Values of forgiveness, compassion by Nelson Mandela needed more than ever, says Sushma Swaraj
The values of forgiveness, compassion, and inclusivity embraced by late South African President Nelson Mandela are even more relevant today in the world which is "beset with conflicts, terror and hateful ideologies, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said here.
Recalling India's strong bond with "Madiba", as Mandela was fondly addressed by people across the world, Swaraj said Indians consider him to be one of their own.
"We are proud to call him a Bharat Ratna, the jewel of India," she said.
"Nelson Mandela's life is an inspiration for all. He showed fearlessness and courage in the face of discrimination and adversity," Swaraj said at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit held Monday, a day before the start of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly.
Swaraj underscored that the values of forgiveness, compassion, and inclusiveness of society, espoused by Mandela, are needed now more than ever in the current turbulent times around the world.
The focus of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit is on Global Peace in honor of Mandela's birth centenary.
Swaraj said the world today is "beset with conflicts, terror and hateful ideologies that are transcending borders and impacting our lives." She emphasized that no one should be allowed to support terror or its perpetration.
"Our collective survival as a global family requires that the wisdom of pioneering leaders such as Mandela should remain as our moral compass," she said.
Mandela was honored with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award in 1990. He is among only two non-Indians to be conferred with the honor. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1987.
"India cherishes its special relationship and longstanding partnership with Africa and its people. Our close bonds are reflected in the philosophy of Mandela and Gandhi," both of whom led their peoples to freedom through mass peaceful struggles, she said adding that the two leaders made all efforts to overcome divisive and narrow identity politics to turn society's diversity into its strength instead of a weakness.
At the Summit, the United Nations General Assembly honored Mandela with a pledge to build a just, peaceful and prosperous world and to revive the values for which the former South African President and anti-apartheid campaigner stood. The UN Member States adopted the first resolution of the General Assembly's 73rd session, "committing to demonstrate mutual respect, tolerance, understanding and reconciliation in [their] relations".
"We resolve to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies, stressing the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women and the meaningful participation of youth in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security," the resolution said.
The Member States, many represented by their heads of State and government, also reiterated the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and said that they remain committed to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social and environmental – in a balanced and integrated manner.
Addressing the Summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke of the growing pressure against human rights around the world and urged everyone to draw inspiration from Mandela's wisdom, courage, and fortitude, to face the challenges.
"[That] is the only way to build the just, peaceful and prosperous world envisioned in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," Guterres said.
"Madiba was a global citizen whose legacy must continue to guide us," he added.
Earlier in the day, a statue of Mandela was unveiled at the UN Headquarters by Guterres alongside President of South Africa Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and President of the current session of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa. Gifted by South Africa to the UN, the life-size statue shows Madiba with his arms outstretched and bears his warm and broad smile.
Speaking at the unveiling, Guterres highlighted Mandela's humility as a hallmark of his greatness.
"When he achieved the pinnacle of power as president of his beloved country, Madiba set an example that still resounds throughout Africa and the world – he stepped down after one term, confident in the durability of South Africa's newfound democracy … He did not pursue power for its own sake, but simply as a means of service," the UN chief said.
Espinosa recalled Mandela's first landmark speech at the UN, in 1994, in which he spoke of the interdependence of all nations and asked what can and must leaders do to ensure that democracy, peace, and prosperity prevail everywhere.