6 January 2005

Thank you, Nelson

Nelson Mandela made this announcement today:

ROCK, South Africa, Jan. 6 – Nelson Mandela, who has devoted much of
his life after leaving South Africa’s presidency to a campaign against
AIDS, said Thursday that his son had died of the disease in a
Johannesburg clinic.

The son, Makgatho L. Mandela, 54, had been
seriously ill for more than a month, but the nature of his ailment had
not been made public before his death on Thursday.

At a news conference in the garden of his Johannesburg home, the
elder Mr. Mandela said he was disclosing the cause of his son’s death
to focus more attention on AIDS, which is still a taboo topic among
many South Africans. To keep the illness secret would wrongly imply
that it is shameful, he said.

“That is why I have announced that my
son has died of AIDS,” he said. “Let us give publicity to H.I.V./AIDS
and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal
illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody
has died because of H.I.V./AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as
something extraordinary.”

What is it about the adversity
of South Africa that has produced rare people of courage, humility,
grace, and depth like Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu?  And why
does it seem necessary that we have to see the rawest ravages of all
that this world and all that our species has to offer to see saints in
our midst?

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