Desmond Tutu

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Religious figures and leaders

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Born 7 October 1931
Klerksdorp, Transvaal
Occupation Cleric, Human Rights activist

The Most Reverend Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African cleric and activist who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. Tutu was elected and ordained the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa). He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

He was generally credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation as a metaphor to describe post-apartheid South Africa after 1994 under ANC rule. The expression has since entered mainstream consciousness to describe South Africa's ethnic diversity.


Born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, Tutu moved with his family to Johannesburg at the age of 12. Although he wanted to become a physician, his family could not afford the training and he followed his father's footsteps into teaching. Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 through 1953. Tutu went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School where he remained until 1957; he resigned following the passage of the Bantu Education Act, protesting the poor educational prospects for black South Africans. He continued his studies, this time in theology, and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican priest. He became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare, a hotbed of dissent and one of the few quality universities for black students in the southern part of Africa.

Tutu left his post as chaplain and travelled to King's College London, (1962–1966), where he received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Theology. He returned to Southern Africa and from 1967 until 1972 used his lectures to highlight the circumstances of the black population. He wrote a letter to Prime Minister Vorster, in which he described the situation in South Africa as a "powder barrel that can explode at any time." The letter was never answered.

In 1972 Tutu returned to the UK, where he was appointed vice-director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, at Bromley in Kent. He returned to South Africa in 1975 and was appointed Anglican Dean of Johannesburg—the first black person to hold that position.

He has been married to Leah Nomalizo Tutu since 1955. They have four children: Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, all of whom attended the famous Waterford Kamhlaba School.

In 1996, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In 2000 Tutu received a L.H.D. from Bates College and in 2005, Tutu received an honorary degree from the University of North Florida, one of the many universities in North America and Europe where he has taught. He visited a school at that time, Twin Lakes Academy Elementary School, and spoke to a class of 3rd graders about his work.

In 2005, Tutu was named a Doctor of Humane Letters at Fordham University in The Bronx. He was also awarded Honorary Patronage of the University Philosophical Society by John Hume another Honorary Patron of the Society and fellow Nobel laureate. He also was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Berea College prior to delivering the commencement address.

In 2006, Tutu was named a Doctor of Public Service at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where he was also the commencement speaker. He was awarded the Light of Truth award along with Tintin by the Dalai Lama for their contribution towards public understanding of Tibet.

In 2007, Tutu will travel for 100 days with college students in the Semester at Sea program through the University of Virginia.

Political work

In 1976 protests in Soweto, also known as the Soweto Riots, against the government's use of Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of instruction in black schools became a massive uprising against apartheid. From then on Tutu supported an economic boycott of his country.

Desmond Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. Though he was most firm in denouncing South Africa's white-ruled government, Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress and denounced terrorism and Communism.

On 16 October 1984, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee cited his "role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa."

Tutu became the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa on 7 September 1986. In 1989 Tutu was invited to Birmingham, United Kingdom, as part of Citywide Christian Celebrations. Tutu and his wife visited a number of establishments including Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook.

After the fall of apartheid, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for which he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999.

In 2004, Tutu returned to the UK as Visiting Professor in Post-Conflict Societies at King's College and gave the Commemoration Oration, as part of the College's 175th anniversary. He also visited the students' union nightclub, named "Tutu's" in his honour and featuring a rare bust of his likeness.

On 17 March 2004 Tutu visited Marymount to accept Marymount University's 2004 Ethics Award.

Political views

The Nobel laureate also has expressed support for the West Papuan independence movement, criticizing the United Nations' role in the takeover of West Papua by Indonesia. Tutu said: "For many years the people of South Africa suffered under the yoke of oppression and apartheid. Many people continue to suffer brutal oppression, where their fundamental dignity as human beings is denied. One such people is the people of West Papua."Tutu has also criticised human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, calling Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe a "caricature of an African dictator", and criticising the South African government's policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe.

He warned of corruption shortly after the election of the African National Congress government of South Africa, saying that they "stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves".

