Desmond Tutu was a moral voice for South Africa and the world (obituary)

Cape Town, December 26 (UNI) One of the world’s most respected human rights and spiritual leaders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a living testimony to faith in action, unsustainable in his opposition to the evils of racism, oppression, intolerance and injustice not only during apartheid in South Africa, but all over the world, it saw moral wrongs, particularly affecting the most vulnerable and voiceless in society.

Although he was a Christian leader in his official work, atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and people of all faiths were led and guided by him.

Every public action he took was based on his deep Christian faith and his personification of Ubuntu, which gave his words and actions immense moral gravity.

From its position on non-violence but in favor of sanctions in the fight against apartheid, its criticism of the ANC’s abuses, its support for antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive people in the Thabo Mbeki era, its opposition to the American invasion of Iraq, his denunciation of Robert Mugabe, his outspoken support for Palestinian rights, his message of uncompromising love for gays despite conservatism in the church, and his support for physician-assisted dying , he was a long-time fighter for human rights and against oppression.

During the 1980s, when Nelson Mandela was in prison and silenced by the National Party, Tutu was the most important global voice in the anti-apartheid struggle. Like Mandela, he was until his last day committed to the vision of a non-racial South Africa without economic inequalities and poverty.

Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp in 1932. He first entered the teaching profession. A formative experience was when an Anglican monk, Father Trevor Huddleston, raised his hat to young Tutu’s mother as they stood together at a bus stop in Soweto. This helped Tutu decide to enter the priesthood.

He was trained at St Peter’s Priory by the Resurrection Community of which Huddleston was a member. This community, with its emphasis on sacramental life centered on the incarnation of Christ, was to be the foundation of Tutu’s spirituality, which in turn informed his political activism.

For Tutu, apartheid, a system that defined humanity on the basis of color, was blasphemy. He became one of its most vocal opponents in the 1970s, leading protests and civil disobedience against the government. In response, the National Party attempted to portray Tutu as a political opportunist.

He became bishop of Lesotho, then secretary general of the South African Council of Churches. In 1985 he became Bishop of Johannesburg and in 1986 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest post in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Much to the government’s dismay, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

At the root of it all was his spirituality, his focus on the daily Eucharist, morning and evening prayer and regular intercessory prayer with time for retreats and quiet days.

The Nobel Prize, his high position in the church and his opposition to violence made it very difficult for the National Party to deal with him like its other opponents. In some ways, he was the regime’s most formidable opponent.

Tutu also used his fiery rhetoric to advocate for international sanctions against South Africa – an offense under the apartheid government’s terrorism law, which provided for a minimum sentence of five years in prison. His courageous speech won him hatred of white racists and the adulation of majority black South Africans. This propelled him to the rank of the most prominent anti-apartheid leader on the international stage, a position cemented when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

When black political leaders were finally released from prison in 1990, Tutu left the political scene to Nelson Mandela and others, while reserving and exercising the right to criticize politicians of all stripes, including Mandela himself. even, for their failure to live up to his own and theirs. ideals. Its ideals have always been deeply rooted in faith, justice and ubuntu.

His criticism of the government continued under the ANC. He denounced those who were eager to board the “sauce train”. He chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He believed that by facing the truth about our past, South Africa could move forward as a nation. And he called on all those involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to put aside their prejudices and fears and work for peace and justice for the Palestinian people.

Tutu lent its name to two major medical research institutes in Cape Town: the Desmond Tutu HIV Center at UCT and the Desmond Tutu TB Center at the University of Stellenbosch. He was a strong supporter of access to medicine.

When Tutu was first diagnosed with cancer in 1994, he described how it made him aware of his mortality. After being praised around the world for his contribution to establishing democracy in South Africa, he said he needed to be reminded that he too “was mortal”.

In a statement made years later, on behalf of the World Council of Churches, Tutu explained his perspective on racism: “Racism is a sin. It is contrary to God’s will for love, peace, equality, justice and compassion for all. It is an affront to human dignity and a flagrant violation of human rights. “Human dignity is a gift from God to all mankind. It is the gift of the image and likeness of God in every human being. Racism defiles the likeness of God in every person. Human rights are the protections we give to human dignity. We participate in the human rights struggle to restore the integrity that has been shattered by racism. The fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is the struggle to sanctify and affirm life in all its fullness.

As a mediator during the violence of South Africa’s difficult transition to democracy in the early 1990s, Tutu focused on helping the country towards healing and reconciliation, stressing that just as l Apartheid has devastated the lives and psyches of black South Africans, it has also damaged the souls of prejudiced white South Africans.

Forgiveness, Tutu has always been careful to explain, demands that the wrong be fearlessly resolved by both parties, and that the need for restitution be honored.

In 2007, President Mandela invited Tutu to become a founding member of “The Elders” along with former US President Jimmy Carter, retired UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Irish President Mary Robinson. The vision of the Elders was close to Tutu’s heart: to fight injustice, resolve conflicts and promote ethical leadership. He was the first president of the group. Annan called Tutu “the highest moral authority of our time”.

Conspicuously retiring from public life on his 79th birthday on October 7, 2010, even in his later years, Tutu has not silenced his lifelong legacy of speaking the truth to power over a series of issues: corruption, illegal arms sales, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, respect for the rule of law, HIV / AIDS, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and LGBTQI + rights.

Tutu once made the famous remark: “I wish I could shut up, but I can’t and I won’t.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: “Wherever there are human rights violations or people’s freedom is taken away, whether in Burma or Tibet”, from his dear friend Tutu “he is always the first person to oppose it. He works tirelessly for truth, honesty and equality. He sees no difference ”.

Tutu has received numerous prizes, the Gandhi Peace Prize in India; the Templeton Prize; the Mo Ibrahim Award for Achievement in African Leadership; is a member of the Order of Meritorious Service, Gold (South Africa), Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor (France) and honorary member of the Order of Companions of Honor (United Kingdom); and received the United States’ highest civilian honor from President Barack Obama, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tutu has also received more than 100 honorary doctorates from universities around the world, including Harvard in the United States and Oxford in the United Kingdom.

More recently, Pope Francis named him, along with Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi, among those who inspired his third encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, which (echoing one of Tutu’s key messages) calls for brotherhood and human solidarity.

Tutu was a healer at heart, an eternal optimist (a true “prisoner of hope”) and an ironic humorist. He will be remembered for his powerful words in defense of the most vulnerable among us, his infinite capacity for empathy, his quick wit, his infectious laughter, and his infallible ability to turn to the light even during times of crisis. unbearable darkness.

(From The Mail and Guardian and GroundUp)


Comments are closed.