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Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born October 7, 1931) is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, South African cleric and activist who rose to worldwide fame in the 1980s through his opposition to apartheid. He was the first black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa.



He was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa, and moved with his family to Johannesburg at age 12. Though he wanted to become a physician, his family could not afford this training and he followed his father's footsteps and took up teaching, studying from 1951 through 1953. He then went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School, where he remained until 1957, when he quit in protest of the poor educational prospects for black people at the time. He took up studying theology, and in 1961 was ordained as an Anglican priest and became chaplain at University of Fort Hare, a hotbed of dissent and one of the only good universities open for black students in the southern part of Africa.

From 1962 to 1966 he took Bachelor's and Master's degrees at King's College, London. Back in South Africa from 1967 to 1972 as a master of Theology, he used his lectures to highlight the situation 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". This letter remained unanswered.

From 1972 to 1975, he returned to the UK, where he was the vice-director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, at Bromley in Kent. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in 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, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi and Mpho Andrea.

Political work

In 1976, the pupil and student rebellion in Soweto began. From now on he supported an economic boycott of his country. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches . With that position Tutu could continue his work with agreement of nearly all churches against apartheid, which he did by his publications and journeys abroad. Tutu constantly preached a reconciliation between both sides.

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

He became the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa on September 7, 1986. In 1989 Tutu was invited to Birmingham, England as part of Citywide Christian Celebrations , Tutu and his wife visited a number of establishments including Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook. The acclaimed black photographer Pogus Caesar took a number of rare photographs which documented Tutu's memorable trip.

After the fall of apartheid, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 1999 he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for his work as Chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 2004, Tutu returned to the UK as Visiting Professor in Post-Conflict Societies at King's College London and also to give 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 that features a rare bust of his likeness.

Political views

Tutu believes the treatment of Palestinians by the Jewish state of Israel is a form of apartheid [1]. He has repeatedly called upon the Israeli government to respect the human dignity of the Palestinian people, whether Muslim or Christian. In 2003 he became the patron of Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center located in Jerusalem. The Zionist Organization of America has repeatedly accused Tutu of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, primarily for various remarks he has made about Israel. Its president, Morton A. Klein, has made the claim that "Tutu's prejudice against Jews, hostility towards Zionism, and indifference to Jewish victims of Arab terrorism are not the qualities one normally expects to find in a man of peace." [2].

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.

Commenting days after the August 5, 2003 Episcopal Church gay bishop ordination, Desmond Tutu said that he does not see what "all the fuss" is about: "For us [the Anglican Church in South Africa] that doesn't make a difference, the sexual orientation." [3]

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 April 20, 2005, following the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, Tutu said he was sad that The Catholic Church's was unlikely to change its opposition to condoms amid 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." [4]

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Last updated: 08-18-2005 05:26:24