12/10/2013, 00.00
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Card. Gracias: We must learn from Mandela , champion of freedom, democracy and equality

by Card. Oswald Gracias
The Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops paints a portrait of the South African leader " icon of peace and reconciliation." Today, Heads of State and dignitaries from around the world participate in the celebrations in honor of Nelson Mandela. Card. Gracias recalls 27 years in prison lived "with great courage and dignity, never ceasing to pursue the values of peace, love and reconciliation."

Mumbai (AsiaNews ) - More than 70 world leaders flew to Africa today to bid a final farewell to Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who died on December 5. With them, more than 80 thousand people gathered today in Johannesburg, the stadium where the first black leader of South Africa made ​​his last major public appearance, on the occasion of the World Cup 2010. Among the Asian dignitaries due to speak are Li Yuanchao , vice president of China, Pranab Mukherjee , President of India , and Mahmoud Abbas , the Palestinian leader . Also present were U.S. president Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French president Francois Hollande and the Brazilian head of state Dilma Rousseff,. The celebrations in honor of Mandela will continue throughout the week and will end on December 15 in Qunu (Eastern Cape) , his birthplace , where a state funeral will be held and he will be buried. Below , AsiaNews publishes a reflection by Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI ) dedicated to Nelson Mandela , a figure who with his spirit "encourages the mission of the Church in India with the poor and oppressed".

Nelson Mandela  remains a selfless champion of freedom, democracy and equality -- an icon of peace and reconciliation, a revered statesmen peerless in his sacrifice, courage and commitment to changing not only a nation, but the world. 

Nelson Mandela's enduring Spirit of Forgiveness  and his  remarkable lack of bitterness after his  release from 27years of unjust incarceration,  indicated  as a statesman bent on a peaceful transition- out of the hateful apartheid system and towards national reconciliation

Nelson Mandela can truly be described as "great," given that a large part of Mandela's life was spent in isolation during his life sentence in  Robben Island Jail, neither angry nor vindictive, and with great courage and dignity, he endured 27 years in prison- yet  he never ceased to  the  pursue with the values of peace, love and reconciliation. With his strength, dignity and grace, led a non-violent transition to democracy and equality.

Mandela  stood for humanism, his focus on reconciliation began inside himself, even while he was in prison.

By his inspirational Leadership, Mandela  ensured  the peaceful  transition from the darkness of apartheid into the light of a multi-racial democracy, thus liberating  not just the people of South Africa and the continent of Africa, but the many people in bondage - in spirit and mind- He helped to liberate the world of hatred, injustice, racism, revenge and retribution.". 

The spirit of Mandela, is significant for the Church in India in our work and mission towards nation building -by our selfless and tireless service for the common good.  The Spirit of Mandela- one of the world's most ardent fighters for equality- encourages the Church in India, in our mission for the poor and oppressed in their struggle for equality and justice and in  their aspirations for self-respect  and fulfilment .  The Spirit of Mandela teaches us, that it is possible to live and work by Gospel values

The Catholic Church in India  expresses deep  sympathy at the death of this  historic leader- one of the contemporary world's greatest figures.



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