I have hesitated a long while before writing to you because I know how many hundreds of messages you must be receiving at this time, and I don't wish to add to your labours. However, just because over the past four years we have met and spoken together on many occasions, and because, through your kindness, I will be present at your inauguration as President today, I want to share with the people of Great Britain and South Africa my own interpretation of the miraculous event now taking place.

I say 'miraculous' and I mean it. A miracle, at least in my understanding of religion, is not a fairy story, but a reality. The reality is based on the recognition that if this is God's world, He alone as its Creator controls and affirms events good and bad within history. Four years ago, when you came out of prison, no one could have imagined events moving so quickly, nor could anyone have recognised then that responsibility for the future of South Africa would lie in your hands. This is in no way to underestimate the initiative taken by President de Klerk and your own trust in him as 'a man of integrity'. Nevertheless, as President de Klerk has said, it is on your shoulders that the full weight of that 'awesome responsibility' now rests.

In recent speeches you have frequently emphasised how much, in the darkest years of the liberation struggle, South Africa owed to the sacrificial leadership of Oliver Tambo, your predecessor as president of the African National Congress. He was my oldest friend; it was through Oliver that I came to know you. From the moment we met in 1955, struggling together to prevent the razing of Sophiatown, I knew you as a man of anger, anger at the iniquity of apartheid and at the seeming impossibility of creating an effective law firm under such unjust legislation.

You have declared unequivocally that reconciliation is the only way forward for all parties and communities, regardless of colour, race or creed, if the peace of Southern Africa is to be a reality. If, that is, the path of violence is a totally unacceptable alternative. In speech after speech you have emphasised this choice. You have never said that to forgive the past and all the destructive horror of apartheid over these decades is the same thing as to forget it. This is fundamental to the future. We must never allow the international community and its agencies - particularly the United Nations - to avoid their continuing and absolute responsibility for peace in Southern Africa. Our world is interdependent. The technology of instant communication brings this home to us every day. It is no longer possible for evil in one part of our world not to affect all of us who live in it.

So, dear President, you represent Hope. Hope is not optimism, but something far greater. It is Hope which enables us to go forward believing that every human being, as the Freedom Charter declares, has an infinite and unchanging dignity. You are the living symbol of this truth. It is the greatest privilege of my life to be allowed to be with you on the day of your inauguration. God bless you.

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