Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies at 90

“He believed totally that each one of us is made in the image of God and ought to be treated as such by others”

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spiritual leader, and racial equality campaigner, has died in Cape Town, South Africa, aged 90.

Tutu was a key figure in ending apartheid – the country’s white minority rule – in the 1990s. He was also the first black African to hold the posts of Bishop of Johannesburg and Archbishop of Cape Town.

Mr Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s, and in recent years, he was hospitalised several times for infections resulting from his treatment.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his sadness at Tutu’s passing today, Sunday, 26 December 2021.

“Desmond Tutu was … a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead” – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.

“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.

“A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.

“As Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he articulated the universal outrage at the ravages of apartheid and touchingly and profoundly demonstrated the depth of meaning of ubuntu, reconciliation and forgiveness.

“He placed his extensive academic achievements at the service of our struggle and at the service of the cause for social and economic justice the world over.

“From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.

“In his richly inspiring yet challenging life, Desmond Tutu overcame tuberculosis, the brutality of the apartheid security forces and the intransigence of successive apartheid regimes. Neither Casspirs, teargas nor security agents could intimidate him or deter him from his steadfast belief in our liberation.”

Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid in 1984. He was the last surviving South African laureate of the Prize.

After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he and Tutu led negotiations to create a multi-racial, democratic South Africa.

Beginning in 1996, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – a court-like restorative justice body assembled that allowed victims of human rights violations that occurred under the apartheid era to provide testimony about their experiences and perpetrators of violence to request amnesty for their crimes.

“He wanted every human being on earth to experience the freedom, the peace and the joy that all of us could enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.” – Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba

On hearing of his death, the current Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, praised Tutu, noting the role of prayer, scripture and ministry in his life.

“He believed totally that each one of us is made in the image of God and ought to be treated as such by others. This belief was not reached through cerebral contemplation; it arose from his faith and was held with a deeply-felt passion. He wanted every human being on earth to experience the freedom, the peace and the joy that all of us could enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.

“Because he believed this, and because he worshipped God, he feared no-one. He named wrong wherever he saw it and by whomever it was committed. He challenged the systems that demeaned humanity. He could unleash a righteous anger on those — especially the powerful — who inflicted suffering upon those the Bible calls ‘the least of these, my brothers (and sisters)’.  And when the perpetrators of evil experienced a true change of heart, he followed the example of his Lord and was willing to forgive.

“Desmond Tutu’s legacy is moral strength, moral courage and clarity. He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed — no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight when he shared their joy,” Makgoba said.

Comments