South African President Nelson Mandela was remembered as a freedom fighter and a forgiving man at a memorial service in Kansas City Monday night.
A local children’s choir sang the South African National Anthem at the event at the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral as people offered prayers for the world leader who died this month at the age of 95.
Ester Holzendorf of Grandview, Mo., came to the service at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with her daughter.
“I’m here tonight in the quietness of the spirit of God because I want more to fully understand: how do we continue this vision of this great man, this vision of peace and harmony and togetherness and justice for all,” she said.
South African expatriates and faith leaders read from Mandela’s work and candles were lit to symbolize the light of freedom and hope for South Africa.
Surendra Bhana, a University of Kansas professor emeritus, grew up in Johannesburg and supported the anti-apartheid movement. He told the crowd that he wondered how Mandela would emerge after 27 years in prison – but he was not disappointed.
“In the world of the powerful and the powerless, among decision makers and the marginalized, among children and adults, he was at ease and at home,” Bhana said. “And he made each of us feel less disempowered and more captains of our lives.”