July 18


July 18 is the birthday of Nelson Mandela, who is the model of a lifelong non-violent justice activist whose dedication bought about the end of the racist apartheid government in South Africa. Below are some of his words showing the character and prophetic nature of Mandela the leader and the man.

I am also here today as a representative of the millions of people across the globe, the anti-Apartheid movement, the governments and organizations that joined with us, not to fight against South Africa as a country or any of its peoples, but to oppose an inhuman system and sue for a speedy end to the apartheid crime against humanity. These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognized that a global solidarity and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.
Nelson Mandela’s Acceptance a Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in 1993

Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender, and other discrimination. Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one[by another… The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.
Nelson Mandela’s Inaugural Speech in Pretoria,May, 1994

As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times -times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation- that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evil. In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, human dignity, rights and responsibilities. While povertypersists, there is no true freedom.
Speech given by Nelson Mandela in Trafalgar Square on 3rd February, 2005


Compassionate God, we honor Nelson Mandela who came from humble beginnings to help justice roll down upon those who were suffering. Inspire in us the resolve and courage, the compassion and passion, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you as he has done. Amen


Reflect on how Mandela’s actions reflect social teaching on human dignity, human rights and responsibilities, and the option for the poor and vulnerable. Google his name to read more of his biography and the comments of prominent world figures about his life on this anniversary day.

Suggested Reading

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9

The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
John F. Kennedy

All human beings, whatever their cultural or historical background, suffer when they are intimidated, imprisoned or tortured . . . . We must, therefore, insist on a global consensus, not only on the need to respect human rights worldwide, but also on the definition of these rights . . . for it is the inherent nature of all human beings to yearn for freedom, equality and dignity, and they have an equal right to achieve that.
Dalai Lama

America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America.
Jimmy Carter

Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them.
Dag Hammarskjold

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place.
Barack Obam

In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights.
Desmond Tutu

Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself.
Robert Ingersoll

A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.
Ramsey Clark