JOHANNESBURG - Mourners across South Africa heeded President Jacob Zuma’s call to take time to worship and pray Sunday for the late president Nelson Mandela. At temples, mosques, synagogues and churches across the country, there were prayers for the man many South Africans refer to as Tata, or father.
At the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in Soweto, early risers attended a 7 a.m. mass.
Parishioner Caroline Thakadu, a school administrator in Soweto, goes to the church each Sunday. She offered prayers for Mandela and South Africa.
"For our country I would ask God, to give us strength and unity and peace that Madiba, was, stood for. And people that are coming after him must behave the way he behaved. People mustn't look for what is for themselves. They must work for nation as he did. That is what we are asking for… May his soul rest in peace and there must be unity in South Africa," she said.
The church was a key meeting place for activists during the anti-apartheid struggle. Its sanctuary includes a stained glass window showing Mandela waving both hands in the air.
Thakadu said she was happy Mandela was no longer struggling in poor health.
"Tata Madiba, I feel relieved and I feel happy for his spirit, because now he's resting, everybody was suffering. So for that, that God has made this day, that he must rest, we are happy about that. But as Christians we know that after death there's life," she said.
Just north of Mandela's home in Houghton, the Melrose Hindu Temple held Sunday services, which temple trustee Gopal Thangavel Padayichie dedicated to Mandela's memory.
"We're hosting this particular prayer and service in the name of the great world icon and gracious man. The most noblest of all. We're holding this prayer in his memory, and we pray to Lord Muruga that he grants his soul peace forever," said Padayichie.
In the early 1990s, Nelson Mandela came to this Hindu place of worship in Johannesburg to offer a prayer on a day he was going in for a cataract operation.
He signed the temple's register book and told temple leaders to come visit his office for a donation. They obliged, and he stepped out of a meeting to speak with them.
"That was the greatest day of my life to meet a man of that caliber," he said.
Padayichie later learned that Mandela had twice used the temple as a hiding spot in Johannesburg during the 1960s before he was tried and incarcerated for trying to overthrow the apartheid government.
Vishnu Ramjith, another member of the Melrose Temple, said Mandela was on his mind through the day.
"I've just come from his house now, where we lit a candle and a clay lamp. ….People are just laying wreaths, paying tributes. They are not mourning. They are celebrating," he said.
Ramjith said his faith compelled him to celebrate Mandela's life, rather than mourn the former president's death.
"In Hinduism, we say look, we believe in reincarnation, and we know that a good soul has taken birth somewhere else. There will be other Mandelas born and obviously you will find - like they say, history repeats itself. There will be Mandelas somewhere, sometime, in some other place in the world that will bring salvation to our troubled planet," he said.
After the sadness of Mandela’s passing, most South Africans are sharing that sentiment.