Desmond Tutu, South African equality activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, dies at 90



Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize winner for racial justice and LGBT rights and retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, has died, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday. He was 90 years old.

An uncompromising enemy of apartheid, the brutal oppressive regime of South Africa against the black majority, Tutu worked tirelessly, though without violence, for his downfall.

The lively, hard-spoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first black bishop of Johannesburg and later archbishop of Cape Town, as well as frequent public demonstrations to galvanize public opinion against racial inequality both at home and worldwide. .

Tutu’s death on Sunday “is another chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of prominent South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

“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 for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arc distinguished itself as a non-sectarian advocate. and inclusive of universal human rights. “

Members of the audience stop on Sunday after placing flowers in memory of the Tutu in front of St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. (Mike Hutchings / Reuters)

Tutu died peacefully at the Cape Town Oasis Frail Care Center, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Trust said in a statement on Sunday.

Tutu had been hospitalized several times since 2015, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.

In recent years, he and his wife, Leah, have been living in a retirement community outside of Cape Town.

‘The Archbishop of the village’

Throughout the 1980s, when South Africa was seized by apartheid violence and a state of emergency that gave powers to the police and military powers, Tutu was one of the most prominent black residents who being able to speak out against abuse.

An animated wit lightened Tutu’s forceful messages and warmed protests, funerals, and otherwise gloomy marches. Low, brave, tenacious, he was a formidable force, and apartheid leaders learned not to rule out his cunning talent for quoting appropriate scriptures to take advantage of just support for change.

The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate highlighted his stature as one of the most effective human rights defenders in the world, a responsibility he took seriously for the rest of his life.

Tutu delivered a sermon at Regina Mundi Church in Soweto on June 23, 1985, protesting against the South African incursion into Botswana. (Gideon Mendel / AFP / Getty Images)

With the end of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Tutu celebrated the country’s multiracial society, calling it the “rainbow nation,” a phrase that captured intoxicating optimism. of the moment.

Called “the bow”, Tutu was tiny, with a mischievous sense of humor, but he became an important figure in the history of his country, comparable to his fellow Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela, a prisoner during the white government. who became the first black president of South Africa. Tutu and Mandela shared a commitment to building a better and more egalitarian South Africa.

In 1990, after 27 years in prison, Mandela spent his first night at the Tutu residence in Cape Town. Mandela later called Tutu “the archbishop of the village.”

When he became president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of the apartheid system.

He advocated for LGBT rights

Tutu campaigned internationally for human rights, especially LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

“I wouldn’t worship a God who is homophobic and that’s how I feel deeply about it,” she said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBT rights in Cape Town. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic sky. No, I would say, ‘I’m sorry, I’d rather go somewhere else.'”

Tutu said he was “so passionate about this campaign [for LGBT rights] as I have never spoken of apartheid. For me, he is on the same level. “He was one of the most prominent religious leaders to advocate for LGBT rights. Tutu’s very public stance on LGBT rights put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent. as well as within the Anglican Church.

South Africa, Tutu said, was a promising nation for racial reconciliation and equality, although it was disillusioned with the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement that became the ruling party in the 1994 elections. His open statements long after apartheid sometimes angered supporters who accused him of being partial or disconnected.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts with Tutu in Johannesburg in 2008. When he became president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which uncovered the abuses of the apartheid system. . (Themba Hadebe / The Associated Press)

Tutu was especially outraged by the South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, preventing the Tibetan spiritual leader from attending Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration, as well as a planned Nobel Prize meeting in Cape Town. South Africa rejected allegations that Tutu was succumbing to pressure from China, a major trading partner.

In early 2016, Tutu advocated a policy of reconciliation that ended the white minority government amid growing frustration with some South Africans who felt they had not seen the economic opportunities and other benefits expected since it ended. apartheid. Tutu had chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated the atrocities under apartheid and granted amnesty to some perpetrators, but some people believe older white officials should have been prosecuted.

First a teacher

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, west Johannesburg, and became a teacher before entering St. Petersburg. Peter’s Theological College in Rosetenville in 1958 to train as a priest. He was ordained in 1961 and six years later became a chaplain at Fort Hare University. He then moved to the small southern African kingdom of Lesotho and Britain, and Tutu returned home in 1975.

He became Bishop of Lesotho, President of the Council of Churches of South Africa, and in 1985 the first black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg. In 1986, he became the first black archbishop of Cape Town. He ordained priests and promoted gay priests.

Tutu was arrested in 1980 for participating in a protest and then his passport was confiscated for the first time. He was picked up for trips to the United States and Europe, where he held talks with the UN Secretary-General, the Pope and other church leaders.

Prince Harry, on the left, watches as Tutu greets people during his visit to the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town in 2015. (Schalk van Zuydam / The Associated Press)

Tutu often performed funeral services after the massacres that marked the 1990-1994 negotiating period. He criticized black-and-white political violence, asking the crowd, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” At a powerful moment, Tutu calmed the anger of thousands of mourners at a football stadium in the municipality after the massacre of 42 people in Boipatong in 1992, leading the crowd in chanting proclaiming their love for God and for themselves.

After Mandela became president in 1994, he asked Tutu to head the truth commission to promote racial reconciliation. The panel heard horrifying testimonies about torture, murder, and other atrocities during apartheid. In some hearings, Tutu wept openly.

“Without forgiveness, there is no future,” he said at the time. The commission’s 1998 report blamed most of the apartheid forces, but also found the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations. The ANC demanded to block the publication of the document, earning Tutu’s disapproval. “I didn’t fight to eliminate a set of those who thought they were tin gods to replace them with others who are tempted to think they are,” Tutu said.

When asked once how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press, “He loved it. He laughed. He cried. He was forgiven. He forgave. Very privileged.”

Tutu is survived by his 66-year-old wife and four children.

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