Come together with a common commitment for harmony, peace and national reconciliation
Nelson Mandela’s speech at first World Hindu Conference held in Durban
Nelson Mandela, venerated by millions in South Africa and other parts of the world for his successful struggle against apartheid, breathed his last on December 5. Reproduced here are excerpts from his captivating and enthusiastic speech that he delivered at the first World Hindu Conference on July 9, 1995 held at Durban. Over 40,000 people of Indian origin had attended that event. The speech was published in VSS 1995 souvenir Sanghashaktih Vijetreeyam:
“The joy of sharing this moment with you is all the greater for knowing that Hindus from so many countries are present. It is a particular honour to be able to welcome such eminent swamis and sages. Your participation in the World Hindu Conference being held in Durban does honour to our new democracy. May your stay in our country be a pleasant and rewarding one.
Dear friends, The strength and the richness of Hinduism has made it one of the world’s oldest religions. It has endured because it has been able to give succour and guidance to its followers in all ages and all circumstances, wherever they may be. Human civilisation is immeasurably enriched by its vision and the values which it inspires.
Nowhere are these things more vividly demonstrated than in South Africa. Our lands are graced by temples, altars and shrines built by the indentured labourers who first brought Hinduism to these shores and those who followed them. They testify to the indomitable spirit with which they sustained community and religion under adverse circumstances.
The nurturing of Hinduism in South Africa has been woven into the struggle for freedom and justice. The Hindu community has given our nation some of its most revered leaders, amongst them Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Monty Naicker, Mr. Nana Sita and many others. In the past several Hindu leaders were in the forefront of the struggle against oppression. Today they represent our people as a whole in Parliament and the provincial governments, leading the transformation of our society in order to address the legacy of apartheid.
Our vision of a free and equitable society at peace with itself is also to be found in the core values of Hinduism – tolerance, peace and unity. These values, as expressed in the pronouncements and writings of Gandhi and Nehru, had a profound and lasting influence on our liberation movement, and on my own thinking. The relevance of these values to our society has never been greater than in this time of nation building and national reconciliation.
If we have been able to aspire to the accolade of the ‘Rainbow Nation’, it is in part because of what we have drawn from the tradition. Our rich country of many cultures and religions is protected constitutionally. But more importantly relevance and respect for the values and the culture of others are written in the hearts of our people and enshrined in the practices of our governments, institutions and parties.
As one recent token of the seriousness of this commitments, our public broadcaster has now acknowledged, the place of Hinduism in the mainstream of our national life.
It is there, at the local level, that the most decisive work must be done to heal the wounds which apartheid inflicted on our society. The Indian community is well placed to contribute to this process, especially in this province of KwaZulu Nata, and above all in Durban. Hinduism has a special role to play in nation-building and reconciliation, reconstruction and development.” —Bureau Report
Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) described Nelson Mandela as a great personality. In the tribute ABVP General Secretary Shrihari Borikar said a winner of more than 250 international awards Mandela had very close relations with India. For his exemplary work, the messenger of peace was honored with Noble Peace prize and Bharat Ratna. When his struggle was in the last phase and he was offered with early release from prison, he wrote a note to his daughter, “Me and my country are not different. I will be free only when my country will be free”. Shri Borikar said following Mandela’s ideals in life will be the real tribute to the great man.