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.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awarded the 1993 peace prize to Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, called Mandela “one of the greatest names in the long history of the Nobel Peace Prize.”
“His work presents a message also today to all those who bear responsibility for apparently unresolvable conflicts: Even the most bitter of conflicts can be solved by peaceful means,” the committee said.
Myanmar pro-democracy leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi hailed a “great human being who raised the standard of humanity … He also made us understand that we can change the world.”
Spiritual leaders joined the homage.
In New Delhi, the Dalai Lama urged believers to “develop determination and … enthusiasm to carry his spirit.”
From the Vatican, Pope Francis paid ” tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth.”
In New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, artist Franco Gaskin, 85, stood before a mural featuring Mandela he had painted on a storefront gate almost 20 years ago. He remembered a Mandela visit there in 1990. “It was dynamic, everyone was so electrified to see him in Harlem,” Gaskin said. “I idolized him so much. He leaves a legacy that all of us should follow.”
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh compared Mandela to his country’s own icon for the struggle for freedom, independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.
“A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.”
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.”
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.”