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.”

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  1. Dave says:

    Nelson Mandela stood his ground and never backed down. He turned a dictititorial racial state into a democratic republic. Mandela and rev. Graham stood up to evil for good.

  2. Dennis Schmelzenbach says:

    Thank you for posting this great article. As a missionary assigned to Durban in 1972, I served on the Ministerial Committee preparing for Dr Graham’s Crusade there. Thank you for the memories and being such a pillar of strength on moral issues. We worked with hundreds that found the Lord as Saviour in that Crusade. Thank you for the great words of our Hero, Nelson Madela.

  3. Rev'd E.O. Adebowale says:

    Adieu Great Mandela.You’ve laid a pace for us to follow.You’ll be remembered forever for the legacy you left behind,in fact everyone respect your spirit of love and contentment.You mount the throne of leadership after spending 27 years in prison yet you did not intend to die there like the habit of many people.You are so different from millions of leaders.RIP

  4. julius says:

    he was a humble man,he sacrificed his life for the sake of his people.Rest in peace Cde Mandela.

  5. Bill Hong says:

    Great people of great age.Those who put others in heart are sur to be respected and loved by others. All men are created equal, regardless of their races and nationalities.

  6. Kathy Herne says:

    Even though they never met in person, the similarities between Nelson Mandela and Billy Graham are amazing and ironic!. I’d never reflected on that fact until today.. Both men, brave forces for good in this world, inspiring millions. Nelson Mandela leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten. God speed, he is now at Rest, in Peace, and while saddened by his death, I’m truely glad he is no longer hovering near death after being so very ill for so long. I celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela; the world was fortunate to have him. May he Rest in Peace. God Bless Billy Graham and BGEA!

  7. Wally Unger says:

    In the dictionary beside the word forgiveness should be a picture of Nelson Mandela…27 years he is in prison for no other reason than standing up for freedom and equal justice for all, and he emerges with not a negative word or any thoughts of revenge, but pure forgiveness…He will go down in history as an example to us all, as will Billy Graham.

  8. chris says:

    great men are known by there work,their memories live on,rip madiba

  9. Jesse Ricks says:

    Thank God for the good people he put here on earth. They all are not famous, but heros just the same.

  10. Lawrence Carlson Nyemah says:

    Our hero may be gone but his memory and his unwavering desires to serve his people will go a long way. President Mandala your unwavering desire to speak for those who are voiceless, your fearlessness to stand for what is right will remain with us African for a very long time. You was a challenge to the oppressor. For those of us who had the opportunity to see you On Television walking out of jail , You did not hide your feelings that we all must live together for peace you tough the world a unforgettable lesson you was the type of leader we all wanted to listen because you broke the nick and the spirit of the apartheid without a revenged . Even today’s date if some of us did not like the decisions you made we still respect and love you dear father. you once said to us that the idea of freedom which you cherish and hope to live and see but if need maybe you will die for . The world will continue to respect you and listen to you not because of what you said but because of how you live what you said. You did not only speak about just treatment of others, you treated others justly. Your death has marked an end to a life but not an end to the values you stood for. , our hearts are broken with your departure from this world. You fought for the growth of world’s peace and freedom and fore more, you fought for the people of South Africa especially the poor and the voiceless under the freedom eaters . Time have physically removed you but your dream will live on. We will dry our tears and start from where you stopped. We love you but God loves best. May your soul rest in perfect peace.