How does Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) empower us?

by , under Enrique

The death of Nelson Mandela, who was branded a terrorist by countries like the U.S. and Great Britain, is a sad day full of mourning but full of hope as well. His struggle and triumph over apartheid, a toxic offshoot of white European colonialism, proves that no matter how oppressive a government is, change is possible.

You don’t need an army and the latest sophisticated weapons in your struggle. You can sit in jail for 25 years and eight months and be a force of change.

Never give up your dreams of a better world. US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson summed up Nelson Mandela’s life and example in the following words: “Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint.”

If there is one person that emulates this quote like a bright shining light of hope, that person is Nelson Mandela.

Even if this great man has left us in body, his example and spirit live on as long as there are oppressed people demanding justice. And there are too many of them today. Their oppression is only possible thanks to our silence, cowardice and ambivalence.


Nelson Mandela was not only a transformative force in his country and globally, but believed in reconciliation. Reconciliation shouldn’t mean that we bow our heads and accept what happened, it means we take real concrete steps to challenge and do away with social ills like racism and injustice.

As we mourn Nelson Mandela’s death, the ugly face of racism is raising its head in the continent where colonialism took its treacherous  steps and enslaved millions and committed genocide.

In Finland as in Europe, no matter how much political power parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) amass, it can never succeed at making intolerance acceptable. The same goes for other likeminded parties in the Nordic region like the Danish People’s Party, Sweden Democrats and the Progress Party of Norway.

The stronger these parties become and the more power they amass and wield against minorities and our ever-growing cultural diversity, the more power is accumulating on our side.

If the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. and the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa are clear examples that change is possible,  certainly change is possible in Finland and Europe as well.

Nelson Mandela would agree. He’d encourage us to continue our struggle, like today on the first day after passing on.