6 December 2013. University for Peace Campus - Students and faculty gathered in the Garden of Nations to pay tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), former president of South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and enduring symbol of the struggle for human dignity against racism and injustice, and the transformative power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Francisco Aguilar-Urbina, Dean of Academic Advancement and acting Rector, began the commemoration with a reflection on the life and legacy of “Madiba”, one of the most beloved leaders of the 20th century, and his lasting impact on Latin America and the international community.
“While it is true that this is a moment of mourning, we shall remember Madiba as who he really was: a beacon for those who fight for human dignity. We must therefore not dwell on his death, but draw on his life. His passing away cannot be seen as if though a flame has extinguished. Nelson Mandela leaves us with a marvelous sunset … a sunset that precedes a new dawn filled with his light“, said Francisco Aguilar-Urbina.
Khanyisa Mnyaka, a graduate student in the Gender and Peacebuilding Programme, led the group in a call and response in her native language of Xhosa, a chant from the struggle, used to raise spirits and declare the power of the people.
This was followed by UPEACE students reading an interfaith prayer written by Professor Toh Swee-Hin and which emphasized the values of courage, patience, reconciliation and hope embodied in Nelson Mandela’s life journey and struggles for freedom, justice and democracy. The tribute concluded with a hymn sung by African students Sr. Mumbua Simon (Kenya), Halkano Bukuno Dofata (Kenya) and Mucyo Mulinzi (Rwanda).
Nelson Mandela died on Thursday, 5 December 2013. He was 95 years old.
“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility”- Nelson Mandela
Photo by Heather McCuen