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benjamin-tour-guide-at-robbins.jpgIn July 2005 I had the great honor of going to Cape Town, South Africa to give talks, lecture, and preach.  On a national holiday called “Women’s Day” (analgous to our Mother’s Day), our team took a ferry to Robben Island.  This island among other things housed lepers, a school, and it housed prison inmates.  This is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.  In fact, I stood in his cell. In this prison system, guards separated prisoners like Mandela (called a political prisoner) from other ‘common’ inmates.  It was feared that inmates like Mandela could influence other less informed inmates with ideas.  And because ‘ideas’ are powerful, this might lead to an insurrection.  (This notion of an idea being powerful is portrayed powerfully in the movie, V for Vendetta.)

Pictured is Benjamin, our tour guide and a professed atheist (of which I am not surprised).  He described how inhumane the conditions were for prisoners.  Men released themselves in a bucket (number 1 and 2).  Men slept on a concrete floor in chilly weather with thin covering.  Men were electrocuted as a form of discipline.  Benjamin knew so much about the conditions because he was once an inmate on Robben Island.  I was chopping at the bits to ask Benjamin a question.  I raised my hand and asked him, “How could you work for such a place like this after being treated so inhumanely?”  After a short pause he answered in a calm voice, “I needed a job.”  Wow – a blank stare (from me)!  The reality of the urgent is the reason why we should ‘never say never.’  Never say what you will never do because life might have you eat those words!

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