Mandela, anti-apartheid icon, mourned world over

Associated Press Published:

In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela's death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.

From Harlem to Hollywood, Paris to Beijing, people hailed Mandela's indomitable courage in the face of adversity as an inspiration for all. In a testament to his universal appeal, political leaders of various stripes joined critics and activists in paying tribute to Mandela as a heroic force for peace and reconciliation.

Some knew Mandela personally while many only knew him from afar, but they shared how they drew inspiration from his strength and looked to live his message of continuing the struggle against social injustice and for human rights:

"He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," said President Barack Obama, who shares with Mandela the distinction of being his nation's first black president.

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Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world had lost "a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice and a clear moral compass." Both Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were part of Mandela's group of statesmen known as The Elders.

"God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history," Tutu said. "He inspired us to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and so South Africa did not go up in flames."

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President Xi Jinping of China, which supported apartheid's opponents throughout the Cold War, praised Mandela's victory in the anti-apartheid struggle and his contribution to "the cause of human progress."

For Chinese rights activists, Mandela's death served as a reminder that one of their own symbols of freedom, Nobel Peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, remained imprisoned by Chinese authorities. "This moment magnifies how evil the current regime is," Beijing activist Hu Jia said.

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"Nelson Mandela set the standard for all revolutionaries past, present, and future: have a righteous cause, fight with dignity, and win with grace," said actor and E Street band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who in 1985 recruited performers to record "Sun City," an anti-apartheid album.

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"As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go," said the U.S. actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Mandela in the 2009 film, "Invictus."

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In Haiti, a Caribbean nation that became the world's first black republic in 1804 through a successful slave revolt, Mandela symbolized the struggle for black equality.

"Mandela is not only the father of democracy in South Africa, but is also a symbol of democracy," said Haitian President Michel Martelly. "And like any symbol, he is not dead. He is present in all of us and guides us by his lifestyle, his courage and faith in the true struggle for equality."

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"Mandela's message will not disappear. It will continue to inspire those fighting for freedom and to give confidence to people defending just causes and universal rights," said French President Francois Hollande, who is hosting dozens of African leaders this week for a summit on peace and security.

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mandela as one of the great figures of the 20th century who had healed a broken country.

"He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid. When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country," Abbott said.

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Israeli President Shimon Peres said Mandela was a "builder of bridges of peace and dialogue" who changed the course of history, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his moral leadership.

"He was never haughty," Netanyahu said. "He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred."

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At the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., on display is a photograph of the U.S. boxing great with Mandela, their hands clenched into fists as if they're boxing.

"He made us realize, we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors," Ali said. "He was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge."

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Mandela was mourned in Cuba, which has long felt a close bond with the late South African leader. Havana considered him a hero for supporting it amid U.S. and international criticism.

"Exceptional human being, example for the world, Father of multiracial South Africa, the endearing friend of Fidel and Cuba," journalist Juana Carrasco said via Twitter. "Long live Mandela!"

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Associated Press reporters Svetlana Kozlenko in Kiev, Ukraine, Ian Deitch in Jerusalem, Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Aye Aye Win in Yangon, Myanmar, Julie Pace in Washington, Jake Pearson in New York, Cassandra Vinograd in London, David Koop in Mexico City, Bruce Schreiner in Lexington, Kentucky, Sara Burnett in Chicago and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana contributed to this report.

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