Crossroad Bible Institute is remembering the important work of Nelson Mandela, who was himself a prisoner for twenty-seven years.
Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, died on December 5, 2013, and is known for his work in dismantling apartheid. South Africa has declared a week of mourning, and tens of thousands are expected to participate.
Mandela, who was charged with sabotage and conspiracy in 1964, encountered the brutal conditions of South African prisons during his time at the Robben Island prison. When Mandela arrived, he was permitted only one visitor and one letter every six months. Prisoners spent their days chipping rocks into gravel, and they were fed on meager rations, the quality of which was determined by a prisoner’s race.
Mandela was instrumental in leading hunger strikes and in presenting prisoners’ needs to visiting humanitarians. He also instituted the “University of Robben Island,” which provided prisoners with a chance to lecture in their areas of expertise. Mandela’s dignified and respectful demeanor succeeded in convincing many, both inside and outside the prison, to treat prisoners more humanely.
CBI’s South African satellite campus was particularly affected by Mandela’s death. “We expected this for a couple of weeks, but we are still very sad,” said Eddie Boersema, CBI South Africa’s acting director.
Like Mandela, CBI South Africa’s prison ministry honors the dignity of prisoners. The program offers long-term discipleship courses to prisoners, who are mentored by volunteer Instructors from churches. The discipleship curriculum emphasizes the importance of peaceful and respectful relationships for all people, whether behind bars or in society.
CBI president Dr. David Schuringa asked for prayers for the country of South Africa and for those who continue Mandela’s legacy by serving the disadvantaged. “Nelson Mandela once said, ‘No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.’ CBI South Africa cares deeply for the ‘lowest’ citizens; the ministry works tirelessly on their behalf,” he said.
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