AJWS Mourns the Death of Nelson Mandela

Joins With African Partners to Honor Global Legacy of Historic Figure

NEW YORK, NY—After former South African President Nelson Mandela died today in South Africa, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), in conjunction with organizations it supports and works with in Africa, released the following statement:

Statement of Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service
“Today, the entire world community mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, a historic leader who transformed one of the most racist societies on earth into a democracy with a progressive constitution that respects the rights of all people. He proved that equal respect and treatment of every person is and must continue to be an achievable reality everywhere in the world. Nelson Mandela was a modern-day prophet for human dignity whose voice was heard around the world, and he inspired me and millions of other Jews with his message of equality for all. May his memory be a blessing.”

“It was a spiritual high point of my life to meet Mandela on several occasions when he visited New York City, and my visit to his former jail cell on Robben Island remains seared in my memory.”

“Mandela’s all-embracing vision of human rights compelled him to stand up for equality for ethnic minorities, LGBTI people and individuals with disabilities, among others. It was a special honor for American Jewish World Service to support 24 organizations in South Africa that worked tirelessly to ensure that Mandela’s vision of a just society would become a reality for the new South Africa. We will always remember him and all that he did for the people of South Africa and to shape a vision of a world united by respect for human rights.”

Statements by African grantees of American Jewish World Service:
“Democracy, freedom, human rights, respect and compassion are but a few embodiments of the legendary Nelson Mandela. South Africa has lost the father of democracy and the world’s greatest statesman,” said Vijay Gounder, acting director of Children’s Rights Centre in South Africa. “Affectionately known as ‘Madiba,’ he leaves behind a legacy of peace, human rights and democracy for all South Africans, especially our children. The greatest tribute that we can pay to Nelson Mandela is to continue to advocate and promote peace, dignity and human rights for all people in our society.”

“If it is true that legends don’t die, then Nelson Mandela will live on in our lives,” said Esther Adhiambo, programs coordinator of Persons Marginalised and Aggrieved (PEMA) Kenya. “Mandela was a true hero who fought hate with love. I urge human rights activists to carry on his legacy and keep this great icon alive in each of us.”

“We are losing a great man. Madiba [Nelson Mandela] is respected across Africa and the whole human race for his commitment to justice and defense of human dignity,” said Seynabou Male Cissé, co-founder and coordinator of USOFORAL in Senegal. “He is a beloved figure. His quiet strength and his determination will continue to soften hearts in Africa and the world, just to keep us human.”

“Nelson Mandela is an unparalleled global role model,” said Vicar Bantudi Hangi, coordinator of Foyer de Développement pour l’Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  “All the presidents of the world should copy Mandela.”

“Mandela will serve as a model for various African leaders for good governance and for the struggle against segregation and the apartheid regime in South Africa,” said Nelly Godelieve Mbangu Madika, executive director of Aide et Action pour la Paix (AAP) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “He advocated equal rights for all African peoples. Mandela was a reconciler, a man of common sense, full of patriotism and love for all African nations. We will miss him deeply.”

“Nelson Mandela was a man who, by his charisma and his philosophy, proved to the world that hatred is a weapon of the weak and that forgiveness frees both the victims and the executioners,” said Babi Florent, coordinator of Forum des Organisations Nationales Humanitaires et de Développement (FONAHD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The king is dead. Long live the king. Madiba, your time on earth was not useless.”

“Mandela, your fight for the equality of people and peace in Africa will remain the fire of your legacy,” said Emmanuel Shamavu, coordinator of Action Pour la Promotion et la Defense des Droits des Personnes Defavorisees (APRODEPED) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “The fight for liberty required the ultimate sacrifice, we will never betray you. Peace to your soul.”

“Nelson Mandela, you are a leader in human rights in Africa and a model for all women fighting in this climate of continuing conflict in the continent,” said Claudine Tsongo, coordinator of Dynamique des Femmes Juristes (DFJ) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Your fire ignites leaders wherever you are, and it should be an example for the return of peace in Africa.”

“May the memory of he, who the Congolese people called “the Wise-Mandela,” forever be honored and his example of a man of peace continue to serve us,” said Magloire Paluku, director of Radio Kivu 1 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the ideals of democracy, freedom and equality. His fight against oppression, carried out with determination, but in wisdom and respect for others, is a great legacy for humanity,” said Alice Mudekereza Akonkwa, AJWS’s representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “His victory over the apartheid regime after more than a quarter century in prison, his election as head of South Africa and his commitment to peace in the world are a testament to a noble path that made Mandela a hero of our time.”

AJWS has worked in South Africa since the 1990s, supporting organizations that address HIV/AIDS at the community level, fight sexual and gender-based violence, advocate for improved access to health care and treatment, and provide needed social and economic support for vulnerable children.

For More Information

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.