Alexei Navalny

Searching for a similar feeling of sorrow and outrage in my memory, when I heard of the killing of Alexei Navalny, I had to go back to the death of John F Kennedy in 1963, sixty years ago. I felt utterly helpless and sad at the way the lives of great leaders can be suddenly ended.

Navalny has been called Russia’s Mandela. He embodied a hope for a better future and he had the courage, like Mandela, to voice his condemnation of the regime his people lived under. And also, most importantly, like Mandela, he never lost his sense of humour. To be able to laugh at the end of the day is a sign that you are bigger than the situation you find yourself in – and ultimately that situation has a time limit.

We trust great leaders who have proved their worth. They give us hope. And we feel abandoned, orphaned when their lives are suddenly cut short. It was not unreasonable to expect that Navalny, like Mandela, would emerge unscathed from his years in prison to become the leader of Russia who would enable the country’s rich heritage to blossom into something beautiful that would help transform Europe and – since it is the largest country of all – even the whole world.

So it is with deep sadness that we hear that he was not to be another Mandela.

Yet we cannot leave it like that. There is a promise hidden even in this bleak news. I do not believe we have heard the last of Navalny. He has already had a profound effect on Russia. Russians have suffered much in the past 100 years and even long before that. Navalny inspired them and among his last words was a message to keep up the struggle.    

And, if we are Christians, there is something hidden from our eyes. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. It was the city of his great trial and death. It was also the city of his resurrection. His death was public for all to see. His resurrection was hidden from all but a few. Yet it was his rising that was the good news. That spread everywhere and, in time, transformed countless individuals, communities and countries. There will be no ticker-tape triumph for Navalvy in the streets of New York, Paris and London as there was for Mandela. But his sacrifice will have an effect, perhaps a profound effect, on his country in the years to come.  

Post published in: Faith

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