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On the death of Nelson Mandela

News St Martin – Talking Points

Friday 6 December 2013

In the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields there is a statue of Hector Pieterson. He was a 13-year-old killed in the Soweto uprising in 1976. He is being carried in the arms of a fellow student. The image echoes other signal moments in South African history, like the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. But today it’s not hard to see it as an image of Nelson Mandela.

Sculpture depicting Hector Pieterson being carried by a fellow student in St Martin-in-the-Fields Church

Victims of Injustice and Violence by Chaim Stephenson

For years Nelson Mandela carried South Africa in his arms. Now, as he goes to his grave, South Africa is carrying him. The question in everyone’s mind, a question it’s hard to ask but names many fears, is, who will carry South Africa now that he is gone? So this statue is a tribute, a lament, and a prayer that goodness will continue to withstand evil in the beautiful but fragile land that Nelson Mandela loved, led, and has now left.


God of grace, in Nelson Mandela you gave us a figure of dignity, wisdom, courage, and mercy. Send your Holy Spirit on the people of South Africa that they may walk in his dignity, grow in his wisdom, embody his courage, and practice his mercy.

God of all peoples, be close to any today who know the sting of racial division, prejudice, injustice, and oppression. Bring transformation in hearts and neighbourhoods and nations where one racial group inhibits the flourishing of another. Raise up leaders like Nelson Mandela, and bring reconciliation to those on the brink of violent conflict.

God of glory, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding. Be close to all today who walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and face a long walk to freedom, peace, and hope. Comfort any who grieve, be present to all in prison or exile, and lift every voice to sing your song even if their throat is weary. 

God Bless Africa; guard her children; guide her leaders; and give her peace; for Jesus Christ’s sake.