• Loading

Prayers on the death of Nelson Mandela

N’kosi sikelele  
God bless Africa

From Psalm 72  (Of Solomon)
For he delivers the needy when they call,
The poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
And saves the life of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
And precious is their blood in his sight.
(vv 12-14)

God of all life

Today we give thanks with our whole hearts
for the life of Nelson Mandela,
who served his people faithfully,
spoke freedom from a prison cell,
brought unity out of division
and hope out of despair.

We give thanks for his sacrificial commitment to justice,
for his unswerving opposition to the evil of apartheid,
for his wise leadership in government,
for his modelling of costly truth and reconciliation

Today the whole world has lost a leader,
a prophetic voice that cried in the wilderness,
a shining light to the young,
a father to his nation,
a wellspring of humour and joy.

Loving and most merciful God,
Blessed be our brother Nelson Mandela
Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord.
And let light perpetual shine upon him.


Goodness is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death;
Victory is ours through Him who loved us.

Desmond Tutu

For the people of South Africa

Oh people, you shall not drown in your tears
But tears shall bathe your wounds.

Oh people, you shall not die from hunger
But hunger shall feed your souls.

Oh people, you are not weak in your suffering
But strong and brave with knowing.

Oh people, if you have known struggle,
Only then are you capable of loving.

Oh people, be aware of the love you have.

Let not your tears submerge it
Let not your hunger eat it
Let not your suffering destroy it -
Oh people, bitterness does not replace a grain of love:
Let us be awake in our love.

Noorie Cassim
John de Gruchy ed. Cry Justice (Collins 1986)

Poem for Mandela

He mobilised a whole world!

All our lives we knew him;
we saw him in the dock at Rivonia,
in a cell in Robben Island,
at the head of great crowds,
on a rugby field and a football terracing.

He showed us his country,
beautiful, ugly, rich,
but mostly poor beyond our experience.
We saw bantustans
and learned to see the insult in the very name.

We heard about the beatings, the killings,
the absurd gradations of skin,
the pass laws, the imprisonments,
the apparatus of racism.

We came to know his generation,
the great ones,
rising to the call of history or God
with an honour, dignity, nobility almost unimaginable
in our times of money.

We gave up eating oranges,
we signed petitions,
we marched, boycotted, had sit-ins,
raised funds, held concerts for him.
We made him birthday cakes he never tasted,
sang songs outside apartheid embassies,
gave him the freedom of our cities.

And still, the real struggle went on elsewhere -
in Soweto, Uitenhage, Bisho –
until the day the gates opened;
the real struggle goes on elsewhere still.

It was never just about Mandela,
but he embodied so much for a generation,
a nation,
a world.
He lived long,
lived well,
lived to see his world turned upside down.
Who will be our sign of contradiction now,
who will make us rise to greatness of soul?

What is Man?

What is living? Finding a great hall
Inside a cell.
What is knowing? One root
To all the branches.

What is believing? Holding out
Until relief comes.
And forgiving? Crawling through thorns
To the side of an old foe.

What is singing? Winning back
The first breath of creation:
And work should be a song
Made of wheat or wood.

What is statecraft? Something
Still on all fours.
And defence of the realm?
A sword thrust in a baby’s hand.

What is being a nation? A talent
Springing in the heart.
And love of country? Keeping house
Among a cloud of witness.

What is this world to the great powers?
A circle turning.
And to the lowly of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

Waldo Williams (1904-71)

Christian Aid in South Africa

The end of apartheid brought enhanced political and social rights for South Africans, but for the majority these have yet to be translated into a better quality of life.

South Africa

Sign up for emails