Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He was the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
Tutu has been active in the defence of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986, the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987, the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999, the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Tutu has also compiled several books of his speeches and sayings.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, the second of the three children of Zacheriah Zililo Tutu and his wife, Aletta, and the only son. Tutu’s family moved to Johannesburg when he was twelve. His father was a teacher and his mother was a cleaner and cook at a school for the blind. Here he met Trevor Huddleston who was a parish priest in the black slum of Sophiatown. “One day,” said Tutu, “I was standing in the street with my mother when a white man in a priest’s clothing walked past. As he passed us he took off his hat to my mother. I couldn’t believe my eyes – a white man who greeted a black working class woman!”
Although Tutu 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 to 1953, and went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School and at Munsienville High School in Mogale City. However, he resigned following the passage of the Bantu Education Act, in protest of the poor educational prospects for black South Africans. He continued his studies, this time in theology, at St Peter’s Theology College in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican priest following in the footsteps of his mentor and fellow activist, Trevor Huddleston.
Tutu then travelled to King’s College London, (1962–1966), where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Theology. During this time he worked as a part-time curate, first at St. Alban’s Church, Golders Green, and then at St. Mary’s Church in Bletchingley, Surrey. He later returned to South Africa and from 1967 until 1972 used his lectures to highlight the circumstances of the African population. He wrote a letter to Prime Minister B. J. 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. He became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare in 1967, a hotbed of dissent and one of the few quality universities for African students in the southern part of Africa. From 1970 to 1972, Tutu lectured at the National University of Lesotho.
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 St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg -— the first black person to hold that position.
On 2 July 1955, Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a teacher whom he had met while at college. They had four children: Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, all of whom attended the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.
His son, Trevor Tutu, caused a bomb scare at East London Airport in 1989 and was arrested. In 1991, he was convicted of contravening the Civil Aviation Act by falsely claiming there had been a bomb on board a South African Airways‘ plane at East London Airport. The bomb threat delayed the Johannesburg bound flight for more than three hours, costing South African Airways some R28000. At the time, Trevor Tutu announced his intention to appeal against his sentence, but failed to arrive for the appeal hearings. He forfeited his bail of R15000. He was due to begin serving his sentence in 1993, but failed to hand himself over to prison authorities. He was finally arrested in Johannesburg in August 1997. He applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was granted in 1997. He was then released from Goodwood Prison in Cape Town where he had begun serving his three-and-a-half year prison sentence after a court in East London refused to grant him bail.
Naomi Tutu founded the Tutu Foundation for Development and Relief in Southern Africa, based in Hartford, Connecticut. She attended the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky and has followed in her father’s footsteps as a human rights activist. She is currently a program coordinator for the Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee. Desmond Tutu’s other daughter, Mpho Tutu, has also followed in her father’s footsteps and in 2004 was ordained an Episcopal priest by her father. She is also the founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage and the chairperson of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance.
In 1997, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent successful treatment in the US. He subsequently became patron of the South African Prostate Cancer Foundation which was established in 2007.
Beginning on his 79th birthday, Tutu has entered a phased retirement from public life, starting with only one day per week in his office until the end of February 2011. On 23 May in Shrewsbury Massachusetts, Tutu gave what is said by to be his last major public event outside of South Africa. Tutu will honour his commitments through May 2011 and will add no more commitments.
Role during apartheid
In 1976, the 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. He vigorously opposed the “constructive engagement” policy of the Reagan administration in the United States, which advocated “friendly persuasion”. Tutu rather supported disinvestment, although it hit the poor hardest, for if disinvestment threw blacks out of work, Tutu argued, at least they would be suffering “with a purpose”. In 1985, the US and the UK (two primary investors into South Africa) stopped any investments. As a result, disinvestment did succeed, causing the value of the Rand to plunge more than 35 percent, and pressuring the government toward reform. Tutu pressed the advantage and organised peaceful marches which brought 30,000 people onto the streets of Cape Town.
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. Through his writings and lectures at home and abroad, Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid. Tutu’s opposition to apartheid was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in South Africa and abroad. He often compared apartheid to Nazism and Communism; as a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. It was thought by many that Tutu’s increasing international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties. 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.
