Archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has died at the age of 90. Tutu was a contemporary of Nelson Mandela and played a leading role in the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He also spoke of other injustices in the world and warned about global warming.
Tutu was the son of a school principal and a domestic worker. He followed in his father’s footsteps and was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in 1961. He completed his theological studies in England. During a stay in the United States he became an adept of Liberation Theology, a theology in which the fight against injustice is fundamental.
It fiercely resisted the apartheid regime. In the late 1970s he came to the fore in this liberation struggle and began to become famous around the world.Tutu was an eloquent, charismatic and
emotional, with a great sense of humor. In 1984 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. He was despised by reactionary circles, but enjoyed enormous respect and popularity throughout the world. In 1986 he was appointed Archbishop of Cape Town.
Tutu received Mandela, a leader in the anti-apartheid struggle, at his Cape Town residence on the night of his liberation in 1990. As head of the Anglican Church, he would play an important role in the transitional period after the abolition of apartheid.
Tutu kept Church and State strictly separate and thus kept aloof from the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela’s party. He did share Mandela’s vision of a multiracial society in which all communities lived together without rancor or discrimination. A vision that he described with the term “rainbow nation.”
In 1994 Mandela was elected president of a free South Africa. He asked Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR). This commission organized the controversial and emotional hearings on human rights violations during the apartheid era.
In the late 1990s, Tutu suffered from prostate cancer. Despite his illness, he remained interested in world affairs and used his enormous moral prestige to do so. In 2003 he strongly condemned the invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies. Years later he even refused to share the stage with Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister of Great Britain when that invasion took place.
Tutu compared the situation in Israel to the apartheid regime in South Africa. “The humiliation of the Palestinians sounds familiar to all black South Africans who were detained, harassed, insulted and mistreated by the security forces of the apartheid government.” Tutu led a UN fact-finding mission to investigate the Israeli attack on Gaza in November 2006. Nineteen Palestinians were killed in that attack, including seven children. Israel denied him permission to enter Gaza, but he was eventually able to travel to the besieged area through Egypt.
In 2014 Desmond Tutu declared his support for the international boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement as a peaceful means of opposition to the Israeli occupation. “Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of ‘normalcy’ in Israeli society, do a disservice to the people of Israel and Palestine. They help perpetuate a deeply unjust status quo ”.
Within the Church he urged the ordination of women and strongly opposed discrimination against homosexuals. Because of that discrimination, he felt “ashamed to be Anglican.” On the day he turned 85, he made a remarkable speech in favor of euthanasia.
In 2015 Tutu launched a petition calling on world leaders to create a world powered by renewable energy within 35 years. He described climate change as “one of the greatest moral challenges of our time.”
Mandela wrote in his autobiography: “Here was a man who had inspired an entire nation with his words and his courage, who had revived the hope of the people in the darkest times. His voice will always be the voice of those who do not have ”.
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Desmond Tutu, an icon of the fight against apartheid