An Elder has died. With Nelson Mandela’s death, “the world has lost a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass … an inspiration to us all,” said Kofi Annan in a message last week.
Nelson Mandela was the founder of a network of world leaders, called the Elders. The Elders are former holders of public office, former heads of state, activists, visionaries. They are independent, and their mission is to build peace. Mandela, as founder, was an Honorary Elder in this organization, but he was also an Elder to all of us. The global public’s strong emotional reaction to Mandela’s death indicates how deeply rooted the role of an Elder is even in today’s society, which seems to have gone a long way since the days of tribal culture, in which elders were formally acknowledged as leaders and advisors.