Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Pentecostal Church Youth Day function, Zuurbekom

15 June 1997

Reverend Modise;
Members of the church;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ntate wa rona Ntate Moemedi;
Sechaba sa kereke ya Pentecost ke a le dumedisa;
Ke re Khotso e nne le lona,

Our participation at this gathering signifies the very cordial relations we have and continue to build with the International Pentecostal Church and other religious bodies. The religious community has always played a vital role in our nation's life and history. It is therefore right that we should reaffirm that role on the eve of South Africa Youth Day, for the youth are the future of our nation.

During the apartheid years, the churches and our youth made a tremendous contribution to the struggle for freedom. Religious leaders and young people were often seen leading our people in protest, marching boldly into the firing line of apartheid.

Many sacrificed their careers, their childhood, sometimes their lives for the sake of freedom. Their reward and ours too, lies in the achievement of al democratic government in a country where all of us are now protected as equal citizens under a just constitution.

Every new achievement of our fledgling democracy does honour to their memory. Each candle that we replace with electricity, each new clinic that we build, each child that we immunise against a preventable disease, each house that we build, each acre of land that is redistributed, each new tap that we open, each dusty road that we have tarred brings us closer to the vision that we all prayed for on that occasion we last met - a better life for all!

The foundation for that better life has been laid. But there is still much more to pray for and work towards.

Government is doing everything in its power to correct the situation. But the responsibility for normalising our society is not that of government alone.

The International Pentecostal Church with its hundreds of locations in Southern Africa can help heal and build or country.

Religious institutions can help restore the culture of moral responsibility and a respect for human dignity. This means each individual taking responsibility for building our country and forging our nationhood. In our own small way each one of us can help to rebuild this country, by every criminal we refuse to shelter and by every policeman we help to do his job. If every church member decides never to buy stolen goods, the market for stolen goods will be made that much smaller.

The International Pentecostal Church is setting an outstanding example in the reconstruction and development of our country. Your economic initiatives are providing jobs and creating opportunities for many young and destitute people.

As we strive for reconstruction and reconciliation, nation building ad development, religious organisations can make a contribution of particular importance in their programmes for the youth, especially those that build moral strength, emotional maturity and civic responsibility in our young children. For its is these qualities that will equip them to deal with the challenges of their generation.

Our history has always forced our young people to take responsibility from an early age. They became freedom fighters when they should have been playing or at school. Now the youth of South Africa face major challenges because of the years of deprivation, violence and interrupted education. Great courage and commitment will be needed to overcome the obstacles and for our young people to fully enjoy the benefits that our fledgling democracy holds for them. It will demand of them that they discipline themselves and work hard at school to acquire the skills that our country needs to succeed in the world market place. It will demand of them that they use their energies to help old people put in place the policies and structures that will mean better lives for them and their children.

We encourage the youth in the International Pentecostal Church to continue playing the vanguard role you played before, but in a new way. Let us work together with the police and government to rid our country of the scourge of crime, let us join hands with teachers to educate ourselves; let us become pioneers of reconstruction and development.

By your example, you will be helping ensure that South Africa indeed becomes the country of our dreams.

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website