The South African activist and former president Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) helped bring an end to apartheid and has been a global advocate for human rights. A member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, he was a leader of both peaceful protests and armed resistance against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the anti-apartheid movement both within his country and internationally. Released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid and in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multi-ethnic government to oversee the country’s transition. after retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95. Even after his imprisonment had ended, he preached compassion and forgiveness, two key components of mercy. Instead of seeking revenge on the race that condescended to him and oppressed his people, he sought after equality. This was one of the most merciful acts of the 20th century. Instead of being a mercy killer, he was a mercy leader. Leaders are known to lead by example, and in Mandela’s case, he lead the nation towards a revolutionary attitude shift that was once filled to the brim with hate that is now full of compassionate, forgiving people.
“You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.” – Nelson Mandela