South Africans have been remembering late former president Nelson Mandela in a day of prayers. It is the start of week-long funeral celebrations in honor of Mandela, dubbed the 'Father of the Nation.'
South Africans of all creeds and colors have been gathering in houses of worship across the country to reflect on the life and deeds of Mandela, who died on Thursday aged 95.
The nationwide day of prayer is the formal start of commemorations that will culminate in Mandela's burial on December 15 in Qunu, the village where he spent his early childhood.
Prayers were also held in London in a remembrance service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. who hailed Mandela's "determination in the face of evil and ... humanity in the experience of victory."
On Tuesday, a memorial service is to be held in a Johannesburg stadium. It is expected that around 80,000 people will attend, among them US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Mandela's body will then lie in state for three days from Wednesday. His coffin is to be taken through the streets of Pretoria each morning to allow as many people as possible to say farewell.
'Believer in peace'
Speaking at a prayer service at a Methodist Church in Johannesburg, President Jacob Zuma appealed to South Africans to honor Mandela's legacy by upholding the values of unity, freedom and justice that he stood for.
"He preached and believed in peace, that we should live in peace, that we should live in unity, we should be united as a Rainbow Nation," Zuma told mourners.
"He believed in caring and he cared for our nation. He believed in forgiving and forgave, even those who kept him in jail for 27 years," he added.
Mandela is considered one of the towering figures of the 20th century. As South Africa's first black president, he steered the country out of apartheid and into multi-race democracy.
He has also become a global symbol of reconciliation and integrity for having publicly forgiven those who held him as a political prisoner on notorious Robben Island for almost three decades until 1990. In 1993 he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
tj/rc (AFP, Reuters)