December 22, 1998
Nelson Mandela Praises Christian Education
President Nelson Mandela of South Africa recently joined the list of prominent Africans who publicly praise the Christian church, and specifically missionaries, for their contribution to education in 20th-century Africa. Other African dignitaries who have offered complimentary words include the president’s spouse, Grace Machel, author of the 1997 UN-commissioned study, "The Impact of War of Children"; President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; and Kofi Annan, UN General Secretary and recipient of the 1997 World Methodist Peace Award.
Mr. Mandela’s comments came in his address to the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches held in Zimbabwe, December 3–18, 1998. Praising the World Council of Churches for its overall contribution to bringing about the end of apartheid, President Mandela stressed the importance that education plays in the liberation of oppressed people. Recalling his own education as a child, he specifically praised the work of missionary school teachers, stating that his generation is the product of church education. Mr. Mandela emphasized that schools started by the church were a blessing as he came of age because the apartheid government took no interest in educating Africans, Indians, and persons of mixed race.
The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) continues to help advance education by sending missionaries and other development resources where it is not otherwise possible. For example, while China’s Three-Self Program does not include foreign missionaries as such, GBGM provides resources for the theological education of China’s next generation of leaders.
The aforementioned African dignitaries have cited Methodist-related institutions as part of their early education. The worldwide contributions of the Mandelas, Machels, and nameless others who have benefited from Methodist-related schools are the rewards of being part of the global church.
UNICEF’s 1999 annual report, "The State of the World’s Children," notes that one out of four children under the age of 12 living in the poorest nations currently do not attend school and predicts that illiteracy rates will escalate in the next century. You can help The United Methodist Church in its effort to turn this tide and help cultivate future world leaders through your gifts to The Bishops’ Appeal: Hope for the Children of Africa.
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