Why do we celebrate Day of Reconciliation? Ever wondered what it really means to us?
“There are few countries which dedicate a national public holiday to reconciliation. But then there are few nations with our history of enforced division, oppression and sustained conflict. And fewer still, which have undergone such a remarkable transition to reclaim their humanity. We, the people of South Africa, have made a decisive and irreversible break with the past. We have, in real life, declared our shared allegiance to justice, non-racialism and democracy; our yearning for a peaceful and harmonious nation of equals.”
This is an excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s message on 16 December 1995, the first time South Africa celebrated Day of Reconciliation. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years because of his views. He should have been filled with resentment at the miscarriage of justice known as the Rivonia Trial, but this was no ordinary man. Where hate was meant to grow as a result of years of agony and humiliation, Nelson Mandela chose love. He made a choice to perceive his past differently and respond in a manner which set true reconciliation in motion, and changed an entire nation.
During the Apartheid era, 16 December was known was known as Day of the Vow, a public holiday created to commemorate a vow taken by the Voortrekkers. Between the 1930’s and 1960’s, those who were discriminated against by the nation’s unfair laws began holding meetings and staging protests on the same day, which saw the birth of Spear of the Nation. Since then, 16 December has served as a reminder of our struggle to build a nation and ignite unity amongst its people.
“The rainbow has come to be the symbol of our nation. We are turning the variety of our languages and cultures, once used to divide us, into a source of strength and richness. But we do know that healing the wounds of the past and freeing ourselves of its burden will be a long and demanding task. This Day of Reconciliation celebrates the progress we have made; it reaffirms our commitment; and it measures the challenges.”
“Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice. It means making a success of our plans for reconstruction and development. Therefore, on this December 16, National Day of Reconciliation, my appeal to you, fellow citizens, is: Let us join hands and build a truly South African nation.”
So how can we learn from this, and apply the same thinking in our own lives? The true meaning of reconciliation is to overcome the challenges we face through perseverance and dedication, to be humble enough to learn from others, and to learn from our own mistakes. It also teaches us that we don’t have to have the same negative perception as others just to fit in. Reconciliation means being part of the battle to build our own future, not being on the sidelines. It means taking charge of our own destiny, regardless of our past.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to spend Day of Reconciliation, but make sure you’re a part of the celebration! Remember the people who fought for reconciliation and learn from their values. Let’s celebrate this day and spread the love, and let’s make unity a part of ourselves as a nation.