Former president Nelson Mandela was on Sunday compared to Joseph in the Bible.
A rabbi who was part of the interfaith service held at the Standard Bank Arena in Johannesburg said in the Bible, Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit of snakes and scorpions. He was imprisoned, but when he met his brothers years later he forgave them.
“Like Joseph, he spent many years in jail but came out and preached forgiveness. He knew that if he did not forgive, this beautiful country would have been ripped apart,” said the rabbi.
A Hare Krishna leader said: “While we are sad about the loss, we are happy to have been associated with him.”
Earlier, a moment of silence was observed for Mandela. Three traditional leaders then summoned the ancestors. They called on the spirit of anti-apartheid artists Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu to accept Mandela's spirit.
Hundreds of people, mostly African National Congress members, came to the arena for the interfaith prayer service to honour Mandela. Most people in the crowd were dressed in ANC T-shirts and the women's league uniform. Others were dressed in uniforms from their various churches.
The Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Bahai and other African faiths were represented.
A large banner with a picture of a smiling Mandela hung from the arena's roof. Large posters with some of Mandela's quotes were placed at the front of the arena.
One read: “I am the captain of my soul.” Another read: “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”
President Jacob Zuma and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile were expected to address the congregation later. ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was among the dignitaries.
Churches, organisations and individuals across the country were holding prayers for Mandela and his family on Sunday. - Sapa