The highlight of the Parliament of World Religions in Capetown, South Africa, was hearing Nelson Mandela's address to the plenary assembly and watching our response to his address. Listen here to a clip from that address. (Here is a transcription of the entire speech.)
He sat on a broad wicker chair with a curtain of light behind him, looking for all the world like a benevolent, beloved king. The chair was not special, it was his regal bearing that transformed his presence. In fact his father had been king of a tribe; the bloodlines were evident that evening.
There were religious leaders on stage from 300 faiths and sects; Madiba's broad smile and generous dignity brought us all into his light. I felt elevated by his words and ennobled by his spirit and vision.
Like the Obama family pictured above, we religious delegates visited Nelson Mandela's small cell on Robben Island and had been blinded by the sunlight glaring from the rock pit where he chipped away at his 27-year captivity.That he emerged from that soul-breaking prison at age 71 and forgave his captors reminds one that the Bodhisattva-spirit can arise from the darkest of despair.
The inspirational choirs that greeted him on stage and sang his praises sent shivers and tears at the same time.
For more of the story, told from the music that did so much to bring down apartheid, I recommend you find a copy of this documentary: Amandla: A Revolution in Four Part Harmony