NEW GLASGOW – The world is in mourning after the death of Nelson Mandela on Thursday.
Pictured are Nelson Mandela and Rev. Dr. Peter Paris, right, during Paris’s visit to South Africa after Mandela’s release from prison. SUBMITTED
Henderson Paris, New Glasgow deputy mayor and activist for equality, is among the grieving.
“We lost a great human being…. What I’m feeling is a strong sense of emptiness.”
Mandela, former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist, died at 95 in his home in Johannesburg after a lengthy battle with a lung infection.
Paris has spearheaded many initiatives aimed towards eliminating racism and discrimination, including the Run Against Racism and the Action Plan to Address Racism and Discrimination.
He, along with many, found inspiration in Mandela. His many accomplishments are practically endless and the impact he leaves immeasurable.
Mayor Barrie MacMillan issued a statement Friday on behalf of council and New Glasgow residents.
Among his comments, he said, “His death will be marked in history as a time people will always remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard this sad news. His great legacy and his works will live on forever.”
Mandela has been called the “son and father of South Africa.” Paris says he was also the brother to everyone around the world.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison after being convicted of trying to overthrow the government, 18 of which were spent in Robben Island prison.
Paris finds it unbelievable that he could survive living in a tiny cell, enduring everything from sickness to brutality, and still come out ready to continue his fight for equality.
“How can one individual do that?”
After hearing of his passing, Paris pulled out a photo of his brother, Peter, and Mandela.
Rev. Dr. Peter Paris visited Mandela shortly after his release from prison in 1990 as part of a clergy invitation from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“What a wonderful opportunity he had.”
After seeing the photo and hearing of Peter’s experiences, Henderson said he’s been in awe of Mandela.
Henderson said Peter felt honoured simply to walk the same ground as Mandela.
Peter hung onto Mandela’s every word, watching him walk with grace and dignity.
Peter has been published numerous times on race, social justice and religion.
He lives in Boston, serving as the Visiting Walter G. Muelder Professor of Social Ethics at the Boston University School of Theology. He has taught at many university divinity schools including Princeton Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and Harvard University Divinity School.
He grew up in New Glasgow and earned his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Divinity at Acadia University.
He also went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D degrees from the University of Chicago.
Part of Henderson’s interest in Mandela lays in their mutual love of sports.
Mandela was an integral part of bringing the Rugby World Cup to South Africa in 1995.
“He used that as a drawing card – to draw people together,” Paris says, adding that it was victorious in both a win as well as joining people of the country in unity.
Paris, an avid runner, says there’s nothing greater that brings people together than sports, citing the Olympics as an example.
He says this generation will likely never have the opportunity to follow someone as influential as Mandela.
“South Africa has lost its most shining star.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda