Leaders from around the world were united in mourning and praise for anti-apartheid former South African President Nelson Mandela, who passed away at age 95 Thursday night.
"Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said during a press conference. "He touched our lives in deeply personal ways…Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us – if we believe a dream and work together for justice and humanity."
The 15-nation Security Council hailed the Nobel Laureate's lifelong fight against racial oppression and his role in uniting South Africa as a legacy remembered worldwide.
"President Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as someone who gave up so much of his life in the struggle for freedom, so that millions could have a brighter future," the Security Council wrote.
Mandela spent 27 years in jail for his defiance against the apartheid practices of the South African government. He would emerge to become the nation's first black president.
South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered all South African flags be lowered to half-staff from Friday until after Mandela is laid to rest during a state funeral on Dec. 15 in Qunu, the village in South Africa's rural Eastern Cape where the Nobel Laureate grew up. A separate open-air memorial service will be held on Dec. 10 in Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium, which seats roughly 100,000.
"As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified," Zuma said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.
President Barack Obama is expected to confirm that he will travel to South Africa to attend Mandela's funeral, a White House official told ABC news on Thursday. Obama has ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff on Dec. 9 "as a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela."
"One of the brightest lights of our world has gone out," British Prime Minister David Cameron said during a Thursday night press conference. "Nelson Mandela was not just a hero of our time, but a hero of all time. The strongest impression of all when you met him was of his extraordinary compassion and generosity and forgiveness."
In a video message, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Mandela an "icon of our time, for man's dignity, equality and freedom, a selfless human being who struggled not only for black South Africans against apartheid, but for the dignity of all of us. History will throw a very kind light on him."
"Nelson Mandela was one of the stellar figures of our age," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "He never became proud or haughty. He acted to heal the wounds within South African society and with the force of his unique personality he was able to prevent the eruption of racial hatred. He will be remembered as the father of modern South Africa and as a moral leader of the highest order."
Other leaders voiced their condolences on Twitter:
All of Canada mourns with the family of Nelson Mandela and the citizens of South Africa. The world has lost one of its great moral leaders.
— Stephen Harper (@pmharper) December 5, 2013
I will never forget my friend Madiba. pic.twitter.com/UX21ZZG7cg
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) December 5, 2013
We mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela. He will be remembered as more than a political leader – he was a moral leader http://t.co/ZsCKetei0m
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) December 5, 2013