We are each reacting in our own way to the passing of Queen Elizabeth. For me, a South African, black woman and proud citizen of the South, the monarchy she represented evokes mixed emotions. However, I mourn Queen Elizabeth for what she was to the world: a person of exceptional moral worth. An indisputable leader. And an example for those who will come after her.
In breach of royal protocol, the late Queen and my late grandfather Nelson Mandela were friends. I know this not just because that’s how their relationship was so often reported – but because my grandfather would describe it to me as such.
The Queen first visited Africa in 1947. She was in Kenya when her father, the reigning monarch, died. During her reign, she visited more than 20 African countries, once joking with Mandela that she had been to Africa more than “almost anyone”.
But South Africans have a soft spot for the late Queen because she refused to travel to South Africa during apartheid, with some even believing the tension between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher was partly due to inaction flagrant of the Prime Minister.
As soon as apartheid collapsed, she was quick to congratulate my grandfather and all South Africans, ahead of many other world leaders. The understandable restrictions of her role prevented her from holding public political office, but her actions thereafter reveal the kind of person she has always been.
And that is the legacy she leaves to the world. A monarch who has remained true to a set of fundamental principles, a commitment to duty, family, country, tradition and God. Over time, his diligence, propriety and inner dignity won over countless millions.
At a time when there seemed to be few safe ports, she stood out. That she did it without political power may seem disconcerting until you understand that political power also depends on people’s whims and ways to give us the constancy we crave.
This could explain why trust in politicians is at rock bottom and why we live in an increasingly divided and turbulent world. It also suggests why we need to seek out more leaders like Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela – people whose character is their commitment, whose principles are their politics, and whose virtues and values do not waver at the first sign of turbulence.
In this regard, King Charles III has big shoes to fill.
With a pandemic behind us, but an economic recession, a fractured global political landscape, and a global climate emergency we face, such moral leadership is needed now more than ever. Yes, political leaders deal with the material reality of daily life, but it is moral leadership that reaches people’s hearts and minds and upholds the deepest values of societies.
King Charles can carry on his mother’s legacy through the religious traditions that still guide the monarchy. King Charles’ oath to the Church of England and his role as defender of the faith and protector of religions allow him to engage the world’s most influential religious leaders and institutions, who wield enormous social and moral authority. in the world.
Like Tutu, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., today’s moral leaders must seek out like-minded partners and coalitions and courageously push for change. Consider the Pope, an advocate for climate progress who uses his platform to urge people to rethink their relationship with the rest of the world. And the Aga Khan, who worked tirelessly to build bridges with other religious communities.
Given his affection for Islam, King Charles has a historic opportunity to bridge the growing divides between East and West, partnering with other moral leaders who can get things done on the most great problems of our time.
At the heart of these challenges is the division that afflicts the world today. After the end of apartheid, my grandfather would have liked a much better future. Yet competing interests and socio-political fractures test the resilience of nation states and, in some cases, result in outright conflict. In an increasingly interconnected world, the ripple effects affect us all and hamper the ability of the international community to unite against the common threats we all face.
To address such challenges, there are many initiatives and causes the new king could lend his support to. The world’s largest Islamic non-governmental organization, the Muslim World League, for example, has made building closer ties between religious traditions a priority. Its secretary general, Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Issa, is the highest Islamic religious official to have visited Auschwitz.
And while the King may remain silent publicly, his audience with church leaders and faith groups in the UK – like the Bishop of Norwich and groups like Christian Aid – calling on the government to tackle climate change would perpetuate his legacy of environmental stewardship.
As the planet faces enormous challenges and the remarkable decline in trust in politics, political parties and even democratic processes, the new King Charles must become the moral leader the world needs. The polarization we see today can only be lessened by the strength and impact of moral leaders who inspire us to aspire to greater heights – leaders like Queen Elizabeth, Mandela, Tutu and now. . . King Charles III.
Ndileka Mandela is a writer, social activist and head of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation.
New York Post