(Nelson) Mandela Praises Role of Religion

Article excerpt

Cape Town

Without South Africa's religious institutions, former president Nelson Mandela said he would not be where he is today.

Mr. Mandela was the star speaker at the eight-day Parliament of the World's Religions which ended in Cape Town Dec. 8.

Mr. Mandela told the Parliament he had originally been scheduled to be in the United States on Dec. I for an engagement that had been arranged long ago.

"But when I was told about this occasion, I changed my whole itinerary so that I could be here," he said. "This gathering at the close of our century serves to counter despairing cynicism and calls us to the recognition and reaffirmation of that which is great, generous and caring in the human spirit."

The 81-year-old former head of the liberation struggle against apartheid said his generation was the product of religious education. "We grew up at a time when the government of this country owed its duty only to whites, a minority of less than 15 per cent. It took no interest whatsoever in our education."

It was religious institutions -- Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish -- which bought land, built and equipped schools, employed teachers and paid them.

"Without the church religious institutions, I would never have been here today," Mr. Mandela said. "But to appreciate the importance of religion, you have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid, where you could see the cruelty of human beings to others in its naked form. It was again religious institutions who gave us hope that one day we would come out of prison. …