Outside pressure helped spur release

In the late ’80s when the apartheid issue was being debated in England, my sister lived in London. She was asked by Amnesty International if she would go to South Africa on their behalf and investigate the various human rights violations that were occurring there. Nelson Mandela was still in prison and was at that time a somewhat controversial figure.

The week before she was scheduled to go she received a letter making several references to Teilhard De Chardin and his book “The Phenomenon of Man” and the importance of having this book on her journey. Her colleagues decided that this must be signal of some sort and she brought the book with her to South Africa. She arrived at the airport in South Africa and sat in the lobby where she held out the book and began to read it —waiting for something to happen. She waited for more than an hour when two women approached her and said, “I see you like Teilhard de Chardin”. She said, “Yes I do,” Then they said “Are you Elizabeth Crehan?” My sister said “yes.” They said, “Come with us — we have been expecting you.”

She stayed in South Africa for three months the going all over South Africa, from one safe house to the next investigating sites of human rights violations-mostly perpetrated by the majority apartheid group, but also some by the anti-apartheid group.

After three months she returned to London and reported her findings to Amnesty international. Amnesty international redoubled its efforts in support of the Free Mandela movement. International pressure increased on the government of South Africa to do something drastic and in 1990 they did. They released Nelson Mandela from prison.

Michael Crehan


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