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Hundreds celebrate Nelson Mandela's life
15/12/13
The Reverend Dr Sarah Hills pays tribute to Nelson Mandela

Many people came to Coventry Cathedral on a cold and wet Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela. Tributes were led by the Reverend Dr Sarah Hills, who was born in South Africa. The Lord Mayor of Coventry read from St John's Gospel, the address was given by Bishop Christopher, and many others contributed to this joyful and inspiring service.

Sarah Hills began her tribute by saying:

"I thank you for asking me to speak today about Nelson Mandela.  I have been in contact with South African friends and colleagues over the last few days, and I am going to reflect with you now on some of their, and my own, thoughts about Madiba, and the legacy he leaves for SA, and us all.

Today, of course, is the day of Nelson Mandela’s funeral.  It is also the beginning of Reconciliation Day in SA – an annual public holiday, which, since the end of apartheid, celebrates reconciliation – Mandela’s legacy.

This time last year I was in Worcester, near Cape Town, in a big Reconciliation Day event – it was a bit warmer than today – about 40 degrees..hot!  But like today in Coventry, there was singing, prayer and celebration…of forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.

I am going to share with you some of Mandela’s legacy in SA…the stories of everyday people like us, inspired to live better lives in the service of others, by the man we celebrate today…Nelson Mandela, Tata Madiba."

She went on to describe a very personal example of the difference that the Mandela had made in the lives of ordinary people.

"On one of my visits back to South Africa, my family and I went up Table Mountain in Cape Town.  Table Mountain is spectacular - and a special place.  You can see for miles - and you can see Robben Island just off the coast, where Nelson Mandela and other prisoners of apartheid were kept.  It was very hot that day on the top of Table Mountain, and there was a very elderly black man dressed in a woollen suit and hat.  He was having difficulty going up a set of stone steps, so my mother, who is also elderly, gave him her hand and helped him up.  At the top, he doffed his hat to her, and said, 'Madam, I have waited all my life for this.  To be helped and my hand held, by you, a, white person - as an equal - is extraordinary.  Do you know I am 94? And now I can die happy!'  And they both laughed, and they both had tears in their eyes.

During the apartheid regime, this could not have happened.  These two people would not have been allowed to be in the same place - as equals.  So what happened that day was extraordinary.  High on top of a mountain…. a place which has witnessed great transformation, a bringing of light out of the darkness of apartheid.  A seeing, an experiencing, of a different image of what humanity could be… this is Madiba’s legacy for us… a different image of what humanity can be… a deep care for each other, despite our differences; a deep love of equality, truth and justice; and the hope of reconciliation for us all."

You can read the full text of Sarah's tribute by clicking the link in the Documents panel on this page.