In June 1999, Tutu was invited to give the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Kingston upon Hull, commemorating the life and achievements of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Tutu used the occasion to praise the people of the city for their traditional support of freedom and for standing with the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. He was also presented with the freedom of the city.

In the debate about Anglican views of homosexuality he has opposed Christian discrimination against homosexuality. Commenting days after the 5 August 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man to be a bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Desmond Tutu said, "In our Church here in South Africa, that doesn't make a difference. We just say that at the moment, we believe that they should remain celibate and we don't see what the fuss is about."

Declared Tutu: "I am deeply saddened at a time when we've got such huge problems ... that we should invest so much time and energy in this issue...I think God is weeping."
"Jesus did not say, 'I if I be lifted up I will draw some'," Tutu said, preaching in two morning festival services in Pasadena, California. "Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up I will draw all, all, all, all, all. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful. It's one of the most radical things. All, all, all, all, all, all, all, all. All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All."
He continued: "Isn't it sad, that in a time when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and conflict – that in our Communion we should be investing so much time and energy on disagreement about sexual orientation?"
Tutu said the Communion, which "used to be known for embodying the attribute of comprehensiveness, of inclusiveness, where we were meant to accommodate all and diverse views, saying we may differ in our theology but we belong together as sisters and brothers" now seems "hell-bent on excommunicating one another. God must look on and God must weep."

In January 2005, Tutu added his voice to the growing dissent over terrorist suspects held at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, referring to detentions without trial as "utterly unacceptable."

On 20 April 2005, following the election of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Tutu said he was sad that The Roman Catholic Church was unlikely to change its opposition to condoms amidst the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa: "We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS."

In February 2006 Desmond Tutu took part in the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. There he manifested his commitment to ecumenism and praised the efforts of Christian churches to promote dialogue in order to diminish their differences. For Desmond, "a united church is no optional extra".

In August 2006 Archbishop Tutu publicly urged Jacob Zuma, the South African politician who'd been accused of sexual crimes and corruption, to drop out of the ANC's presidential succession race. Zuma's personal advisor responded by accusing Tutu of having double standards and "selective amnesia" (as well as being old). Tutu and Zuma’s public criticism of each other are reflections of a turbulent time in South African politics.

Israel and Judaism

Tutu once said, "In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders...We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred.

Divestment from Israel

Tutu is an active and prominent advocate of divestment from Israel. Tutu compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to South African apartheid.

Tutu used the analogy on a Christmas visit to Jerusalem on 25 December 1989 when he said in a Haaretz article that he is a "black South African, and if I were to change the names, a description of what is happening in Gaza and the West Bank could describe events in South Africa." In 2002 Tutu said that he was "very deeply distressed" by a visit to Israel, as it that "it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa" and that he saw "the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about". Tutu also said, "Many South Africans are beginning to recognize the parallels to what we went through" and stated that a letter signed by several hundred other prominent Jewish South Africans had drawn an explicit analogy between apartheid and current Israeli policies.

Comments on Jews and Judaism

Tutu has also claimed that "the Jews thought they had a monopoly on God; Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings" and compared the features of the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem to the features of the apartheid system in South Africa".

Tutu has said the Jews should be held to a different standard than other peoples and that "whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can't ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people, and has asked, "Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?" He once asked "how it was possible that the Jews, who had suffered so much persecution, could oppress other people ." He has also stated that Zionism has "very many parallels with racism.".

His comparisons of the Israeli treament of Palestinians to the White South African Government's treatment of Black South Africans and comparisons of Zionism to racism have attracted widespread comment, including accusations of anti-Semitism . Tutu has replied to these characterizations of his comments by insisting that "critics of Israel are being smeared." He cited the power of the "Jewish Lobby."


  • "We received death threats, yes, but you see, when you are in a struggle, there are going to have to be casualties, and why should you be exempt?"
  • "You can't put a money value on freedom."
  • "We can make a difference."

Retrieved from ""