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Modise Phekouyane, Robben Island Peace Activist

Modise Phekouyane used to be a hateful inmate of Robben Island who called Nelson Mandela a traitor. Today, he embodies forgiveness and reconciliation so that neither he, nor his former oppressors, will remain victims of apartheid.

Modise Phekouyane spent 5 years imprisoned with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, South Africa, in the 1990's. His crime was fighting for racial equality as a young, idealistic student. Today, Modise still spends most days on Robben Island, but for a much nobler cause - to share his powerful message for forgiveness and racial reconciliation.

As a former inmate of the Robben Island prison, his testimony makes him a particularly passionate guide for thousands of visitors each year. I had the privilege of interviewing Modise as a journalist for a peace conference in Cape Town.

This man, who called Nelson Mandela a traitor for promoting forgiveness and collaboration with white South Africans, now embodies his own powerful message for peace. If he can forgive his former oppressors who tortured him and killed others, how much more can we embody forgiveness ourselves?

Photo: A visitor experiences the feeling of behind bars in Nelson Mandela's cell, Robben Island. © Carole St. Laurent 2015


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