Events commemorating the life and work of Nelson Mandela are due to take place in
Leicester this weekend. Leicester Cathedral, Leicester City Council and a host of community and faith organisations will be joining together for a day of thanksgiving and tributes to the South African statesman, who died on Thursday, December 5, aged 95.
The commemorations take place on Saturday 14 December, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm and will
comprise three main events, each of which are open for anyone to attend. From 2.00pm, the ‘Thanksgiving for the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela’ event will begin with a gathering at Nelson Mandela Park, including poetry and texts conveying some of Mr Mandela’s most inspirational quotes and messages.
Following this, a symbolic Walk of Freedom from Nelson Mandela Park to the cathedral willtake place, designed to reflect Mr Mandela’s own ‘walk to freedom’ emerging from 27 yearsof imprisonment in South Africa to become the country’s most important senior statesmanand its first black president. As part of this, dozens of young people from the St Philips Centre in Evington, representing a variety of faiths from across the city, will form a parade carrying a South African flag from the park, through the city centre to Leicester Cathedral.
Starting at about 3.00pm at the cathedral, a short service will include performances by a gospel choir, messages from the city’s civic and faith leaders and the lighting of a candle in remembrance and reflection of Mr Mandela’s extraordinary life and struggle against oppression. People will then move outside to create a vast ‘Rainbow Tree’ in a tree outside St Martin’s House, by tying coloured ribbons to it. Warm refreshments will also be served.
Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said:
“Nelson Mandela’s life was truly an extraordinary one which took him from being a political prisoner to being the ruler of the very country which imprisoned him.
“He really was an example of not just talking the talk, but really walking the walk and setting an example to others with his own conduct.
“He was a giant of our times, and while these events will commemorate his passing, they will also be celebrating his life, his humanity and the transformational legacy which he has left behind.”
The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, added: “Mandela offered us the visionary and humane leadership our world needs. We have much to learn from his wisdom.”
The Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester, said: “Following his release, Mandela’s continuing walk to freedom for all people shows us that forgiveness isn’t an abstract idea but is real and revolutionary.
“We have seen it is possible to live the best human life and his greatest memorial would be for us all to do likewise.”
Organisations involved in the commemorations also include Serendipity Arts – the organisers of Leicester’s Black History Month – and Leicester Council of Faiths. Two books of condolence have also been set up at Leicester Cathedral, and in the Town Hall, where people can pay their respects to the man that the current South African president Jacob Zuma has referred to as that country’s ‘greatest son.’
Mr Mandela is widely recognised as having been one of the most influential and important statesmen of recent times for his struggle against apartheid, segregation and oppression in South Africa. His revolutionary beliefs took him on an extraordinary journey from being an anti-apartheid activist in the 1950s and 1960s, which culminated in his imprisonment in 1964 on charges of sabotage. He emerged from prison in 1990, and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 andbecame South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.