The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 9 December, to attend events in honour of Nelson Mandela who died Thursday 5 December 2013.
Yesterday afternoon, Dr Tveit visited the Mandela home in Houghton, where he laid roses and then offered condolences to the Mandela family. Afterwards he shared in a prayer service with the family. The service also involved South African church leaders.
On Tuesday 10 December, Dr Tveit will go to the memorial service for Mandela being held at the First Bank Stadium near Johannesburg. Nearly 100 heads of state will be attending the ceremony.
"It important that the WCC be present in South Africa during the time when South Africans and all of us mourn the passing of one of the great leaders for justice and peace in our time," Dr Tveit said.
"For the church it is a moment to recognise the longterm relationship that the WCC had with Mandela during the struggle against apartheid and the future of the church as we gain inspiration from his example in working for equality, reconciliation, justice and peace," he added.
Nelson Mandela visited the WCC offices in June 1990, only a few months after his release from prison and in December 1998 spoke at the WCC 8th Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe.
On Wednesday 11 December, the world churches' chief will be participating in an interfaith service in Pretoria. Mandela's body will then lie in state for the next three days. Tveit returns to the WCC offices in Geneva on Thursday and prepare for a memorial service for Mandela at the Ecumenical Centre on Monday, 16 December 2013.
Meanwhile, celebrating the life and works of Mandela, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, called Mandela a “global icon of justice, peace and dignity” for Africa and the world.
An anti-apartheid activist, South Africa’s first black president and a Nobel peace laureate, Mandela passed away on 5 December in Johannesburg.
“We affirm the role played by this global icon for inspiring and restoring dignity for Africa and revitalizing hope for the marginalised and oppressed of the world,” said Abuom.
Abuom, a member of the laity who comes from the Anglican Church of Kenya, and has worked for economic justice, peace and reconciliation, called Mandela’s legacy an inspiration for the churches.
Abuom expressed deep appreciation for Mandela’s support and respect for the ecumenical movement for its contributions to the struggle against apartheid.
“Mandela’s message during his visit to the WCC headquarters in Geneva after his release from prison in 1990, and his address at the WCC 8th Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998, greatly encouraged and strengthened our commitment in our search for reconciliation, healing and forgiveness,” she said.
Abuom added that “Mandela’s legacy includes his capacity to forgive his enemies, which inspires us in a world where we all yearn for a just peace.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go to his family and the people of South Africa during this time of mourning. May his memory be eternal!” she concluded.