Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela United by Apartheid Opposition

By   •   March 17, 2017

Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison due to anti-apartheid activities, passed away on Dec. 5 at age 95.

*This story was originally published on Dec. 6, 2013—the day following Nelson Mandela’s death.

Editor’s Note: On this date in 1973, Billy Graham called for an end to apartheid at the first series of integrated meetings in South Africa. This posture toward racial reconciliation was consistent with Mr. Graham’s ministry, as two decades prior—in segregated Chattanooga, Tenn.—he personally removed the ropes of segregation before he would preach.

Today’s anniversary is a reminder of the importance of Billy Graham’s statement that “Christianity is not a white man’s religion … Christ belongs to all people.”

Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela never met but the two have been connected in many ways over the years.

Both were born in 1918. Both have appeared countless times together on the USA Today/Gallup’s list of “Most Admired.”

And the two corresponded with each other through letters during Mandela’s 27-year prison sentence. billy graham south africa

But it’s the shared passion to end apartheid that universally united these two.

Mr. Graham held Crusades in both Durban and Johannesburg in 1973, some 20 years after receiving initial invites to preach in South Africa. He wouldn’t accept an invitation unless the Crusade meetings were racially integrated. Two decades before that, he personally removed segregated ropes at a Chattanooga, Tenn., Crusade.

“My wife and I have prayed for the country of South Africa since 1951, when I was first asked to hold meetings there,” Mr. Graham said in a 1994 statement on the election of Mandela as President of South Africa. “We refused to accept that invitation until 1973, when we were able to hold fully-integrated crusades in the cities of Johannesburg and in Durban.”

newspaper Overflow crowds of more than 100,000 people came out to see Mr. Graham preach in Durban and Johannesburg in the country’s first integrated public meetings.

“Christianity is not a white man’s religion,” Mr. Graham preached during the rallies, “and don’t let anybody ever tell you that it’s white or black. Christ belongs to all people.”

The front page of the March 18, 1973 issue of The Sunday Tribune declared in a large, bold font: “Billy Graham: Apartheid Doomed”

“It was at those meetings that I was struck with the terrible injustice of the apartheid system, which I referred to as ‘sin,’ “ Mr. Graham said.

Decades later, Mr. Graham was one of Mandela’s supporters when he took office in ‘94. Mandela died at age 95 on Dec. 5 after a long illness.

“The amazing events surrounding the election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of South Africa are a testimony to us all of this great man’s resiliency in the face of 27 years of imprisonment,” Mr. Graham continued in his statement. “His faith in his country; his ability to command the respect of the people of all races in that country.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published but you will receive our next BGEA ministry update. You can opt out of future emails at any time.


  1. Peter Veysie says:

    My wife and I were both brought to the Durban 1973 rally and gave our lives to the Lord at age 9 (Debbie) and 10 (myself). We met much later and are married and in full time ministry for more than 30 years. My wife is also one of the oldest surviving renal transplant patients in the world and we would love to share our story with the world to bring honor and glory to Jesus. Thank you so much for your faithfulness to the Gospel.

  2. Yvette Hills says:

    I remember the mighty crusade, when you come to South Africa to Durban. I was very young 11 years old. Thank you for standing for all people to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Happy Birthday God bless you

  3. Dr Iretiola Babaniyi says:

    Evangelist Billy Graham though old in body but still sharp in brain. I am looking forward to the September event. I also have hope for America and Nigeria.

  4. Rev.Dominggus Laturiuw says:

    We thank you for the short msg that encourage me to serve Jesus. JESUS BLESS YOU N FAM ALSO BGEA, amen

  5. Binega Robert says:

    Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ.
    My life is constantly humbled the messages of the Cross preached by Evang. Billy Graham. I am seeking blessing and confirmation over my 1.75 years old baby boy whom we named Billy Graham to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Prayers to God for the family of Late. His Excellency Nelson Mandela.

  6. rachel Littlewood says:

    I heard that Mandela became a committed Christian though listening to Billy graham’s message on his radio while Mandela was in prison.

  7. stephen john says:

    Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela United by Apartheid Opposition
    By Trevor Freeze • December 6, 2013
    Again, fine preaching by Mr Graham, we are all God’s children, Jesus loves all! Thank you sweet Jesus for breaking down all barriers that come between mankind, and helping all to find your father’s kingdom in heaven. I kneel down in my heart and pray that black and white will unite hand in hand with Jesus. God bless.