not be a bad idea.  But before that, a note of gratitude is in order to my son-in-law Joel Lawton who encouraged me to blog.  I gave the usual excuses like “I am too old”, or “The computers are getting complicated etc.”  He did not buy it but said “You just write and I will do the rest” – an offer I could not resist any longer.  Undoubtedly this is one of Joel’s callings. He is the unpaid, honorary editor and manager of my blog!  Thank you Joey.

Looking back, choosing a name like In Search of Moderation for the blog was not difficult.  I had thought about the need for moderation all along.  Perhaps, being born and brought up in the east (India), and later going west and settling in Canada for the last forty-four years, the good Lord has graciously given me few different perspectives.  It resonated with what I had read years ago from the writings  of Anglican Canon Liddon (1829-1890), including his Bampton Lectures. His thoughts on the importance of  “equal balance of virtues” was very captivating.  You may wish to read some of my earliest posts on it.

I realize it is not easy, almost  impossible, to compartmentalize the sphere of influence on one’s life.   However, apart from the good Lord, and my beloved parents, and friends, three persons immensely contributed to my leaning towards my search for moderation (If I have forgotten some, please forgive me).

One was a Hindu poet from South India, by name Kunjan Nambiar, a satirical writer.  He was a sharp-tongued poet and did not hide his dislike towards the Brahmin caste.  His writing on “balance of goodness”, roughly translated from the Sanskrit word “Lakshanam” has been very influential.   In fact my mother, who was a school teacher, forced me to learn it by heart when I was just eleven.

The second person who influenced me was a missionary from Canada to Calcutta by name Dr. Mark Buntain and his wife Rev. Huldah Buntain.  I met this fine couple at age nineteen or twenty.  It was under their preaching as well as their tutelage that I became a disciple of Jesus, though born in a Christian family.  As pastors, they taught me everything from teaching Sunday School, praying, visiting the needy and sick, to leading worship services etc.  I learned to preach from them.  They were my mentors.  Rev. Huldah Buntain is still going strong with her mission in Calcutta.

The third was a Methodist Missionary from USA by name Dr. E. Stanley Jones.   I had listened to him, but he was not as close as the Buntains, although he influenced me ‘at a distance’ through his writings.  It was a Christian but also an intellectual and philosophical influence.   He was a friend of Mahathma Gandhi and many other Indian leaders and Intelligentia of that time.   It was around that time, and just before my emigration to Canada that I took a serious liking to books on theology and philosophy.

Back to my blog.  I love writing it .  It inspires me to discipline myself and force me to redeem time and write a post every ten days.  I must admit that I started as a typical old school Indian with long, elaborate, verbose posts.  Soon I got the message that brevity is next to godliness.  So I shortened to just around 800 words. Thank God for computers.

Many have asked me where I get my material.  My blog is neither restrictive nor a recycle of sermons.  I leave that to the professionals and clergy men/women. Basically, I keep my eyes and ears open and there is plenty there right in front of you.  Sometimes it is from a newspaper, a TV show, old or current songs.  Human experiences of ordinary people challenge me most.

In some ways, it is like what poet  Elizabeth Browning wrote:  “Earth is crammed with heaven.  And every common bush afire with God.  But only he who sees takes off his shoes”.  It is significant, as I get older, thoughts do come and thoughts  go out, in seconds.  I am learning to keep a paper and pencil handy all the time.  There is a lot more to learn.

Have you ever watched a mother hen feeding her chicks?  She does not mouth feed them.  She scratches the dirt and expose the material for the chicks to go at it on their own.   If the good Lord used me to do just that even a small number with my blog, then I am truly blessed.  Please communicate with me.

God bless,              Danny Paul