Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies aged 90

In a statement confirming his death on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed condolences to Tutu’s family and friends, calling him “an unparalleled patriot.”

Ramaphosa said: “A man of extraordinary intellect, upright and invincible to the forces of the apartheid regime, he is also soft and vulnerable to those who have suffered oppression, injustice and violence under the apartheid regime, as well as the oppressed and oppressed people around the world. .

His civil and human rights work has resulted in prominent titles around the world. President Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In 2012, Tutu was awarded a $1 million grant by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for his “lifetime commitment to speaking the truth before authority.” .” The following year, he received the Templeton Prize for “his enduring work in promoting spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness that have helped liberate people around the world.”

Most notably, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, following in the footsteps of his compatriot, Albert Lutuli, who received the prize in 1960.

The Nobel Prize strengthens Tutu’s status as an instrumental figure in South Africa, a position he attained after protests against the apartheid regime. Despite anger over policy in South Africa, as well as widespread outcry around the globe – the country was banned from the Olympics from 1964 to 1988 – the South African government quelled opposition. opposition, banned the political party of the African National Congress and imprisoned its leaders, including Mandela.

Pastor Frank Chikane, a former leader of the South African Church Council and a Tutu colleague, said it was up to the clergy to take the lead in speaking out.

“We’ve reached a stage where the church is the defender of the people, the voice of the people,” Chikane told CNN.

The road is full of rocks

During the 1950s, Tutu resigned as a teacher in protest of government restrictions on education for black children, the Bantu Education Act. He ordained in 1960 and spent the 1960s and early 70s alternating between London and South Africa. In 1975, he was appointed rector of St. Mary in Johannesburg and immediately used her new position to make political statements.

“When we were appointed, we said… ‘Well, we’ll live in Soweto,'” I said Academy of Achievement, referring to the black town of Johannesburg. “And so – we always start by making a political statement even without words.”

It was not a plan, although from an early age he was inspired by Trevor Huddleston, a priest and early anti-apartheid activist working in a Johannesburg slum in the 1950s. By embarking on this path, he inspired thousands of his countrymen – and more around the world.

“Desmond Tutu had no reason to act as he did but his profound sense of our common humanity in working for a world where justice and the welfare of all who is an expression of his moral leadership of compassion,” Written Bishop Robert V. Taylor on CNN in 2011.

Tutu believes he has no other choice, even if the road is rocky.

“I would literally go crazy with God. I would say, ‘I mean, how in the name of all that is good can you allow this or that to happen?’ ” he told the Academy of Achievement. “But I have no doubt that in the end good, yes, justice will prevail.”

Hard time

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on 7 October 1931 in Klerksdorp, a town in the Transvaal province of South Africa. His father was a teacher and his mother was a housekeeper, and young Tutu had plans to become a doctor, thanks in part to a bout of childhood tuberculosis, which left him in the hospital more than once. a year. He even qualified for medical school, he said.

But his parents couldn’t afford the tuition, so teaching beckoned.

“The government has given scholarships to people who want to become teachers,” he told the Academy of Achievement. “I became a teacher and I don’t regret it.”

However, he was appalled by the state of schools in black South Africa, and even more appalled when the Bantu Education Act was passed in 1953, apart from apartheid in the nation’s education system. family. He resigned in protest. Not long after, the Bishop of Johannesburg agreed to accept him as a priest – Tutu believes it was because he was a black college-educated, a rarity in the 1950s – and accepted the grace. your new call.

The 1960s and 1970s were a tumultuous time in South Africa. In March 1960, 69 people were killed in the Sharpeville Massacre, when South African police opened fire on a crowd of protesters. Lutuli, an ANC leader who preaches nonviolence, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize later that year – while barred from leaving the country. (The government eventually gave him a few days to claim the prize.)

Mandela – then a firefighter leading an armed wing of the ANC – was arrested, tried and, in 1964, sentenced to life in prison. In the early ’70s, the government forced millions of Blacks to settle in what it called “home”.

