MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md: On this, the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death it is right to visit the 20th centuries leading pacificists.
Dr. King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are human beings that transcended their own lives, giving of themselves to better the world and they will be remembered for as long as there are human beings.
Some might say that they could be among the greatest humans ever born.
All three of these men were born to families with some means. They each obtained college degrees with varying degrees of difficulty due to factors outside their control. Each man was proud of his origins and culture.
Dr. King, Gandhi and Mandela all chose to change the paradigms of their contemporaries by questioning racial and cultural beliefs.
What made them special?
Gandhi, King and Mandela all went against very large odds to pursue freedom and justice. They were not satisfied to live their lives in relative comfort and introspection. Instead, they became champions for the oppressed and disenfranchised.
They also went against the establishment paradigms at great danger to themselves and families. They were heavily criticized by all segments of their societies.
However, what made them different from other important persons of their time was the decision to face the opposition with peaceful tactics.
Mahatma Gandhi was born into a merchant family in India. Receiving his law degree, Gandhi chose to fight injustice. He traveled to South Africa in his quest for equality for all in the most racially oppressive country in the world.
The peacemaker was arrested several times, suffering insults and ill-treatment from his oppressors.
Mahatma Gandhi eventually was key in getting the British to leave India. He also lobbied to provide a homeland for Moslems in the subcontinent in today’s Pakistan, facing the opposition of his own countrymen. This decision cost him his life at the hands of a Hindu nationalist. His monastic life and non-violent philosophy were an example to many that followed all over the world.
Martin Luther King Jr.
King used the non-violent philosophy of Gandhi to preach for equality in Jim Crow’s South of the 50s and 60s. He was arrested many times while protesting peacefully and became the leader of Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. His sacrifices and leadership were key in the creation of the 1960’s Civil Rights legislation.
While attending a peaceful demonstration for sanitary workers in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King was assassinated at the age 39.
Mandela left the relative safety of his tribe to fight for civil rights in South Africa. The doctrine of Apartheid was the established governmental philosophy. In this doctrine, only the white South Africans were full citizens. All other races were treated as second-tier citizens with few or no civil rights.
Mandela worked against Apartheid and was jailed as an enemy of his country. He spent 27 years in jail and was only released as the global movement against Apartheid gained ground, becoming president of his country after the defeat of Apartheid.
Mandela endured as a shining symbol of peaceful protest, eventually gaining full civil rights to for all people in the South. He died this last week in his home in South Africa at the age 95.
Nobel Peace Prize for Civil Rights works
Both King and Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for civil rights and its effect on the rest of the world. Ironically, the person in whom both of these giants based their philosophy, Mahatma Gandhi, never received this prestigious award even as others, some may argue that they were less deserving, were.
In recent days a sheriff in a southern U. S. town refused to lower the flag to honor Mandela, voicing his belief that this honor was reserved only for U. S. nationals. He ignored the symbiotic relationship between Mandela and King and their philosophical relationship of both with Gandhi and their global influence.
The work of these three men transcended political and geographic barriers. They make the rest of us better.