By Denise Dick
Youngstown Christian School’s academic dean urged students to follow the example set by the late South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and F.W. de Klerk, that country’s last white president.
“Each one of you has the ability to live in truth and reconciliation,” Joshua Reichard told students at an assembly Friday.
Reichard earned his doctorate at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, where Archbishop Tutu served as chancellor.
“Race is real, and it matters,” he said. “It makes us who we are.”
The Youngstown school’s student body is about 50 percent black with about 12 percent Hispanic students and the remainder white.
“This is not a black school,” Reichard said. “It’s not a white school. It’s God’s school.”
The University of the Western Cape originally was a university for “colored” or mixed-race students. As an act of defiance against apartheid, the system of rule that denied rights and citizenship to blacks, the school admitted both black and white students in the 1970s, Reichard said.
Mandela, who died Thursday, spent 27 years in prison, accused of terrorism. Upon his release from prison by de Klerk in 1990, Mandela worked to end apartheid.
Reichard sees de Klerk’s move to release Mandela as courageous. It marked the end of 300 years of white rule in that country where blacks make up about 80 percent of the population.
Upon his election to president in 1994, Mandela named de Klerk vice president. That also was an act of courage. It would have been easy to repay violence with violence.
Archbishop Tutu, who organized peaceful protests against apartheid, also influenced Mandela, Reichard told students.
“Desmond Tutu preached the Gospel to Nelson Mandela,” Reichard said.
He changed during the 27 years he was in prison, and Archbishop Tutu was part of that, he said.
“Youngstown Christian School is holy ground on which the wounds of racism have room to be healed,” Reichard said.