A Memorial Service was held at Westminster Abbey on 3rd March 2014 to celebrate the life of a great man (1918-2013) who suffered for and lived the ideal he declared from the ‘Dock’ in 1964, “”I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.””
The Soweto Gospel Choir started the celebration with traditional songs and dance.
The Very Revd Dr John Hall, the Dean of Westminster, gave the Bidding: “”As we recall the life and work of Nelson Mandela, we shall give heartfelt thanks, and we shall pray for the people of South Africa, and for peace and justice in God’s world.””
Desmond Tutu, another great wise man, gave a humbling address in which he thanked the British people, referring to Peter Hain’s campaigns, for continuing the struggle movement here against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, led the prayers, with Canon Jane Hodges and Rev James Hawkey from the Abbey.
Among my inter-faith colleagues were Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Imam Raza Shabbar, Lord Karan Bilmoria, Ven. Seelawimala Bogoda, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Lord Indarjit Singh, also the Jain and Baha’i representatives.
A fitting tribute to a great soul who sums up in his famous quote:
“”No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.””
Anil Bhanot OBE
[Pictures from the Internet, BBC/Daily Mail reports]