Monday, July 18, 2011

The Birthday of an Invictus Soul

There are some people who earn the deepest respect from the hearts of others. Today I want to wish happy birthday to one such individual whom I deeply respect and admire. The name is one that requires no introduction. Nelson Mandela turned 93 years old today on 18th July 2011.

I had always heard the name Nelson Mandela while growing up, on the news or TV coverage. I had always admired his passion and patriotism for South Africa. However, it was only until a few years back, when I started to delve deeper into the details of apartheid in the country that I learned just how commendable his actions truly are. 

Apartheid laws were enacted in South Africa in 1948, leading to racist discrimination with the goal of preferential treatment for the white community. Stringent measures were taken by the state to ensure apartheid laws were implemented successfully. Any protests or attempts to repeal the unjust law were dealt with harshly, with killings or life imprisonment of the protestors without a fair trial. It was during such an attempt to speak for justice that led Nelson Mandela, an anti apartheid activist to be sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962. Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison, and instead of being discouraged or disheartened, upon his release in 1990, continued his fight for justice, leading to the dismantling of apartheid in 1994 when he was democratically elected as the President of South Africa.

Mandela served 5 years as president during which he worked ferociously to create an atmosphere of unity in the country, regardless of skin color. One of his most successful attempts, which has also been turned in to a Hollywood film, is how he united the country through Rugby, leading them to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted in South Africa.

One of the main qualities about Mandela I admire is how despite being sentenced to life imprisonment, he did not give up hope. When days, months and years blur into monotony, Mandela persevered, receiving the degree of Bachelors in Law through the External Programme of the University of London. The movie highlighted a poem which he used to read as a beacon of hope during dark times. The poem ‘Invictus’, on which the movie is named, means Unconquered and is written by William Ernst Henry:

Mandela is due to have his memoirs ‘Conversations with Myself’, which mainly reveal his time spent during imprisonment, published in September this year. The man has inspired his nation to celebrate 18th July as ‘Nelson Mandela Day’ where people consciously practice kindness to honor his efforts towards unity. The country calls him Madiba, his clan name, or more popularly Tata, meaning father. The love and gratitude was apparent when millions of school children around Africa wished him happy birthday by singing ‘Happy birthday Tata, we love you dear Tata, Happy birthday.’ Considering his actions towards love and justice for humanity which also rightfully earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, I would also like to wish Nelson Mandela Happy Birthday from Pakistan. 

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