Christian Leadership Should be Y2K Compatible

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Christian Leadership Should be Y2K Compatible

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In September 17, 1998, former President of South Africa and Nobel Prize winner, F. W. de Klerk, addressed the Indianapolis Economic Club. He spoke to his audience about what future leaders will have to cope with in the next millennium.

Mr. de Klerk's voice was powerful and booming; he was a man speaking with authority and passion about what he believed, yet he was most statesmanlike in showing deference and respect to his audience.

In 1989, five months after his election to President, F.W. de Klerk made an historic decision to release Nelson Mandela from prison on Robin Island off Capetown. This action ended 60 years of apartheid and control of the country by the minority white population. The world was poised for the worst—a civil war. Instead, a seemingly miraculous transition of power occurred that has made a nation with only a 14% white population live reasonably well with a complex mixture of black peoples. His vision and planning have helped shape the destiny of his nation.

F. W. de Klerk began his speech by talking about the unprecedented growth and change during the past century that eclipsed the progress of the previous 1900 years.

His message centered on four realities of which we must be aware as we enter the 21st century:

   1. Increased Globalization
   2. Continued Religious and Ethnic Conflict
   3. Inevitability of Fundamental Change
   4. Poverty and Underdevelopment


Whether we like it or not, we are all affected by global politics and economics. South Africa has increasingly become embroiled in problems that are not their own. De Klerk cited the conflict between the United States and Islamic Fundamentalism in the African embassy bombings and consequent retaliations in Kenya and Tanzania. When a Capetown restaurant was bombed, South Africa immediately became a target of retaliation.

Countries around the world are affected by what goes on in other places of the world, though regions may appear absolutely unrelated. For example, Africa, which has a most stable banking system, was affected by negative uncertainties related to President Clinton's personal scandal.

The reality, de Klerk continued, is not to ignore problems in remote parts of the world. He stated that we cannot write off poorer countries as economic basket cases, mentioning the volatility in the Asian markets and financial instability in Russia as examples. We need to be aware that while this world has fewer borders than ever before, it also has more dangers, and we need skilled leaders who can address these hurdles.

Continued Religious and Ethnic Conflict

Ultimately the source of most conflict is religious, ethnic, and cultural. We have to work with the ideal that there is room and space for all of us on this earth, and we need to be tolerant of one another.

An important lesson of negotiation is management of change. This takes big-minded leadership. We have to reach fundamental agreements even when there are strong conflicting agendas. Negotiation cannot be done with the aim of becoming the victor and crushing an opponent. That won't bring lasting peace. Having countries who are the "Big Boys" decide the future of the world won't work either. The process must include smaller nations as role players. What is best for others cannot be decided by one individual. Those who have the needs must determine what is needed.

Personality also plays an important role in understanding needs. F.W. de Klerk spoke about how he and Nelson Mandela had extremely strong disagreements and deadlocks but worked through them.

Negotiation involves risk and sometimes leaps of faith. These leaps of faith involve compromise and a commitment to discovering win-win solutions. Involved parties may have to make painful departures from their original negotiating positions. Success comes when the reasonable interests of all parties are addressed

Inevitability of Fundamental Change

Nothing endures but change. The revolution that we're going through in the world today can be likened to the vast transformation brought about by the Industrial Revolution. We need leaders to manage and lead that change. These leaders must overcome natural resistance to change as well as a tendency to cling to what they are accustomed. Leaders should be quick to ask what's wrong and be ready to lead a process of change. Old dreams may fail to bring justice.

De Klerk pointed out that leaders must:

    * Face the facts
    * Present a new vision to constituents, by stating the vision in such a way that it expresses the NEED to change and a WAY in which change can be achieved.
    * Provide inspiration, strategy and an action plan

De Klerk spoke of his vision to bring unity--one citizenship--one man/one vote to Africa and to eliminate apartheid. There was the choice to bring about this vision gradually or as a quantum leap. The quantum leap approach was chosen, and it turned things around 180 degrees. It was feared that if the gradual route had been taken, the world would perceive this as changing only under pressure. At first de Klerk felt that those outside of Africa would feel as though bluffing had occurred, but credibility was built when words were turned into deeds.

The plan involved the following:

    * Release of Nelson Mandela
    * Decision of how the change was going to take place
    * Leveling of the playing field
    * Involvement of a widespread group of leaders who were involved in the process
    * Forging a vision and action plan

De Klerk said that the changes in South Africa were not a miracle. They came as a result of careful planning, hard work, and vision. This change brought justice to all and became the basis for constitutional and economic development as agreement came to a policy framework.

For his work, de Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Nelson Mandela in 1993; later the same year, the two shared the honor as Time magazine's "Man of the Year" alongside Yassar Arafat and Yitzak Rabin.

Poverty and Underdevelopment

A developing country must provide for poorer countries. Markets must be opened to developing countries, and a way must be found to protect the poorer countries so that they won't be preyed upon. These are the big challenges to the global community of the 21st century.

Closing Thoughts

I will never forget what I saw and heard that day at the Indianapolis Economic Club. After his speech, I spoke briefly with F.W. de Klerk, expressing my deep appreciation for his remarks about all that he had done and his boldness in articulating his thoughts.

As we move into the Year 2000, it is important to remember the prophesied transition from this world's kingdoms to the Kingdom of our God. It will be a world that resounds the ideals of F.W. de Klerk's vision. This vision, however, will not be of man's doing but in spite of his doings.