Mandela message: help others

Dr Mutuota Kigotho, Associate Professor Paul Iji, convenor Dana Pankhurst and Amin Amini.A late birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela was held in Armidale on Sunday to carry on the message of one of the world’s most beloved statesmen.
Nanjing Night Net

Across the world, communities hosted events to continue the message of helping others as part of International Nelson Mandela Day.

The event coincides with Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday, which is on July 18, but the local meeting was held off until July 22.

The local Harmony Group and the Armidale African community organised the meeting, featuring music, food and presentations from University of New England academics.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation encourages people to spend at least 67 minutes helping others.

The 67 minutes is recognition of Mandela’s 67 years of “serving his community, his country and the world”.

UNE academic Dr Mutuota Kigotho said the local presentation carried a message of reconciliation of great relevance to Armidale.

“It is so relevant because he does talk about reconciliation and people working together and people forgiving people for whatever mistakes they might have made, so that is quite relevant to this community and everyone else in the world,” he said.

“[Armidale] has an African community, it has got the Sudanese, it has got people from the Arab world, the white Australians and indigenous people so it is quite relevant.”

Dr Kigotho noted that themes of cooperation and multiculturalism also held significance for Australia’s politicians.

“It does have a lot of political overtones because there’s a lot of infighting at the top end of the political spectrum and people have forgotten that they are all Australians and they are just fighting along party lines and fighting for top jobs,” he said.

UNE Associate Professor Paul Iji said Armidale played an important role in spreading the message of Nelson Mandela Day. He said Canberra was the only other place in Australia to hold a similar event.

“From a little town like this something big could come,” he said.

“Armidale is probably the only other place in Australia where this is being celebrated and that is a recognition of the importance of the town.”

Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay said that despite the lack of widespread recognition of the day, he was happy the event was held in Armidale.

“I’m really pleased to see it here and I think Armidale in particular has always celebrated cultural diversity and the strength that comes from it,” he said.

Other activities around the world on July 18 included building houses, public luncheons and community clean-ups.

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