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"Five years, then there will be a blood-bath", a Nigerian friend told me nearly thirty years ago. And many people said the same. "The whites will never give up power", they said.

And yet, it happened. Why? Yugoslavia, and other countries, have torn themselves apart. What caused the South African miracle?

There are several answers to this question. And God's hand is in all of them!

1) The leadership of Nelson Mandela

Despite imprisonment on Robben Island for over 18 years, he did not become bitter. He was able to forgive his captors. He applied this teaching of the Bible to his difficult situation. His behaviour has won him praise around the world. He has received honorary degrees from more than 50 universities, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. His peaceful election to the role of State President was a fitting outcome to his life's work.

At his inauguration, he said,

"The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us..., we enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world."

2) The repentance of Christians

Sadly even some groups who were Christians, had been blinded by their culture and upbringing. They thought that apartheid was OK. But God began to work in the hearts of many people, and they saw how wrong they had been. The Dutch Reformed Church publicly apologised in 1986 for its previous support of apartheid. They declared racism to be a bad sin.

Many Christians were also repenting and praying for the situation.

Other Christians had long seen the evil of apartheid. Alan Paton wrote his moving book, 'Cry the beloved country' over 40 years ago - it is still a powerful message. Bishop Trevor Huddleston in a lifetime of work and writing, campaigned against apartheid. Archbishop Tutu, the first black Archbishop of Capetown, played a vital part in peace-making.

Key Christian leader Michael Cassidy also worked for many years to bring about reconciliation. He summed up the whole situation in one sentence in 1988: "The white act of repentance, and the black act of forgiveness, is the key to national healing and salvation."

3) A Christian president Klerk, the former President, is a Christian who saw that his mission was to take down apartheid. In 1990, he abolished many laws, such as the Mixed Marriage Act, and the Group Areas Act. The President, (whose wife is said to have been healed of cancer as a result of prayer) asked Christian leaders to advise him. So a nine-man team came together in that year.

De Klerk led the minority white government with wisdom to hand over power. This was an unusual and brave act.

His recent apology in August 96 on behalf of the National Party was not his first apology. But it underlines his whole attitude. May it lead to more peace and reconciliation.

"The National Party..., we have gone on our knees before God Almighty to pray for His forgiveness. I stand before you today..., to admit that which was wrong..., to continue to build bridges in our quest for reconciliation..., Reconciliation cannot be achieved unless there is also repentance on all sides. I should like to express my deepest sympathy with all those on all sides who suffered during the conflict..."

4) The election crisis

Although the first free election was approaching in May 94, there were big disagreements between different groups. Chief Buthelezi could not see a way to join in the election. Without him, there could have been disaster.

International statesmen Henry Kissinger and Lord Carrington found they could make no agreement. Then Michael Cassidy (Christian Enterprise leader) realised it would take an African to bring peace to Africa. Kenyan Professor, Washington Okumo was a committed and respected Christian. While 30,000 people of all races were praying in Durban at an African Enterprise Jesus Peace Rally, Okumo arranged an agreement between Chief Buthelezi, Nelson Mandela, and their parties.

"God's hand was in it the whole way", said Michael Cassidy. Chief Buthelezi would have been unable to meet Professor Okumo, except his plane was forced to return. Chief Buthelezi told the NATAL WITNESS newspaper, "It was as though God prevented me from leaving, and, like Jonah, I was brought back. I told Professor Okumo that my forced return was a Godsend." ANC Secretary-General Cyril Ramafosa claimed that Washington Okumu's meeting with Chief Buthelezi saved South Africa from disaster.

A way forward for the world?

If miracles like this can happen in South Africa, after years of trouble, they can happen anywhere. But only if people will call on God, and say sorry to Him and each other. Unless they do this, situations like Bosnia will never end.

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Thought for the day:

  Jesus said 'I am the way, I am the truth. I give life. 
  No one can come to my Father unless I take him there
                                                    John Chap.15v6

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