Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela and the dilemma of violent resistance in retrospect

John W De Gruchy


Nelson Mandela and Dietrich Bonhoeffer have become twentieth century icons of resistance against illegitimate regimes and oppression. Both of them were committed makers of peace who were forced by circumstances to engage in violent resistance, the one in an armed struggle and the other in a plot to assassinate a dictator. This recourse to violent means in extraordinary circumstances was driven by moral and strategic considerations that followed a similar logic, even though their contexts were different in important respects. In this essay, we explore these similarities and differences, as well as their reasons for engaging in violent action, and offer certain propositions based on their narrative for responding to political oppression and the call for regime change today.


Nelson Mandela; Dietrich Bonhoeffer; violent resistance; armed struggle; Church struggle

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Pieter de Waal Neethling Trust, Stellenbosch

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2413-9467 (online); ISSN 2413-9459 (print)

© 2017 Pieter de Waal Neethling Trust, Stellenbosch.

No registration, article submission or processing fees apply.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 


Powered by OJS.