By JULIEN NEAVES Saturday, December 7 2013
REPRESENTATIVES from various religions have paid tribute to late former South African President Nelson Mandela, describing him as a great icon with lessons for all society.
Retired Anglican Bishop Clive Abdulah described him as a “fantastic human being”, who was always concerned and peaceful, and showed that concern throughout his life.
Speaking to the Newsday in a telephone interview Abdulah recalled his brief meeting with Mandela, whose death on Thursday at aged 95 has elicited tributes worldwide, when the former South African President visited this country on April 29, 2004.
He recalled that South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu took him to the Hilton Trinidad hotel where both Tutu and Mandela were staying and Tutu instructed that Abdulah be presented to him.
Abdulah said it was a “very short greeting” and the two did not speak but Mandela had smiled at him and greeted him very warmly.
He noted that Mandela’s then wife, Winnie Mandela, signed a copy of her autobiography for him and pointed out that she too made a great contribution to the struggle
He also recalled his own part in the anti-apartheid fight, speaking at a rally at Hyde Park in London, England where various leaders called for the release of Mandela who was then imprisoned in South Africa. When he returned to Trinidad Abdulah started a local anti-apartheid association.
Returning to Mandela he described him as a man of great principle and he observed the rule of law. He stressed that Mandela did not hate the white people, having had friends among the white people, but he hated the system of oppression. “The world has lost a great icon, and we are all the poorer for it,” he said.
Bishop/Chief Trustee of the Anglican Church Reverend Claude Berkley in a statement said the Anglican Church “regrets the passing of Nelson Mandela and wishes to extend to his bereaved family and friends, and indeed his beloved nation for whom he bore a great sacrifice, its deepest expression of sympathy and sense of loss”.
He pointed out that the Anglican Church “has its own deep feeling of sorrow for the passing of the great champion” because the Church “was a ready and able ally in the fight against the injustice of apartheid”. He also noted that the appointment of Tutu as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in seeking to mediate the transition of the New South Africa, “recognises the work and mission of the Anglican Communion on the world stage”.
Head of the Council of Elders Spiritual Shouter Baptist Faith Episcopus Archbishop Barbara Gray- Burke expressed her “heartfelt gratitude to this great icon Nelson Mandela”. She said this country has learned from him to be peaceful, resilient and to stand for what we believe in. She described him as a great fighter and liberator and one of the best freedom fighters. “We will always treasure the memories of him,” she said.
President of Islamic organisation Anjuman Sunnat ul Jammat Association (ASJA) Yacoob Ali described Mandela’s death as “a great loss”. He noted that he was an icon, respected by all humanity and people all over the world.
He expressed hope that people in the world would respect his thoughts and his actions “which can only improve the humanity in all of us”.