12/5/2013 12:00:00 AM
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is joining members of this church and "all people of good will throughout the world" in mourning the passing of former South Africa President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Eaton said that Mandela "was one of the greatest leaders of our generation, a valiant campaigner for justice for all but especially against racial discrimination of any kind. His long struggle against white supremacy -- later codified as apartheid -- has served as an inspiration for many, whether within South Africa or far beyond."
Mandela was brought up as a Methodist, who taught the Bible during his student days. Support for the struggle for racial equality, which Mandela led during his 27-year imprisonment, came from many of the churches in South Africa and, eventually, from churches around the world, most notably through the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism.
"Mandela's Christian values of love and forgiveness were again clearly evident when, as president of his nation's first multiracial government in the 1990s, he oversaw the formation and implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated crimes committed by both the Afrikaner-led regime and the African National Congress during the anti-apartheid struggle," Eaton said.
Mandela's efforts to end poverty and other forms of inequality unite racially divided societies and restore the dignity of the oppressed were also hallmarks of his leadership, said Eaton, adding that the values that Mandela embodied should continue to be emulated.
"Our prayers go out to his family and many friends who will miss his warm smile, his extended hand to former adversaries and his many acts of personal courage," she said.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
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