When a new constitution was proposed for South Africa in 1983 to defend against the anti-apartheid movement, Tutu helped form the National Forum Committee to fight the constitutional changes. Despite his opposition to apartheid, Tutu was criticised for “selective indignation” by his passive attitude towards the coup regime in Lesotho (1970–86), where he had taught from 1970–2 and served as Bishop 1976–1978, leaving just as civil war broke out. This contrasted poorly with the courageous stance of Lesotho Evangelical Church personnel who were murdered. In 1986 he receives the honourary citizenship of Reggio nell’Emilia (Italy), the first world’s town that assigned this important award to Desmond Tutu.
In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape Professor Jakes Gerwel founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. The Trust – established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education – provides capacity building at 17 historically disadvantaged institutions. Tutu’s work as a mediator in order to prevent all-out racial war was evident at the funeral of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani in 1993. Tutu spurred a crowd of 120,000 to repeat after him the chants, over and over: “We will be free!”, “All of us!”, “Black and white together!”
In 1993, Tutu was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994, he was an appointed a patron of the World Campaign Against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa, Beacon Millennium and Action from Ireland. In 1995, he was appointed a Chaplain and Sub-Prelate of the Venerable Order of Saint John by Queen Elizabeth II, and he became a patron of the American Harmony Child Foundation and the Hospice Association of Southern Africa.
Role since apartheid
After the fall of apartheid, Tutu headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996 and was made emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, an honorary title that is unusual in the Anglican church. He was succeeded by Njongonkulu Ndungane. At a thanksgiving for Tutu upon his retirement as Archbishop in 1996, Nelson Mandela said that he made an “immeasurable contribution to our nation”.
Tutu is generally credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation as a metaphor for post-apartheid South Africa after 1994 under African National Congress rule. The expression has since entered mainstream consciousness to describe South Africa’s ethnic diversity.
Since his retirement, Tutu has worked as a global activist on issues pertaining to democracy, freedom and human rights. In 2006, Tutu launched a global campaign, organised by Plan, to ensure that all children are registered at birth, as an unregistered child did not officially exist and was vulnerable to traffickers and during disasters. Tutu is the Patron of the educational improvement charity, Link Community Development.
Tutu had announced he would retire from public life when he turned 79 in October 2010, which he did.
- “Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family – reading and writing and praying and thinking – too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels,” the Nobel laureate said in a statement.
Role in South Africa
Tutu is widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience” and has been described by former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, as “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless”. Since his retirement, Tutu has worked to critique the new South African government. Tutu has been vocal in condemnation of corruption, the ineffectiveness of the ANC-led government to deal with poverty, and the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in some townships in South Africa.
After a decade of freedom for South Africa, Tutu was honoured with the invitation to deliver the annual Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture. On 23 November 2004, Tutu gave an address entitled “Look to the Rock from Which You Were Hewn”. This lecture, critical of the ANC-controlled government, stirred a pot of controversy between Tutu and Thabo Mbeki, calling into question “the right to criticise”.
Continued economic stratification and political corruption
Tutu made a stinging attack on South Africa’s political élite, saying the country was “sitting on a powder keg” because of its failure to alleviate poverty a decade after apartheid’s end. Tutu also said that attempts to boost black economic ownership were benefiting only an elite minority, while political “kowtowing” within the ruling ANC was hampering democracy. Tutu asked, “What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?”
Tutu criticised politicians for debating whether to give the poor an income grant of $16 (£12) a month and said the idea should be seriously considered. Tutu has often spoken in support of the Basic Income Grant (BIG) which has so far been defeated in parliament. After the first round of volleys were fired, South African Press Association journalist, Ben Maclennan reported Tutu’s response as: “Thank you Mr President for telling me what you think of me, that I am—a liar with scant regard for the truth, and a charlatan posing with his concern for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed and the voiceless.”
Tutu warned of corruption shortly after the re-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 August 2006 Tutu publicly urged Jacob Zuma, the South African politician (now President) who had been accused of sexual crimes and corruption, to drop out of the ANC’s presidential succession race. He said in a public lecture that he would not be able to hold his “head high” if Zuma became leader after being accused both of rape and corruption. In September 2006, Tutu repeated his opposition to Zuma’s candidacy as ANC leader due to Zuma’s “moral failings”.”
