UN decides to mark Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday with peace summit

By Updated at 2017-12-23 05:11:03 +0000

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has decided to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth by holding a high-level meeting focusing on world peace ahead of the annual gathering of world leaders in September 2018.

A resolution adopted Friday without a vote says the “Nelson Mandela Peace Summit” will include speeches by top U.N. officials, the chair of the African Union Commission and member states.

The resolution recalls the South African anti-apartheid leader’s dedication to promoting conflict resolution, race relations, human rights, reconciliation and gender equality.

In 2009, the General Assembly established “Nelson Mandela International Day” on July 18, the date he was born in 1981. The U.N. asks people around the world to mark the day by making a difference in their communities.

Mandela died Dec. 5, 2013.

Mandela's greatest gift was his ability to forgive

It always seems darkest just before the dawn.

When I traveled through South Africa 25 years ago, it was a particularly dark time.

The racist policy of apartheid was crumbling, but no one knew what would come next.

Fear was palpable everywhere.

Many thought the country was ill-prepared for transition to a true democracy.

Some predicted a generation-long depression.

Worse, many believed South African racial unrest would explode, if the heavy yoke of apartheid were to suddenly be lifted from the black shoulders on which it had long rested.

The stark question whispered on Afrikaner lips was, would whites be paid back in blood for their generations of repression?

It was a fearful time.

But the light of a new democracy was forming as two extraordinary leaders entered the political spotlight.

Together, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk would come from opposing political roots to put a swift and bloodless end to apartheid and herald the emergence of a true democracy.

Their collective effort brought a new dawn to South Africa.

They were honoured as co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

De Klerk’s role as the then president in forming a new South Africa seems obvious in hindsight, but from the vantage point of Johannesburg a quarter century ago, his courage was inspiring.

But it is Mandela who has rightfully received the lion’s share of the credit for a largely peaceful transition to freedom and democracy.

A strange role for a man who spent almost 30 years behind bars for violently opposing the worst excesses of apartheid.

How did Mandela transition from a bitter prisoner of the state to a statesman?

The answer is deceptively simple; forgiveness.

Mandela, who had, as a young man, encouraged the ANC to use violence to counter repression, emerged from half a lifetime behind bars with words of forgiveness for his jailers.

He said he was unwilling to spend a moment more of his life imprisoned by his own bitterness.

His extraordinary gift of forgiveness inspired a troubled nation.

Last week, I returned to South Africa and found myself inspired again by the legacy of de Klerk and Mandela.

South Africa isn’t perfect. Democracy isn’t easy.

But the courage and statesmanship these two leaders displayed stands in stark contrast to the petty, vindictive and frightened posturing by many of today’s so-called leaders.

There is, I believe, much to be learned from the power of Mandela’s forgiveness.

The world could use more of it.

Forgiveness allowed Mandela to escape the brutality of the past and focus on the future.

It seems that few of us find the comfort of forgiveness.

Far easier to take offence, find fault, and cast blame than to reach for understanding and a better future.

This week brings winter solstice and, for Christians, the celebration of Christmas.

I always enjoy the moment of peace that Christmas provides and the warmth of family and friends.

This year will be a special Christmas in our home.

Over the past few months we have, once again, become keenly aware of the importance of family, the kindness of friends and the blessings of life in Canada.

This year, in the quiet moments Christmas provides, I will think about the power forgiveness has to free those trapped in despair and doubt.

I wish you all the warmth of the season and the special gift Mandela gave the world; the gift of forgiveness.

By John Snobelen — TORONTO SUN

Mandela's greatest gift was his ability to forgive


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