“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – “If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” These quotes are synonymous with messages and thoughts of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an ardent preacher of messages of peace, fighting oppression, and inclusion.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, born on the 7th of October, died yesterday, on the 26th of December, at a care facility in Cape Town. He succumbed to elongated prostate cancer. Tutu was diagnosed with cancer in 1997.
Condolence messages flowed in from various world leaders from all fraternities, political, religious, philanthropists, and human rights activists. United States of America's former president described Tutu in a few words – “A universal spirit, Archbishop was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere." The UK Royal Family also recognized Tutu’s contribution to human rights in South Africa.
Tutu grew up in a small gold mining town called Transvaal back in the times. He started as a teacher, just like his father, before becoming a bishop. He changed his career at a time when racial segregation was excessively rampant.
The late Archbishop worked as a bishop of Lesotho from 1976 – 78. He began to raise his voice against injustices in South Africa when he served as a dean in Johannesburg. He was the first General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Desmond Tutu’s enthronement as an Archbishop of Cape town was attended by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, and the widow of Martin Luther King.
His popularity rose when he started preaching and non-violently denouncing apartheid. That is when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. But his was more of a message of peace. He was known for preaching that the policy of apartheid was dehumanizing to the oppressor as much as it was to the oppressed. He coined the widely used term ‘Rainbow Nation' to describe the ethnic mix of post-apartheid South Africa.
He has been very influential in the governance of post-apartheid South Africa, especially with regards to healing and reconciliation. He was appointed as South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission head by former president Nelson Mandela. The commission was set up to investigate crimes committed by both sides during the apartheid era.
Furthermore, Tutu is recognized for calling a spade a spade, not a cousin of a shovel. He called out former president Thabo Mbeki for enacting policies that enriched a tiny elite while “many, too many of our people live in grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty."
He was not even happy with the state of affairs under Jacob Zuma. This is bolstered by his prophetic statement, “Mr. Zuma, you and your government don’t represent me. You represent your own interests. I am warning you out of love, one day we will start praying for the defeat of the A.N.C. government. You are disgraceful". He criticized the A.N.C.-led government, calling them worse than the apartheid government. Fast forward to 2021, A.N.C. is losing its political grip in South Africa.
Indeed he ran his race, served his people.
A South African Hero? Yes