Document date: 18.07.2008
Birthday wishes for Nelson Mandela

Dr Nelson Mandela
Former President of the
Republic of South Africa


Geneva, 18 July 2008

Dear Madiba,
Dear brother in the struggle for liberation and justice!

It was amazing to see you celebrating your birthday together with more than 50,000 people from all walks of life in London Hyde Park a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed not so much by the stars who lined up to sing and perform for you, but by the many young people who cheered and were encouraged by your presence, and by your wise words "it is now in your hands". This gives hope to all of us that there will be real freedom for all!

Who else has represented this hope as much as you in recent decades? Who else has been as clear and outspoken as you have when failure in leadership had to be named as such wherever and whenever a leader did not protect and care for the people, their dignity and their right to life. I will always remember your speech at WCC's Jubilee Assembly in 1998 in Harare. You did not mince your words but you shared your concern about the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe then, just as you did recently concerning the prevailing tragic situation there. 

In the same speech, you rightly reminded us that we were united in the struggle for change in South Africa, but that the ideals and values of justice and freedom "must be our guide in the unfinished journey that we have traveled together". We learned so much during that struggle about the cost of dignity, and these lessons accompany us as we confront other injustices in other regions, in the Middle East, in Africa, and elsewhere.

We give thanks to God for your life. We pray that you may enjoy many more years of wisdom and hope, breathing the air of freedom to the full, and continuing to inspire all of us, young and old alike, who continue to believe that miracles are possible and that we can, together, make a better world.

Happy birthday, and may God richly and specially bless you this day and always!

With the highest esteem,


Samuel Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches