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H.M. Johannsson: Address to 2nd Africa Summit

Address to Africa Summit 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 21–25, 2018


Ladies and gentlemen, dignitaries, with full respect and humbleness, I come from Iceland, an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I represent a minority here, being white, being a male from Europe, being a Christian. But my country, Iceland, the land of ice and fire, was an oppressed colony of another northern European nation, Denmark, for many, many years, until 1944.

The theme of this Africa Summit is honoring the legacy of Nelson Mandela. In my faraway place, I have tried to honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela in my writing, in my speeches and in other ways in the public sphere in the North. And the legacy lives on very, very strongly. It is held in high esteem even in Iceland, in the far, remote and cold North. It has and it will reach the very ends of the earth—every continent, every island.  Just like the Peace Road initiative of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon brings the world together through a global system, helping to develop an interdependent, interconnected, just, peaceful and harmonious world.

In our times, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, many national leaders have a very dubious reputation. But the name and legacy of Nelson Mandela shine out in full colors, probably the most, brightest in our times: his message of peaceful empowerment; his message of human rights; his fight for the oppressed, the rights of minorities; his humility; and his amazing ability to forgive.

One of the most moving and powerful quotes I ever heard is when Nelson Mandela said: "I knew when I was walking through that door toward that gate that would lead me to freedom, that if I did not leave behind my bitterness and hatred, I would still be in prison." Those are powerful words.

I see Nelson Mandela among giants such as Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian of Hindu origin who was also here in his time. I see him alongside the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist monk and leader. I see him alongside Desmond Tutu, who fought alongside him peacefully, and I see him alongside Martin Luther King, the leader of the civil rights movement in the United States. These in my mind are true giants, true saints.

Yesterday, I was picked up from the conference by a good friend, someone who knew him. I was taken to that place where he had his home for some years. I have already been to Robben Island, where he was imprisoned for all those years. And I went to the places where he made famous speeches. It was as if I was on a religious pilgrimage, following in the footsteps of a giant, of a saint.

I believe that it is of tremendous importance for the whole of Africa; it is of tremendous importance for our little island of Iceland, for little Europe in comparison to big Africa; and it is of utmost importance, immense importance that the whole world continues to honor the legacy of this giant. He will help us to go beyond our own limitations, and very important, to stick to our visions of peace and righteousness, and to forgive when needed.

There surely is a need for peace, human development, interdependence and mutual prosperity. There is an urgent need for innovative vision and the great leadership he provided to resolve the critical issues of our time. We need that one family under God to focus on our common universal values, which go beyond the limitations of different religions, different traditions, different cultures. 

I will surely carry on his legacy, for I believe he is with us. He lives on and he is within all of us, if we allow him to be there. Just like the heavenly idea, vision and spirit of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon of living for the sake of others, which joins us all together and takes us far beyond our limitations. That is a beautiful vision in my view. Thank you very much.



To go to the 2018 Africa Summit Schedule page, click here.