An Honour to Africa

Albert Luthuli's Acceptance Speech on Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize

Oslo, 10 December 1961

This year as in the years before it, mankind has paid for the maintenance of peace the price of many lives. It was in the course of his activities in the interests of peace that the late Dag Hammarskjold lost his life. Of his work a great deal has been said and written, but I wish to take this opportunity to say how much I regret that he is not with us to receive acknowledgement of the service he has rendered to mankind. It is significant that it was in Africa, my home continent, that he gave his life. How many times his decisions helped to avert world catastrophes will never be known, but there can be no doubt that he steered the United Nations through some of the most difficult phases in its history. His absence from our midst today should be an enduring lesson for all peace-lovers and a challenge to the nations of the world to eliminate those conditions in Africa which brought about the tragic and untimely end to his life.

As you may have heard, when the South African Minister of the Interior announced that subject to a number of rather unusual conditions, I would be permitted to come to Oslo for this occasion, he expressed the view that I did not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for 1960. Such is the magic of the Peace Prize that it has even managed to produce an issue on which I agree with the Government of South Africa, although on different premises. It is the greatest honour in the life of any man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and no one who appreciates its profound significance can escape a feeling of inadequacy when selected to receive it. In this instance, the feeling is the deeper, not only because the selections are made by a committee of the most eminent citizens of this country, but also because I find it hard to believe that in this distressed and heavy-laden world, I could be counted among those whose efforts have amounted to a noticeable contribution to the welfare of mankind.

I recognise, however, that in my country, South Africa, the spirit of peace is subject to some of the severest tensions known to man. For that reason South Africa has been and continues to be in the focus of world attention. I therefore regard this award as a recognition of the sacrifices by my people of all races, particularly the African people, who have endured and suffered so much for so long. It can only be on behalf of the people of South Africa, especially the freedom-loving people, that I accept this award. I accept it also as an honour, not only to South Africa, but to the whole continent of Africa, to all its people, whatever their race, colour or creed. It is an honour to the peace-loving people of the entire world, and an encouragement to us all to redouble our efforts in the struggle for peace and friendship.

For my own part, I am deeply conscious of the added responsibility which the award entails. I have the feeling that I have been made answerable for the future of the people of South Africa, for if there is no peace for the majority of them, there is no peace for any.

I can only pray that the Almighty will give me strength to make my humble contribution to the peaceful solution of South Africa`s and indeed the world`s problems.

Happily I am but one among millions who have dedicated their lives to the service of mankind, who have given in time, property and life to ensure that all men shall live in peace and happiness.

It is appropriate at this point to mention the late Alfred Nobel, to whom we owe our presence here, and who, by establishing the Nobel Institute, placed responsibility for the maintenance of peace on the individual, so making peace, no less than war, the concern of every man and woman on earth - whether they be in Stanger or Berlin, in Washington or the shanty towns of South Africa.

It is this catholic quality in the late Nobel`s ideals which has won for the Nobel Peace Prize the importance and universal recognition which it enjoys. In an age when the outbreak of war would wipe out the entire face of the earth, the ideals of Nobel should not merely be accepted or even admired: they should be lived. Scientific inventions at all conceivable levels should enrich human life, not threaten its existence. Science should be the greatest ally, not the worst enemy, of mankind. Only so can the world not only respond to the worthy efforts of Nobel, but also insure itself against self-destruction.

In Africa, as our contribution to peace, we are resolved to end such evils as oppression, white supremacy and racial discrimination, all of which are incompatible with world peace and security. We are encouraged to know, by the very nature of the award made for 1960, that in our efforts, we are serving our fellow men the world over. May the day come soon, when the peoples of the world will rouse themselves, and together effectively stamp out any threat to peace, in whatever quarter of the world it may be found. When that day comes, there shall be peace on earth and goodwill between men.


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