Athens, 7 July 2021
With an emblematic event, tribute to the work and legacy of Nelson Mandela, which took place at the Zappeion Megaron, in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” honored the International Nelson Mandela Day (July 18).
At the initiative of the UN-awarded with the “Nelson Mandela Prize 2020-2025”, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, and in the presence of the CEO of the “Nelson Mandela Foundation” Mr. Sello Hatang, heads of International Organizations and important international personalities participated in the Tribute Event entitled “Human Rights and Education: The vision for a better future”, paying tribute to the fighter – a symbol of human rights.
As part of the event and in recognition of the great work of the “Nelson Mandela Foundation” in the field of human rights worldwide, Mrs. Vardinoyannis awarded the “Honorary Award of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation 2021” to the “Nelson Mandela Foundation”.
In her introductory speech, Mrs. Vardinoyannis spoke about the legacy of the great fighter and stressed that following Mandela’s teachings, the new generation can change the world: “We are all here today to talk about Freedom. About Social Justice. About Democracy and Equality between people. About Peace and Reconciliation of the peoples. About the Diversity of Cultures. About injustice and poverty. But also to send the message to all young people that it is worthwhile and that they should have dreams and fight for them. Because every person on the planet has the power to transform the world with his fingerprint. Nelson Mandela dedicated and sacrificed his life to these values and visions. This is his legacy for future generations. These messages are also represented by the International Nelson Mandela Day, which is celebrated on July 18th and is the occasion of our tonight special event. “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances” Nelson Mandela had said. But it turned out to be much more. He was change. He was hope. Not just for South Africa and its compatriots, but for all of humanity. So much so that in the field of human rights, the modern world could be divided into a pre- and post-Mandela era.”
Mrs. Vardinoyannis also referred to the concept of “ubuntu” which in Mandela’s language means “humanity”, saying: “Let us make every day a Mandela day. UBUNTU! The spirit of Nelson Mandela UBUNTU embodies the global perception and is a way of thinking and living with the principles of respect, solidarity, trust, selflessness and fellowship! ».
In her recorded greeting, H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Ms Katerina Sakellaropoulou stressed that Mandela’s legacy should be an inspiration for the new generations: “July 18, the birthday of the South African leader, more than perhaps a day of remembrance of the legacy he left, is an invitation to the younger generation to promote the principles he defended and to take the lead in the struggle for the consolidation of democracy and respect for human dignity and human rights. To fight for social injustice and reconciliation between peoples and the elimination of inequalities and all forms of discrimination and forms of oppression. At the same time, on this day, we must give the young children the supplies for the successful outcome of the struggle through education and the enrichment of their knowledge “.
The event was greeted by H.E. the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Antonio Guterres, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs. Audrey Azoulay.
Mr. Guterres emphasized the importance of education for a better tomorrow and praised the work of the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation”: “I send my warmest greetings to the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and everyone involved in this event to honour the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela. Each year, we pay tribute on Nelson Mandela’s birthday to an extraordinary global advocate for equality, dignity and solidarity.
As we face the continued trials of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nelson Mandela’s enduring message of hope and solidarity is more important than ever.
Nelson Mandela devoted his life to working against inequality in all its forms. In addressing the deep inequalities exposed and exploited by the pandemic, we can draw inspiration from his humanism, his unflagging optimism and his perseverance in the face of enormous challenges.
Fighting inequality starts with children and education – one of our most powerful tools to end inequality and discrimination. I welcome the emphasis the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation puts on protecting children’s rights and improving their living conditions, including through education.
In honouring Nelson Mandela, let us resolve to be part of the quest for a better future of peace, dignity, opportunity and human rights for all.”
In her greeting, Mrs. Azoulay spoke about the importance of education for creating a better future, while referring to the important work of the “Nelson Mandela” and “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis” Foundations:
“In celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day, we are celebrating a lifelong commitment to dignity and equality. And I would like first to acknowledge the Nelson Mandela Foundation for its work in
promoting and advancing this essential engagement.
In these efforts, you play a very important role, dear Marianna, through the remarkable work of your Foundation, and through your personal involvement with UNESCO, as our Goodwill Ambassador. Here at UNESCO, this commitment is one we have also made our own.
Because Nelson Mandela knew just how important education was in building a fairer world. His legacy is even stronger this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic kept nine in ten students out of classrooms worldwide – reminding us that education is a fundamental, yet fragile, human right”.
The First Lady of the Republic of Cyprus Mrs. Andri Anastasiadis in her speech referred to the work of Mrs. Vardinoyannis in the fields of human rights and education, speaking of “high and selfless offer”, while emphasizing the importance of defending human rights: “At a time when, unfortunately, phenomena such as inequality, racism, intolerance, Mandela’s struggle is a source of inspiration. It is becoming more relevant than ever. Universal and absolute respect for human dignity is the safest foundation on which the functioning of a human-centered society can be based. In this context, the protection, safeguarding and promotion of the human rights of all citizens in our country is a strong commitment of both the President and the Republic of Cyprus, through the coherent policy adopted”.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Dendias, in his recorded greeting, spoke about how special Mandela was for all mankind, not only as a leader, but above all as a human being: “Mandela said that Greece is the mother of Democracy and would like South Africa to become one of its youngest daughters. Nelson Mandela was the leader of mankind. Pioneer in life. There are many people with the mental strength to lead an uprising. There are not many, however, to lead their peoples to peace and reconciliation after that. Accordingly, Nelson Mandela was a Worthy Leader of his people, but above all a Worthy Man”.
