Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Visiting Robben Island

There is something amazing happening as I listen to Ahmed Kathrada speak about the time he spent imprisoned on this island along with Nelson Mandela for speaking against the Apartheid Regime. He spoke of how Mandela spent 14 years in prison before he was even given a bed to sleep upon, how their visitation was limited to one letter of 500 words and one visitor every 6 months, and of the distinction made between people of white (privileged), colored (non- black skinned), and blacks- a distinction that still seems prevalent in South Africa.

To understand that these men spent the better part of their lives isolated from society as political prisoners, and their response to these injustices that focus on healing and reconciliation is amazing to me! The humility with which Mr. Kathrada spoke belied his influence in a nation still struggling to find justice and peace for South Africans!

Even with the end of apartheid, there is still much work to do in this nation where being white is still very much a position of privilege and wealth. And I believe that there is much we can learn from this resistance to injustice that Mandela and others stand for in this country.

1. Oppressive systems and the people that exploit them also live a life in chains.

2. I can never be free unless we can be free. The freedom of an individual is integrally connected to the freedom of the collective. To deny one is to prevent the other.

3. There is a way to share the steps forward into this shared freedom that are rooted in love, reconciliation, and peace.

Pictured below is Ahmed Kathrada alongside Dr. Raymond Williams, director of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program.

The next picture is of the outdoor recreation space for Mandela and 7 other political prisoners who were not allowed to associate with the other criminals at the prison- they were kept in isolation and not allowed newspapers or any contact with the outside world.

The third picture is a blow up detailing the differences between prisoners who were colored from blacks. If you can read this you will see how colored people were permitted more sugar for their coffee than black prisoners. Even in prison, white prisoners had privilege over others.

The 4th photo shows the actual cell where Mandela spent the majority of his 26 years of imprisonment.

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