Today is the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, one of the most exceptional and transformational political leaders of all times. This important day of remembrance comes at a moment that is particularly troubling from a human rights perspective: racism is rampant; children’ s most basic rights are violated on account of their nationality and migrant status of their parents; multilateralism appears to be on the retreat; every day there are migrants, including migrant children, that drown in the Mediterranean Sea; food insecurity and poverty undermines the welfare of individuals and communities in developed and developing countries; the Syrian conflict continues to disrupt lives as more that 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria; and the achievement of substantive gender equality is still a distant goal. A vacuum of farsighted, intelligent and compassionate leadership compounds these problems.
It is hence fitting to recall some of Mandela’s quotes that resonate with the times we are living. These quotes shed new light on the challenges that our society has to tackle and provide eloquent and compelling guidance.
There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
People respond in accordance to how you relate to them. If you approach them on the basis of violence, that’s how they’ll react. But if you say, ‘We want peace, we want stability,’ we can then do a lot of things that will contribute towards the progress of our society.
Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.
To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.
Happy Birthday Madiba, and thanks for your enduring inspiration.