Nelson Mandela Dies, 95

Nelson Mandela

South Africa's first democratically elected black president, Nelson Mandela has died. He was 95. 

Released from prison in 1990 at the age of 71, many attribute his imprisonment to ending racial segregation in South Africa. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with South Africa's president at the time, Frederik Willem de Klerk, for working together to dismantle apartheid. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with South Africa's president at the time, Frederik Willem de Klerk, for working together to dismantle apartheid.

Alveda King, niece of American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, says she remembers Mandela for his courage.

"Long may we remember his courage, his fortitude and his gentle smile; none of which were ever tarnished during the years of his battles, oppression, incarceration, and the restorative years following his release," said King. "Ninety-five years of life is a fitting testimony to the strength of character of this legendary statesman."

King maintains that Mandela paid a heavy price to stand against apartheid while campaigning for human justice and human dignity. His message still resonates though his weary, battle worn body.

"A portrait hangs in my home. In the frame, poised between his fellow champions Martin and Malcolm, Mandela smiles while Martin is solemn and Malcolm is stoic," said King. "To be able to radiate joy in times of conflict is a gift. To experience their three different expressions, the combined epitome of the human dream of freedom is simply amazing."

As South Africans pay tribute outside his home, leaders and organizations around the world offer condolences to the man they believe liberated a nation.

The World Evangelical Alliance states that Mandela, affectionately known also by his clan name Madiba, was more than an African leader of note: he was an international statesman and a peacemaker, a man who demonstrated the spirit of reconciliation par excellence.

"The world has lost a great leader. Nelson Mandela was a model of courage, vision and personal sacrifice,” Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary-General of WEA said in a statement. “Today more than ever we need this kind of leadership. May the memory of Nelson Mandela inspire a new generation of such leaders around the world.”

 While little has been noted about Mandela’s religious influences, his Methodist roots run deep. He attended a Healdtown Wesleyan boarding school started by Methodist missionaries in 1845 after being baptized in a Methodist church.

According to the United Methodist News Service the World Methodist Council recognized Mandela as a "symbol of freedom, justice and peace" when presenting him with its 2000 peace award.

 Mandela will receive a state funeral to commemorate his life Sunday, December 15.