This post is a little late as Mandela Day was last week. Nevertheless, I think the subject is important especially today, when humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does. In Gaza, where we try to justify the killing of innocent kids playing on the beach or shelling of hospitals; or in Ukraine where we down a civilian airplane and then prevent access for the removal and collection of the dead; or in Nigeria where we kidnap girls and bomb markets in the name of religion.
Mandela Day is celebrated every year on Nelson Mandela’s birthday – 18th July. In 2009, the UN General Assembly unanimously voted to declare 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day, in honour of his service to humanity and his constant endeavours to promote peace in South Africa and throughout the world.
The concept of Mandela Day was conceived by Madiba himself, on his 90th birthday celebrations in 2008 in Hyde Park, London. He urged the younger generation world over to take action, do their bit and fight against social injustice. He said, “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”
Since Madiba fought for social justice for 67 years, people are asked to give 67 minutes of their time on this day, for the betterment of society. The year 2014 also marks 20 years of democracy for South Africa, and hence, Mandela Day held even greater significance for South Africans this year. Although not a public holiday, people from different walks of life joined hands with orphanages, old-age homes, dog shelters and various other NGOs to do their bit. However, widescale corporate engagement remained dismal. They may argue that they support particular charities throughout the year, and so one day does not make a difference. However, by providing a platform to employees to do something extraordinary on one day may go a long way in encouraging people who otherwise may not participate in social volunteering.
Mandela believed that each individual has the responsibility and the the power to transform the world and make an impact. Today, more than ever, each one of us needs to heed Madiba’s call and stand against the atrocities being committed all around us, instead of mourning the death of humanity as what is humanity – if not you and me.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela