The light may be extinguished but the glow lingers on
The death of Nelson Mandela, last week, was received by a somber world. A world that is a far better place for having had him walk upon it. He was a global beacon of hope and inspiration. He was a man who was passionate about equality that straddled race, gender and religion. During his life he resolutely campaigned for human rights.
On the eve of International Human Rights Day on 10 December it is an opportune time to reflect on the life of Nobel Peace prize winning Mr. Mandela. International Human Rights Day marks its twentieth anniversary this year with a theme of 20 years: working for your rights.
Nelson Mandela’s wisdom is in his words which clearly paints the picture of these values and beliefs. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”
In this statement he lays the blame, for tainting the innocence of generations, firmly at the doorstep of society and also offers a solution. His underlying beliefs in equality means he was also happy to pick up responsibility for this burden as part of mankind. He inspired millions to action by walking his talk, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”
The UN Human Rights chief, Naiv Pillay, starts a statement with, “As we continue to strive towards a word that acknowledges the rights of all human beings…..” this unfortunately is the reality of our world.
Mr. Mandela expected little other than the fundamental rights that each human should be born with but which are often denied by the society we live in. These fundamental rights are something we all should expect, uphold, promote and endeavor to deliver. The right to clean water, adequate food, dignity, shelter, freedom of speech, freedom to chose a religion or not, the right to education, the right to be part of the decisions that affect our lives, access to health care, adequate wages to support our family, the right to a decent life.
Nelson Mandela delivered a speech in Johannesburg, on 2 July 2005 addressing one of these issues, that of poverty. He said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Many of our children in Jakarta live in poverty—in shanties beside railway tracks, under bridges in makeshift shacks. Many of our children don’t have birth certificates and therefore access to education. These children are the future of our country and as such need the adults to campaign for their rights. This is what we do at Sahabat Anak, campaign for their rights—their right to access education, their right to have a birth certificates, their right to be heard.
Today, on International Human Rights Day, think about what you can do to carry on the legacy of Nelson Mandela. What can you do to pave the way for a future of human equality and a brighter future for our children?