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Mandela to receive World Methodist Peace Award

7/18/2000 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By United Methodist News Service

Nelson Mandela will receive the 2000 World Methodist Peace Award.

The award, given annually since 1977 by the World Methodist Council, will be presented on Sept. 21 in Capetown, South Africa.

Mandela is "an inspiration and hope for the people of South Africa and the world," said Bishop Mvume Dandala, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, announcing the award in Johannesburg.

"The peace award committee of the World Methodist Council, in making this decision, considered Mr. Mandela's unusual courage in the face of great danger; that during his 27 years in prison he consistently stayed true to his vision of a free and democratic nation; and that he had creatively led the dream for freedom even while in prison," Dandala said.

Previous award winners have included state leaders such as Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Mikhail Gorbachev; religious leaders such as Zdravko Beslov and Elias Chacour; and religious or social groups, such as the Community of St. Egidio in Italy and the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina.

Frances Alguire, the council's chairperson, called Mandela a "symbol of freedom, justice and peace" for the last half of the 20th century. "As a national and world leader his name is synonymous with reconciliation," she said. "As a person he is remarkably free of bitterness. His life reflects the qualities of the World Methodist Peace Award."

Dandala pointed out that Mandela not only "set the tone for peace to happen in South Africa," but also invested time in promoting peace across the continent of Africa. He also voluntarily relinquished the presidency of South Africa, allowing his successor to be appointed through free elections. Dandala called that action "a very rare occurrence in Africa."

Born on July 18, 1918, at Mvezo in the Eastern Cape, Mandela graduated from the Healdtown Methodist Boarding School. As a leader in a campaign against the apartheid system, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island in 1963. After talks with government representatives, he met with South African President F.W. DeKlerk late in 1989 and was released from prison on Feb. 11, 1990. Mandela was elected South Africa's president in 1994 and retired in 1999.

In a telephone conversation about the award, Mandela told the Rev. Joe Hale, chief executive of the World Methodist Council, that "the greatest honor of my life is to be honored by my church."

The council has 74 member denominations, representing about 70 million people in 130 nations.

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