What would you do if 22 years into serving a life sentence, you were given an opportunity to be released from prison?
That was the offer made to Nelson Mandela in 1985, and all he had to do to secure his release from prison was to denounce his struggle for democracy and freedom. Madiba, who turned 94 this week, chose not to take the apartheid government up on its offer. He chose to stay in prison and stand by his values with conviction - values of social justice, selflessness, and non-racialism.
The same year that Mandela was made this offer, another icon in the struggle for justice and peace, the Rainbow Warrior, faced a similar battle. French secret service agents, on orders from their government, boarded the Greenpeace ship wanting to sink it to the bottom of the ocean.
The agents succeed in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, and in the process, Fernando Pereira, a Greenpeace photographer, lost his life as the vessel went down.
Although the original Rainbow Warrior was sunk, the ideals she stood for could not be brought down, and they live on in our new ship, the Rainbow Warrior III.
Both Mandela and the original Rainbow Warrior stood for non-violent direct action against the injustices of apartheid and environmental crime, respectively. Both these stances have, in time, resulted in tremendous victories for the cause of justice. In the process they have also inspired future generations of activists, myslelf included.
This morning, as I write to you from onboard the Rainbow Warrior III, I realise how much I continue to draw on the activism of the Rainbow Warrior and Mandela. They are a source of strength and encouragement when I campaign for social justice in the form of an Energy [R]evolution -- a future free of climate-destroying fossil fuels.
Despite the ongoing threats of injunctions and legal actions by representatives of the fossil fuel industry, we cannot hold back and do nothing as the planet is sold off for profit.
Happy Birthday, Madiba. And thank you for everything you’ve done and sacrificed for our incredible country.