Tutu spent many years in England, observing from afar, but finally made a good comeback in 1975, when he was appointed dean of St. Mary in Johannesburg. The following year, he was ordained Bishop of Lesotho. He became famous with a May 1976 letter he wrote to the prime minister, warning of unrest.

“The mood in the towns is scary,” he told the Achievement Academy.

A month later Soweto erupted in violence. More than 600 people died in the uprising.

A special number

As the government grew increasingly oppressive — incarcerating Blacks, establishing confusing laws — Tutu became increasingly outspoken.

Former Truth and Reconciliation Committee member Alex Boraine told CNN: “He’s one of the most hated people, especially white South Africans, because of the stance he takes.”

Chikane, fellow of the South African Council of Churches added, “His moral authority (both as his weapon and as his shield, allowed him to confront his oppressors with a s rare punishment.”

South Africa has become a pariah country. Protesters in the United States opposed the company’s investment in the country, and Congress supported the stance with the Rangel Amendment in 1987. The United Nations instituted a cultural boycott. Popular songs, such as Special “Nelson Mandela” by AKA and United Against Apartheid’s Artist “Sun City,” let down the country’s politics.

With his scarlet tuxedo, Tutu created a distinctive image when he lectured from the podium of bullies – perhaps never like that in his 1984 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

& # 39;  God, I don't mind if I die now & # 39 ;: Desmond Tutu, in his words
After reeling from the prejudices and inequality of the apartheid system, Tutu summed up his thoughts. “Briefly,” he say, “this land, gifted in so many ways by nature, sadly lacks justice.”
There was much injustice going on: assassinations, accusations of squads being beaten, bombings. In 1988, two years after being appointed Archbishop of Cape Town, becoming the first black head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Tutu arrested while submitting an anti-apartheid petition to the South African parliament.

But the situation is changing. The following year, Tutu led a march of 20,000 people in Cape Town. Also in 1989, a new president, FW de Klerk, began to relax segregation laws. Finally, on February 11, 1990, Mandela was released from prison after 27 years.

Four years later, in 1994, Mandela was elected president. Tutu compared being allowed to vote for the first time to “love” and said – behind the birth of his first child – introducing Mandela as the country’s new president was the biggest moment in his life. his life.

“I actually told God, I don’t mind if I die now,” he told CNN.

Controversial stance

However, Tutu’s work was not done. In 1995, Mandela appointed him chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address human rights abuses during the years of apartheid. Tutu failed the first TRC hearing in 1996.

TRC reported to the government in 1998. Tutu established the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust that same year.

He returned to teaching, becoming a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta for two years and then teaching at the Episcopal School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has published a handful of books, including “No Future Without Forgiveness” (1999), “God Is Not a Christian” (2011), and a children’s book, “Desmond and the Very Mean Word” (2012).

He’s been retired since 2010 but still doesn’t mind taking on controversial positions. He called a boycott Israel in 2014 and said that former US President George W. Bush and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair should “made to answer” at the International Criminal Court for their actions surrounding the Iraq war.

But he’s also known for his sense of humour, which manifests in a distinctive chuckle.

While visiting “The Daily Show” in 2004, he broke up at Jokes by Jon Stewart. And he poked fun at “On Being” interviewer Krista Tippett in 2014, decrying her for not giving him the dried mangoes – his favorite – she had brought.

However, despite all the acclaim and popularity, he told CNN he doesn’t feel like a “great man”.

“What is a gentleman?” he say. “I just know that I’ve had incredible, incredible opportunities. … When you stand out in a crowd, it’s always because you’re being carried on someone else’s shoulders. ”

For all his good deeds, he added, there could be another reason he has such a large following.

“They married me just because I have this big nose,” he said. “And I have this pleasant name, Tutu.”

Tutu is survived by his wife of over 60 years, Nomalizo Leah Tutu, with whom he has four children, Trevor, Theresa, Naomi and Mpho.

CNN’s Robyn Curnow contributed to this report.


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