Inspiration was in free flow at the Union United Church on Sunday, February 14, as people of faith joined with political and community leaders to pay tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela.
The event followed a recently enacted Quebec National Assembly law that declared February 11 as Nelson Mandela Day.
It marked the day the iconic South African human rights leader was released from prison in 1990, after 27 years in prison for his role in standing against the apartheid regime.
The celebration was wrapped around a service officiated by Union’s spiritual leader Rev. Emmanuel Ofori and included fraternal messages from politicians representing the three levels of government.
Among those present were: Mr. Marc Miller, MP for Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest-Ile-des-Soeur; Mr. David Birnbaum, (MNA, D’Arcy-McGee Riding and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education and Higher Education); M. Maka Kotto (MNA, Bourget) and Mr. Dimitrios (Jim) Beis (Mayor, Pierrefonds-Roxboro et membre du Comité Executif de la Ville de MTL. Community activists Aziz Fall and Jean Claude Icart, two members of the committee that lobbied the Quebec government to enact the declaration, provided background and context.
And the gathering also heard a special message from South African High Commissioner to Canada, H.E. Membathisi Mdladlana.
All gathered were moved by a stirring message by Rev. Anthony Bailey, a former member of Union United Church , now serving as a pastor in Ottawa.
Mass Choir of Union United Church, under the direction of Kim Sherwood, punctuated the service with songs of inspiration, and then soloist Ms. Audrey Dubois Harris added the final touch with a spectacular rendition of Amazing Grace.
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, and was one of the founding members of the African National Congress.
After he was released from prison in 1990 he became president of South Africa in 1994. On May 10 of that year one billion viewers around the world saw his inauguration in Pretoria. Mandela served for five years.
In 1993, Mandela received the joint Nobel Peace Prize with former South African president F.W de Klerk.
Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.