Like millions of people around the world, I was saddened to hear about the death of the former political-prisoner and later former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela at age 95.
I read the Great Bend Tribune article that Mandela was an “Inspiration for humanity”. How true. He was incarcerated 27 years and turned from violent activist to peaceful activist to put an end to racial segregation or Apartheid. The part of Nelson Mandela’s life that I never knew about was that he became a Knight in the Order of St. John in 1996 and later invested in the year 2004 at St. James’s Palace in London, as a “Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of Saint John”, the Order’s highest honor. Mandela was invested with the distinctive insignia: an eight-pointed Maltese Cross by Britain’s Duke of Gloucester. Mandela was a member of the Grand Priory in South Africa. The Order has a 900 year old history and the Order was re-affirmed in Britain by Queen Victoria in the 1800’s. This generally protestant group is allied with and has fraternal ties to its related Catholic organization, “The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta” which was established in the year 1099. It’s motto is “Defense of the Faith and assistance to the poor.” The Order aims to elevate Christian virtues by putting such sentiments into action with hospitals, clinics, humanitarian efforts and almsgiving. Awarding such a distinctive honor for integrity and concern for the welfare of all mankind is even more notable that Mandela than any other awards or accolades. I knew Mandela once won a Nobel Prize, but this award might just outshine that. It shows Judeo-Christian virtues at its best, since he was a man deeply concerned about the downtrodden and a true “Champion of Peace.” The man will be missed.
James A. Marples,