If you could invite anyone no longer living to an imaginary dinner party, who would you invite? Jesus, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Michael Jackson? One other name often features in answer to that question…

Over the holidays, two renowned world leaders died. Both were acclaimed in their own homelands, both sought to find peace and identities for their countries. Yet one man had international leaders attend his funeral and respects were paid from all corners of the globe. The other man’s funeral, most countries sent their deputy ministers. Why?

I am, of course, referring to the deaths of Nelson Mandela and Ariel Sharon.

Nelson Mandela is close to being a saint. He is seen as a gracious and forgiving man, whose determination to right the wrongs of apartheid in South Africa led him first to protest, then to jail and then, ultimately, to freedom and the presidency of South Africa. Mandela had a fierce sense of right and wrong, but a determination to put the past behind and build a new and safe South Africa.

And Ariel Sharon wanted the same. He fought for a secure Israel for all its citizens, without fear and threat from outside or inside, and Sharon made remarkable gestures in aiming for peace with surrounding countries. Israel is precariously positioned on the edge of the Middle East and Sharon knew what it would take to make the whole region safe and peaceful. But Sharon’s other tactic of fighting fire with fire was completely at odds with Mandela’s ‘truth and reconciliation’ approach.

Why is one man right and the other wrong? Each left a legacy ensuring his country’s survival and strength under the most difficult of circumstances. Should not each man be remembered with equal dignity?

Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, 1918 – 2013

Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, 1928 – 2014

Article written by Ben Egerton

Mandela and Sharon PRINT VERSION

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