(Vatican Radio) International Nelson Mandela Day is celebrated on 18th July, inspired by a call made my Nelson Mandela for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices.
Since his death, Mandela Day is an opportunity to recognize the legacy of South Africa’s most prominent leader, and the struggles he endured to ensure social justice for all.
Established by the UN and the Republic of South Africa, Mandela Day encourages everyone to dedicate 67 minutes of their life to others, as a way of commemorating the 67 years Mandela spent devoting his life to ensure equality and a better South Africa.
Vatican Radio’s Georgia Gogarty spoke to Fr. Patrick Rakeketsi, the Associate Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Southern Africa, to talk about the significance of Mandela Day and what must be done to ensure that his vision is carried out.
Fr. Rakeketsi expressed the importance of Mandela Day, particularly in South Africa, explaining that people “from all walks of life” are coming together to help those less fortunate, by going to orphanages, hospitals, retirement homes and refugee centres to give out food, clothing and in some cases pledging money to charitable organisations. He says that “this is all part of the Mandela Day”.
The theme and key message of Mandela Day is “Take Action, Inspire Change”. Fr. Rakeketsi said that this message is heard and people “are adhering to it”. He went on to say that we should aim to “make everyday a Mandela Day”. For young people, he stresses the “name Mandela, the symbol Mandela” is inspiring all people to make changes in order to make a better world.
When asked about whether Nelson Mandela’s vision for “the rainbow nation” had been achieved in South Africa, and is the country what he would have wanted it to be, Fr. Rakeketsi expressed that “there are some moments when we feel that we are not living up to his standards”, however Mandela is “a figure for challenge” and “reconciliatory”. He remains the “political ideal”, and despite “moments of panic and tension”, the figure of Mandela acts as a calming influence and “to look at the future in a better way”.
As leaders of the Catholic Church in South Africa, Fr. Rakeketsi stresses the importance of “keeping the vision” of Mandela alive in people’s minds. A world without racism, discrimination, a world with peace, prosperity, where economies can flourish and people can live together.
Fr. Rakeketsi went on to say that that Mandela’s vision goes well beyond the borders of South Africa, saying that he “touched people’s lives” all over the world. The message for the international community is “to live in peace and to promote justice and equality”. We cannot be controlled by fear, says Fr. Rakeketsi as he refers the terrorist attacks in the last few weeks, and instead calls for open communication as Mandela would have. He asks for world leaders to talk the language of Nelson Mandela, a language of “reconciliation, justice and peace”.