ISLAMABAD - “It is in your hands to make the world a better place”, said Nelson Mandela. The great Nelson Mandela, having served 27 years in prison for protesting apartheid, became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994. On 10 November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International day to remember Mandela’s struggle towards achieving freedom, equality, and democracy in South Africa. A reception was hosted at the Serena Hotel by High Commissioner of the Republic of South Africa Mpendulo Jele which was attended by many notables including diplomats, politicians, ambassadors and journalists. The reception was a memorable event and showed the efforts of the concerned ambassador to make it successful.

Roshan Khursheed Bharucha, Federal Minister for Human Rights, Kashmir Affairs, Gilgit Baltistan, and States and Frontier Regions was the chief guest on the occasion. Ambassadors of African countries like Algerian ambassador Lakhal Ben-Kelai, Somalian ambassador Khadija Mohamed Almakhzoumi, Nigeriam ambassador  Maj Gen (R) Ashimiyu  Adebayo Olaniyi, Moroccan ambassador   Mohamed Karmoune, Egyptian ambassador   Ahmed Fadel Yacoub and ambassador of Kenya Julius Kibet Bitok graced the stage with the Dean of Diplomatic Corp Atajan Movlamov. National Anthem of both countries was played and a cake was also cut by the Chief Guest and the South African Ambassador.  The event was well arranged and a picture of Nelson Mandela was also displayed in the hall. One of the participants drew attention towards a new book “the prison Letters of Nelson Mandela” compiled by Sahm Venter, a senior researcher of Nelson Mandela Foundation, on his 100th Birthday. 

Various civic tributes were made to honor Nelson Mandela and in this regard, an honorary poem was read by eminent Pakistani poet, Kishwar Naheed, who has also received the Mandela Prize for her work on apartheid. The poem is in Urdu and is worth listening to. It has been translated to English by human rights activist, Tahira Abdullah.  The High Commissioner of South Africa, Mpendulo Jele also spoke at the event, he mentioned that Mandela had visited Pakistan twice. The first time was after his release in 1990 and the second time in 1996 as the first president of democratic South Africa.  The intention of the Nelson Mandela Centenary,  he added is to inspire all, to find the good and play a part in building a society inspired by the values of Nelson Mandela, to inspire change, and to make every day a Mandela day.

 He quoted one of his famous quotes “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children,” in which he paid special attention to the children. He also quoted Mandela that “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”. He added that this year takes on a special significance as it marks the centennial celebration of Mandela’s life under the theme “Be the Legacy: Celebration the birth of a world icon and a life of service.” He further said that Mandela played a critical role in unifying the people of South Africa into a One Rainbow Nation and his philosophy also inspired people from all walks of life globally. Nelson Mandela’s prominent philosophy “truth and reconciliation” is also very much needed in Pakistan to create unity among different cultural, sectarian and ethnic groups.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.