Celebrate Nelson Mandela Today July 18, His Birthday

Celebrate Nelson Mandela Today July 18, His Birthday


Resources available to plan 3-pronged event

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A growing coalition of institutions, grassroots organizations, activists, unions and faith communities including the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS), are planning to celebrate the life, legacy and values of Nelson Mandela on his birthday, July 18.

This is a worthwhile observance of a great man’s contributions, not just to South Africa, but to the whole world.

The celebration is being coordinated by the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, TransAfrica and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

Mark Harrison, GBCS director of Peace with Justice, has attended planning meetings for this celebration. He has been asked to mobilize United Methodists to support the observance. “This is a worthwhile observance of a great man’s contributions, not just to South Africa, but to the whole world,” Harrison emphasized in urging faith groups to take part.

More than a dozen cities

Local groups in more than a dozen cities, including the eight Mandela visited during his 1990 visit to the United States, are planning celebrations. More participating cities are being sought by the sponsors.

The celebration is to honor the issues that were most important to Mandela, who became president of South Africa after spending nearly three decades behind bars, in his “long walk to freedom.”

Celebration is to honor the issues that were most important to Mandela.

Celebrations should recognize Mandela’s dignity in addressing issues such as inclusion, education, youth development, service and celebration.

The sponsors have prepared resources for faith- and community-based and local groups. They include a letter from the South African ambassador, guiding principles for celebrating Mandela, social media suggestions, a biography and portrait of Mandela, and other pertinent information.

Three broad elements have been identified that could constitute a celebration of Mandela’s birthday:

  1. Education. The day is an opportunity to educate people about both Mandela as well as the values he and his movement stood for.
  2. 67 Minutes of Service. In honor of Mandela’s 67 years of service, volunteers are being gathered across the United States for 67 minutes of service at various places, such as food banks, children’s hospitals, public facilities, senior facilities and so forth.
  3. A Meeting/Service of Celebration. Following the education and service components, the culmination of the day could be a celebratory meeting or religious service to pay tribute to Mandela with the overall aim of rededicating and recommitting ourselves realization of his legacy and values.

Global model of conflict resolution

The sponsors believe it is essential to hold up Mandela’s approach to the resolution of apartheid as a global model of conflict resolution, where negotiation trumpts militarism and reconciliation trumps conflict. They also believe the celebration should call attention to all aspects of global apartheid characterized by occupation, poverty, inequality, discrimination and prejudice of all kind and social exclusion in the spirit of Mandela’s lifelong struggle for peace and justice.

TransAfrica has begun social media outreach for the event. Its #MandelaMatters hashtag is generating buzz that sponsors hope will provide a central repository and theme for the contributions of Nelson Mandela. The sponsors have sample Facebook and Twitter tweets in the resource guide.