The Minister of Justice, Mr. Konstantinos Tsiaras, spoke about Mandela’s legacy for all of humanity: “In his turbulent life, Matiba fought for his race and its rights. But from his struggle his whole People won its unity. His actions, his example, ultimately benefited the entire African continent, which rightly ranked him among the global symbols against inequality, racism and intolerance. Global symbol of unity and tolerance. A World Symbol of Peace who received the Nobel Prize. A World Symbol of Equality, Equality and Democracy”.
The Deputy Minister of Welfare and Social Solidarity, Ms. Domna Michailidou, referred to the importance of education from the most tender age: “This is what Nelson Mandela believed and proclaimed: If one learns to hate, then one learns to love and love fits in better with human nature. This must be our vision today and its implementation goes through education and school. We put our little stone starting from their most tender age and through reformed pedagogical programs we seek to teach children to see diversity as wealth and not as a threat “.
H.E. the Ambassador of South Africa, Mrs. Beryl Rose Sisulu, made a touching speech and talked about her daughter’s battle with cancer and underlined the invaluable contribution of Mrs. Vardinoyannis, which was recognized internationally by the United Nations with the 2020 Nelson Mandela Award: “I am also the mother of a daughter who has been battling cancer for the last ten years and I am well aware of the pain and the high cost of treating cancer. I am convinced that if Marianna had not done this work, it would have been very difficult for cancer families to bear this burden. I congratulate her on her vision of creating a world without borders, especially for children’s health. I am a diplomat and I know very well how difficult it is for governments to mobilize their forces. But Marianna also took a big step in this area with the “Health Diplomacy by ELPIDA” Program to address the social issues posed by the pandemic and create a borderless world of health. It is therefore perfectly understandable that Marianna received the Nelson Mandela Award from the UN. Marianna is not just a philanthropist and a real fighter for human rights and children’s health, she does everything she says.”
The Commissioner for Immigration, Home Affairs and Citizenship of the European Union (2014-2019) and Member of the FIGHT IMPUNITY Council, Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos, stressed the importance of keeping alive the Mandela legacy by ending violence, injustice and discrimination:
“The vision of President Mandela becomes relevant again. That is why the international community has a duty to make the protection of human rights a top priority. A common goal for all of us is to put an end to violence, injustice and discrimination of all kinds. To transform our societies into societies of harmonious coexistence, freedom, justice, equal opportunities. It owes us a debt to world democracy and that was Nelson Mandela’s vision for his country and for the world. And this, I believe, is the central meaning that, in the form of a message, we want to broadcast today from Athens, the global cradle of Democracy around the world, through this event full of symbolism and essential content “.
In an inspiring speech on the value of education, the President of the European Cultural Center of Delphi, Rector Helen Ahrweiler, captivated the audience: “Virtue is taught. This makes the capacity for democracy possible for everyone, thanks to education. They all become equal. Every human being has a right to culture and this is only an achievement of the virtue that is taught. To conclude: Contrary to the Nazi official, Baldur von Schirach, who said that when he hears the word “culture” he pulls out his revolver, I would like us and the children to say and do it all when we hear the word “revolver”, to bring out our culture. This is the lesson, this is what the great ones like the one we honor today, that is, Mandela, taught us, and maybe those who look like him, that is, Mrs. Vardinoyannis and those who are with her today “.
The President of the “Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights”, Ms. Kerry Kennedy, who has devoted her life to the protection of human rights,spoke about passing on to new generations the importance of respect for human rights, which is also a goal of the “Speak Truth to Power” educational program which in collaboration with the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” is also taught in Greek schools: “It is not enough just to educate the new generations, but to infuse them with the values and ideals of dignity and compassion, knowledge of rights. That is why in collaboration with the “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation” we implement the “Speak Truth to Power” program in schools throughout Greece, teaching students the history and concepts around the Declaration of Human Rights and continuing their demand to apply them to the social issues of their country: the protection of refugees, access to education, women’s rights… “.
This was followed by the Award Ceremony during which the “Nelson Mandela Foundation” received with the “Honorary Award of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation 2021” by Mrs. Vardinoyannis. The Award was received by the CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Sello Hatang, who thanked Mrs. Vardinoyannis and spoke about Mandela’s work and life, the great change he brought to Africa, his teachings and how they can lead to humanity in a better future, while he also made a special reference to the recognition of Mrs. Vardinoyannis with the “Nelson Mandela Award 2020” of the UN: “As you know, when Nelson Mandela completed the long road to freedom, said that “we have reached the top of the mountain”, as Marianna reached the top with this Award. Then he said: “But when you look down you find that there are many more streams and rivers to cross and more mountains to climb”. That’s why we hope you continue to climb with us. But let me end on a hopeful note. I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning. You either have it or you don’t, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you. Life without hope is an empty, boring, and useless life. I cannot imagine that I could strive for something if I did not carry hope in me. I am thankful to God for this gift. It is as big as life itself. The world remains beset by so much human suffering, poverty and inequality. It is in your hands to build a different world. Mrs Vardinoyannis keeps showing us the way”.
The event closed with music by artists from South Africa:
The Emmy Award-winning Hollywood composer Mark Chait presented his acclaimed film music including the premier performance of the song he wrote and dedicated to Nelson Mandela “Forever Going Home”, with lyrics by the Grammy Award-winner Charlie Midnight.
Patricia Abrahams performed the song “Paradise – African Dream” accompanied by Makis Merlos in piano.
Mr. Pavlos Tsimas, journalist, was the moderator of the event.
The event was honoured by the presence of H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Panagiotis Pikrammenos.