Nelson Mandela Day: tribute to the international hero

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 18 July, birthday of Nelson Mandela, was proclaimed “Nelson Mandela International Day" by the General Assembly of the United Nations, in November 2009. It is celebrated each year to commemorate the contribution of Nelson Mandela to the promotion of a culture of peace and aims at inspiring and stimulating individuals to take initiative and act for a better world, a world of justice and freedom.

Today, 18 July 2013, is the 95th birthday of Nelson Mandela. This anniversary comes at a time when the international hero has been hospitalised since early last June, and relatives, South Africans and all his admirers around the world are afraid that he perhaps is leading his last fight.

On this day of reflection and action we should pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and think, in perspective, to the preservation of the great legacy that he will leave to mankind, through its spirit of ubuntu.

In a statement at the funeral of Joe Slovo1 in 1995, Nelson Mandela said that men and women of quality are rare and difficult to cross: "And when they go, the sense of loss is even deeper and more difficult to manage”. This will be the case for this great man who embodies a universal morality, the day when he will leave us.

Indeed, Nelson Mandela, the father of a democratic and multiracial South Africa, the so-called 'rainbow nation', is in the eyes of the entire world one of the greatest fighters for freedom and human dignity that history has ever known. A fighter for a free, just and fair society who often considered, with determination, his own death as a price to pay, if need were, to achieve this ideal. In the so-called Rivonia trial, on 20 April 1964, he stated: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. With the end of apartheid and the beginning of democracy in his country, Mandela will have lived long enough to see his ideal being realised, in a South African society which has not experienced the implosion and the civil war foreseen by the pessimists and the fanatics.

"I would like people to say: "Here lies a man who did his duty on Earth”, he said once to a reporter. And in 1996: "Death is inevitable. When a man has accomplished what he sees as his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I think I did this effort and this is why so I can rest for eternity". Grand Knight, when the day will come, he will leave with the pride of accomplishment, of someone who has accomplished more than his duty on Earth. Generously, Mandela dedicated his life to the liberation of his people and to the defense of the values in which he believes. He gave the best part of his life, his youth. At the age where everyone would prefer to enjoy the small pleasures of life rather than being behind bars, he did not hesitate to sacrifice his family during 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island, where he spent most of his long detention.

The International Nelson Mandela Day should be for each of us an opportunity to ask introspective questions about our own commitment to the defense of freedom and human dignity. This day should inspire us to follow his example for the defense of the rights of persons deprived of their liberty and for a just society where the dignity of all persons, particularly the most vulnerable, will be fully respected. Mandela invites us to make everyday a day of generosity, tolerance and ubuntu: “By sparkling our light, we give others the possibility to do so."


Let’s make everyday a Mandela day!

1Joe Slovo (1926-1995), former President of the South African Communist Party, he fought apartheid to the side of the ANC from Nelson Mandela. He was appointed Minister of housing in the first democratic Government of South Africa.