Nelson Mandela was an angry young man who resorted to violence in the face of apartheid; however, after twenty-seven years in prison he understood the need to forgive and to work together with past "enemies" for the good of his nation and for mankind in general. There is a lesson to be learned by groups such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Real IRA, President Mugabe, North Korea, Iran and the Western Super-Powers.
For Mandela, it was never really a case of 'forgive and forget', but more a case of how can I work with the people who oppose what I am fighting for to benefit mankind? Anyone who has met Mandela will explain that he had the ability to make so-called enemies understand each other's points of view. When he was released from prison he could have continued with a combative attitude against apartheid, but instead he chose a mode of peace and negotiating for the good of his country, colour and for those who had suffered inequality for so long. Unlike terrorist groups and rogue nations Mandela understood the importance of negotiating and trying to understand the other party's point of view.
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban could learn so much from this attitude; violence against non-Muslims or non-believers (i.e. the Western world) has never been cited in the Qur'an. The Qur'an actually cites that Muslims and people of Islam should be tolerant to non-believers; therefore I encourage anyone who believes in Al-Qaeda to explain their actions. Furthermore there is the oppression of women in Islam, which is fundamentally wrong. Mandela would argue that a person should have an equal say in their country regardless of sex, gender, colour, religion or any other trait; therefore why should Muslim women be encouraged to wear the Hijab or Burqa/Burka and not have equal rights in countries such as Afghanistan?
The Western world has its own problems such as the Real IRA, who cannot lay down their weapons for the sake of peace. One argument is about religion between Catholics and Protestants, which is basically a joke; they both read the same bible and one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt not kill", here again I ask anyone who supports the violence in Northern Ireland to explain why one can go against the words in the bible.
If Mandela's life meant anything to this world it will be to support freedom, equality and reconciliation. Mandela was able to do this and brought a nation together and this is a testimony to one man who understood that violence was not the answer but was the cause of inequality and discrimination. There are so many lessons that could be learned from the great man such as why Mugabe feels that it is appropriate to make white Zimbabweans segregated in their own country, while he single-handedly destroys a once prospering economy and culture that had very few racial issues.
Mandela is now at peace, but his voice must continue to be heard. We (the world) cannot continue fighting over our disagreements; we need to understand reconciliation and try and appreciate everyone's point of view. However, above all, we need to promote freedom and equality for all. Those who oppress freedom and equality must explain why they are doing so and must understand that this is completely wrong. It is not just Al-Qaeda and North Korea, but also any individual who uses religion or difference between people to promote an agenda of inequality such as Quakers, the BNP and also individuals who segregate on the basis of disability, mental health issues, gender or sexual orientation.