FDU-Vancouver provost and community honor Nelson Mandela

FDU-Vancouver Campus Provost Cecil Abrahams and former South African President Nelson Mandela share a handshake at Abrahams' 1996 inauguration as vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo courtesy of Abrahams)

By Kenna Caprio

Following the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela on Thursday, Dec. 5, the FDU-Vancouver community rallied to celebrate his life and works.

The efforts were led by FDU-Vancouver Campus Provost Cecil Abrahams, a friend and former colleague of Mandela, who collaborated with him in the fight against apartheid.

I was privileged to work side by side with President Mandela and I watched him in awe as he transformed South Africa. In my many discussions with him, I admired a larger-than-life person who believed deeply in education and who gave so much of himself to South Africa and the world. Mandela will be sorely missed. Hamba Kahle Comrade Madiba (farewell comrade Mandela), wrote Abrahams in a message to FDU-Vancouver students, faculty and staff.

At the FDU-Vancouver memorial for Mandela, students, faculty, staff and honored guests gather for the South African national anthem. (Photo by Jobin Mojtabavi) 

The campus held a memorial service for Mandela on Tuesday, Dec. 10 with special guest Jayvant Desai, an anti-apartheid activist and relative of Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, the non-violent, pacifist protester and leader of the Indian nationalist movement. Abrahams reflected on apartheid and Mandela's struggle for freedom, while Desai discussed the lessons global youth can take from Mandela and Gandhi efforts. University faculty, staff and students lit candles in Mandelas honor and listened to the South African national anthem and a prayer in Afrikaans. The ceremony ended with celebratory dancing.

Abrahams, who first met Mandela as an 11-year-old child on a soccer field, also spoke to CTV News last week about that encounter, his own imprisonment and the legacy of Mandela.

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