x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mandela's 67 lessons

67 minutes of community service, proposed as a tribute to mark the 67th birthday of Nelson Mandela, seems little enough for anyone to do in his honour.

His smile has warmed the hearts of millions, but we know there are years of struggle and pain behind it.

For almost three decades, Nelson Mandela endured cruel treatment in South Africa's apartheid prisons, including the notorious Robben Island. And from that hardship, he emerged as man who brought hope and reconciliation instead of bitterness and recrimination. Well should we listen to his words: "A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones."

That is just one lesson that Mr Mandela has taught by example. His extraordinary leadership in the post-apartheid era demonstrated the best side of humanity - to forgive, to persevere and to unite regardless of colour or creed.

Mr Mandela turned 93 years old this week and, surrounded by his family, he has earned his rest. It is time that the rest of us took a little load off his shoulders and played a part ourselves.

All over the world, people are taking on community service projects to pay tribute to "Mandela Day". In the UAE, the Natham Social Responsibility initiative is encouraging people to do 67 minutes of community work - for the 67 years of Mr Mandela's struggle. And if you don't know where to start, don't worry - there's a list of 67 suggestions from which to choose.