The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest leaders of our time.

He spoke at the official UN General Assembly commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day in New York earlier on Wednesday.

“He stands today as a beacon of universal values or peace and forgiveness and is recognized as one of the greatest leaders of our time. ”

United Nations Secretary General along with actor and UN envoy Forest Whitaker headlined the official commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day at the United Nations in New York.

The UN’s postal administration also unveiled a new Mandela postal stamp to mark the centenary of his birth.  A new addition to the UN’s collection of Mandela stamps.

With an inscription roughly translated from French, “it’s very easy to break and destroy but the heroes are those who make peace and build.”

Secretary General Antonio Guterres says:”I was fortunate to meet him several times, and I will never forget my first meeting in Johannesburg even before he was elected as President. I was tremendously impressed by his vision, his wisdom, his determination and his compassion.”

“Very few people in history have captured the imagination of the world as he did. Even fewer have been able to provide such inspiration. He stands today as a beacon for universal values peace, forgiveness, humility, integrity, passion, respect and service.”

Also actor and activist Forest Whitaker called Madiba a true model of humanity and an example of the political leadership needed today.

“As we celebrate the centennial anniversary of Mandela, he urges us also to have courage, the courage to hope, the courage to resist and to learn about ourselves and others. This is of course a message to our leaders, the world is glowingly interdependent and interlinked and interconnected.”

“The challenges of humanity cannot be solved in isolation, be it poverty, be it gender inequality, be it climate change, and be it conflict. Yet many leaders seen to claim to the old notion that politics is just a local situation but it is precisely that kind of thinking that we must do away with if humanity is to stand a chance,” Whitaker explained.

Whitaker is also UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and drew attention to Madiba’s emphasis on education as a true and sustainable weapon of change.

“Mandela’s idea is that when there is a difficult problem to address, you need to educate people not to pander to their anger or to their fears. This is what he did when he advocated a path for non-violence. Many people rejected it at first, many of his companions, but he persisted, he persisted because he had a choice, he chose a path that was empowering for the masses.”

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Edna Molewa, who spoke for the Government, pointed to the life of a legendary statesman that embodied the values at the core of the UN mission.

“Nelson Mandela believed that all of us, no matter who we are, can make a difference. He believed that every man, woman and child should take responsibility to change the world for the better.”

“It is a fitting tribute to his exemplary life that in South Africa we are leading a campaign called Thuma Mina – which translates to Send Me. It is a campaign that encourages all South Africans to stand up and say: We want to be part of this bright common future, and we are prepared to do our part.”

Arguing that Tata Madiba’s qualities of humility, forgiveness and compassion; those of tolerance, dialogue and reconciliation are what are sorely needed in the world today.

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