The miraculous events in South Africa made hope possible for me again. I was there for the transformation—the inauguration of a new South Africa—and will never be the same. Never again can I say that hope is not a concrete reality. Never again can I say that anything is impossible.
The people of South Africa have opened the way for the rest of us to believe.
Having been through the hard times with the South African people, I wanted now to be there for the celebration. Still bleary-eyed after a 14-hour flight to Johannesburg, I arrived at the famous FNB stadium in Soweto for what was billed as a "National Service of Thanksgiving" just two days before Nelson Mandela's inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Brigalia Bam of the South African Council of Churches welcomed the joyous crowd on this sun-drenched afternoon by describing the recent events in her country as a "miracle." I would hear that word over and over again in the extraordinary days that followed.
The FNB stadium has been the site of recent memorial services for murdered African National Congress leader Chris Hani and the ANC's revered former president, Oliver Tambo, as well as countless other funerals over the years. At Hani's funeral, a speaker lamented, "We have become accustomed to coming here to share our grief. May this be the last time we come to express only our sorrow. When will we come to share our joy?"
This was that day. The black township pastor sitting next to me called it a day of "celebration and release." New hope was now bursting forth all around the stadium under the bright blue South African sky.
THE ENORMOUS contrast between the old South Africa and the new nation I was watching be born was almost overwhelming. I was here previously for almost six weeks during 1988. All of the freedom movement's political leaders and organizations had been imprisoned, exiled, banned, silenced, or killed.