Mandela Day: inspiring individuals to take action to help change the world for the better

2013-07-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) As Nelson Mandela lies critically ill in a Pretoria hospital, the world celebrates his 95th birthday, a day declared by the United Nations as a way to recognize the Nobel Prize winner's contribution to reconciliation.

So, as people in South Africa and across the world pray for the ailing icon of justice and reconciliation, July 18th remains a day that is set aside especially to contribute to the making of a just society by promoting the values, the vision and work of the man who brought democracy and equality to an unjust society.

The day’s emphasis is on remembering the past, stimulating dialogue and encouraging people to act in order to promote social justice.

Established by the United Nations in 2009, Mandela Day is a call to action for people everywhere to take responsibility for making the world a better place, one small step at a time, just as Nelson Mandela did and it gives each and every one of us the chance to spread justice and freedom for all.

Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban in South Africa explains the meaning of this special day in South Africa and across the world…


Cardinal Napier says that Mandela Day is a way in which the whole world acknoledges the great act of personal sacrifice that a man made for - ont only his own countrymen - but for all those who were in any kind of oppression.

"We in South Africa are very proud of the fact that that aspect of Mandela's life is being highlighted. And we hope that it is something that young people in particular will want to imitate and even emulate.

The essense of Mandela Day is the request to all people to give 67 minutes of their time to do something for others. Cardinal Napier explains that this commemorates the fact that for 67 years of his life, that's what Mandela was engaged in: working for the rights of others. And so he's asking us to do the same:to think of others before we think of ourselves.

And Cardinal Napier expresses his belief that "in this time in history that is something that is exceptionally necessary, because there is a terribly selfish streak in a lot of people thinking only of themselves, of their own narrow circle, or of their own party. And if that message of Mandela gets through it will make a big difference to our country".