December 10, 2013 11:43 am
Updated: December 16, 2013 11:19 am

Mandela’s legacy serves the interest of all of humanity

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It is very fitting that the day global leaders descended upon South Africa to pay their respects to Nelson Mandela also happened to be International Human Rights Day. Exactly 65 years ago the United Nations adopted the Declaration of Human Rights which was authored by John Humphrey, a Canadian legal scholar at McGill University.

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Nelson Mandela, without a doubt the leading global icon for peace, co-existence and universal human rights, left us a legacy that we should all reflect upon. Mandela provided us with a treasure trove of insightful and educational quotes that will continue to impact the global community’s ongoing efforts to strengthen human rights norms across the world for generations to come.

Mandela once said “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

It is true that prior to his incarceration, Mandela and the ANC had employed violence as a tool to bring about political change. This fact should not be brushed under the rug or erased out of our memory. But his overall record since the early 1960s is one marked by non-violent action. The leader of the anti-Apartheid struggle practiced what he preached. After being released from prison following 27 years of captivity, he dedicated himself to dismantling the Apartheid regime in a peaceful manner. He did not allow resentment, anger and hatred to consume him and direct all of his political decisions.

On the contrary, he demonstrated a type of transformational leadership that shaped not just South Africa, but that of much of Africa and the wider world. Consider that Mandela helped prevent a civil war in South Africa. There was a point in the 1990s when South Africa was really on the edge of a full racial war and he, through his leadership, ensured his country pursued the path of peace.

But Mandela is equally remembered for his identity as a global citizen. He played a major role in trying to help other fractured societies in Africa, such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, avoid further conflict and bloodshed. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Mandela once said.

Let’s remember these wise words and not forget all that he did and stood for. Even better, let’s remember that he himself was the best example of a person who embodies the UN Declaration for Human Rights and that his legacy is the most important educational tool that can be harnessed to serve the interest of all of humanity.

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