As the world prepares for a massive memorial service for Nelson Mandela, TWR staff in his native land of South Africa are grasping the opportunity to recognize the contributions of this historic figure.
Numerous heads of state and other dignitaries are expected to join with common folk by the tens or even hundreds of thousands for the event Tuesday, Dec. 10, in Johannesburg. The former political prisoner who battled apartheid much of his life before becoming president of the once bitterly divided nation passed away Dec. 5, 2013, at the age of 95.
Mandela was elected the first black president of South Africa a little less than two years after TWR named a black communicator from Ghana, Stephen Boakye-Yiadom, as its first regional director for the continent.
Dr. Emmanuel Mbennah, who became international director upon Boakye-Yiadom’s death in 2007, emphasized Mandela’s key role in reconciliation, which is also a theme of great importance to TWR. Mandela led his country toward necessary reconciliation between races and political factions, and media ministry daily speaks to international audiences about the need for reconciliation between God and man.
“I came to South Africa from my home country Tanzania with my family as a doctoral student in March 1996, almost exactly two years since Mr. Mandela’s election as president of South Africa,” Mbennah recalled. “Since then I have seen an increasing sense of harmony among South Africans across the color spectrum. I believe it is God who used Mr. Mandela immensely and enabled him to forgive and to focus his particular attention on reconciliation and the building of national unity of the hitherto deeply divided South African society.”
TWR’s Africa Regional Office, where Dr. Mbennah is based, is located near Johannesburg. The ministry’s national partner, TWR South Africa, recently moved to a new facility near the city of Durban.
As South Africans and countless others around the world grieve over the passing of Mandela, this can be a time of rededication to the great causes he championed, according to Dr. Mbennah: ending injustice and oppression, seeking reconciliation, a willingness to forgive past wrongs. He observed that Africa continues to struggle with injustice and suffering as a result of wars, human trafficking and child abuse.
“Through people like Mr. Mandela, God has shown us that we all have something significant that we give towards making the society a better place for children, women, those in poverty and those without eternal hope,” he said. “… This life is but only a passage to a life to come for which we are all challenged as well as invited to prepare. For us, then, the greatest lesson we learn from the departure of our beloved Madiba [a clan name by which Mandela was fondly known] is that we make considered decisions on how we spend this relatively short life and the significance of what we will be remembered for.”
TWR’s ministry in South Africa includes broadcasting in multiple languages – among them Zulu, Swahili, English, German and Afrikaans – on medium-wave outlets, on an audio digital satellite channel and on shortwave from next-door Swaziland. Across the continent, TWR broadcasts in more than 70 languages and have a potential reach of millions of people, presenting the gospel story as well as biblical perspectives on women’s issues, leadership development, children, peace and reconciliation, health and other subjects.