Muniini K. Mulera
Rest in peace Mandela, Njuba and Semajege
Posted Monday, December 16 2013 at 02:00
Nelson Mandela was buried yesterday. His body gone from us forever, his beautiful smile a memory frozen in silent photos and video recordings. Yet his moral power is as alive in his death as it was in his long walk on Earth.
Last week’s celebration of his life in Johannesburg was not only a fitting tribute to a man who gave everything for our freedom and dignity, but an occasion for challenging many of Africa’s autocrats and dictators who were the very rulers that Mandela had spent nearly 70 years fighting.
Whether or not any of them paid attention to Barack Obama’s speech on the subject is unknown, though it is a fair bet that they were snoozing as the American president described their hypocrisy with exquisite eloquence.
Before week’s end, Sam Kalega Njuba, the Chairman of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), followed suit, dead too young at 72. He was still enjoying his life, with a lot to look forward to, including his abiding hope for a democratic and just Uganda
Much loved by his family and by many of us who were privileged to know him, Njuba was one of those leaders whose mettle was easy to underestimate. A classic gentleman, he held FDC together during moments of crisis because he easily commanded respect from competing groups in the party. On the very day that Njuba died, Dr Hijiro Semajege, an economist, former legislator and deputy speaker of Buganda Lukiiko, succumbed to cancer. A highly respected elder in the Ugandan Banyarwanda community, Dr Semajege set an excellent example of the reinforcing power multiple identities. He was a Ugandan Munyarwanda, loyal to Buganda and Uganda, schooled in European economic theory and practice and an internationalist. The deaths of these men and others whose stories did not make the headlines remind us that life is indeed vain. You live for 50 or 100 years. Then – phew! –you are gone like the wind, as though you never lived.
It is a reality that should compel us to confront the fact of our death that awaits us. Is this short life worth living if we are going to toil and perish forever? Are we to embrace the words of King Solomon where, in Ecclesiastes, he declares everything, including life itself, so meaningless that it is perhaps not worth living? Is the last breath of our mortal body the end?
The Bible tells us that the answer to these questions is a clear “no.” Eternal life has been given to those who choose salvation and glory through Jesus Christ.
It is a gift that comes through faithful surrender of our lives to the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ, not through our good lives and deeds on Earth.
A great man like Mandela, whose life and works have changed human history for the better, is not guaranteed eternal life in glory except through humble acceptance of the salvation that Christ freely gave us. One prays that Mandela, Njuba and Semajege accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour while they lived. It is humbling to recognise that Mandela, whom we loved and revered in this life, does not have an advantage over fellow sinners once they have entered into death.
We who are privileged to be still alive have an opportunity to live every moment as though it was the last, serving the Lord, serving man with devotion and integrity, seeking spiritual renewal and sanctification, always ready to leave this world of the dying and enter the world of the living.
Perhaps you think that you just read a typing error. It is not, Tingasiga. We who still walk the Earth are the dying, not the living. We have been dying since we were born of woman. The scientists talk about the process of apoptosis or cell death, with 50 – 70 billion of them dying in each person every single day.
Every time I retire for the night, there is no guarantee that I will arise the next morning. Yes I sleep and dream. I toss and turn. Yet there is no certainty that I will wake up.
However, when I enter my dreamless, motionless sleep of death, I will be certain of one thing – I will arise on that great morning after death, alive in the company of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and all the saints who are already in their glory.
This certainty is not one that we can take for granted. Our Christian journey is continuous and requires work. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. He tells us in Philippians 2: 12 to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
In her beautiful song, Judith Babirye prays to the Lord: Mukama nsaba onkuume ndeme kuduka mu maaso ngo nze (Lord I pray that you keep me close to you so that I will not flee when I meet you face to face.) Our hope and faith is in the Lord’s grace, not our works or acts of goodness, however desirable these may be. And so we face death with confidence, even when we love and enjoy the gift of life on Earth.