Attacks on Tutu
The head of the Congress of South African Students condemned Tutu as a “loose cannon” and a “scandalous man” – a reaction which prompted an angry Mbeki to side with Tutu. Zuma’s personal advisor responded by accusing Tutu of having double standards and “selective amnesia” (as well as being old). Elias Khumalo claims Tutu “had found it so easy to accept the apology from the apartheid government that committed unspeakable atrocities against millions of South Africans”, yet now “cannot find it in his heart to accept the apology from this humble man who has erred”.
Xenophobic violence in 2008
Tutu has condemned the xenophobic violence which occurred in some parts of South Africa in May 2008. Tutu, who once intervened in the apartheid years to prevent a mob “necklacing” a man, said that when South Africans were fighting against apartheid they had been supported by people around the world and particularly in Africa. Although they were poor, other Africans welcomed South Africans as refugees, and allowed liberation movements to have bases in their territory even if it meant those countries were going to be attacked by the South African Defence force. Tutu called on South Africans to end the violence as thousands of refugees have sought refuge in shelters.
Chairman of The Elders
On 18 July 2007, in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, and Tutu convened The Elders, a group of world leaders to contribute their wisdom, kindness, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. Mandela announced its formation in a speech on his 89th birthday. Tutu is serving as its Chair. Other founding members include Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson, Jonathan Park, Muhammad Yunus and Aung San Suu Kyi, whose chair was left symbolically empty due to her confinement as a political prisoner in Burma.
“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.” The Elders will be independently funded by a group of Founders, including Sir Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Ray Chambers, Michael Chambers, Bridgeway Foundation, Pam Omidyar, Humanity United, Amy Robbins, Shashi Ruia, Dick Tarlow and the United Nations Foundation.
Role in the developing world
Tutu has focused on drawing awareness to issues such as poverty, AIDS and non-democratic governments in the Third World. In particular he has focused on issues in Zimbabwe and Palestine. Tutu also led The Elders’ first mission to travel to Sudan in September–October 2007 to foster peace in the Darfur crisis. “Our hope is that we can keep Darfur in the spotlight and spur on governments to help keep peace in the region,” said Tutu.
Tutu has been vocal in his criticism of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe as well as the South African government’s policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. In 2007 he said the “quiet diplomacy” pursued by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) had “not worked at all” and he called on Britain and the West to pressure SADC, including South Africa, which was chairing talks between President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, to set firm deadlines for action, with consequences if they were not met. Tutu has often criticised Robert Mugabe in the past and he once described the autocratic leader as “a cartoon figure of an archetypical African dictator”. In 2008, he called for the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe – by force if necessary. Mugabe, on the other hand, has called Tutu an “angry, evil and embittered little bishop”.
Tutu has often stated that all leaders in Africa should condemn Zimbabwe: “What an awful blot on our copy book. Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans, are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?” After the Zimbabwean presidential elections in April 2008, Tutu expressed his hope that Mugabe would step down after it was initially reported that Mugabe had lost the elections. Tutu reiterated his support of the democratic process and hoped that Mugabe would adhere to the voice of the people.
Tutu called Mugabe “someone we were very proud of”, as he “did a fantastic job, and it’s such a great shame, because he had a wonderful legacy. If he had stepped down ten or so years ago he would be held in very, very high regard. And I still want to say we must honour him for the things that he did do, and just say what a shame.”
Tutu stated that he feared that riots would break out in Zimbabwe if the election results were ignored. He proposed that a peace-keeping force should be sent to the region to ensure stability.
In 2009, Tutu assisted in the establishing of the Solomon Islands’ Truth and Reconciliation Commission, modelled after the South African body of the same name. He spoke at its official launch in Honiara on 29 April 2009, emphasising the need for forgiveness in order to build lasting peace.
Israel and Palestine
Tutu has acknowledged the significant role Jews played in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and has voiced support for Israel’s security concerns, speaking against suicide bombing. He is also an active and prominent proponent of the campaign for divestment from Israel, likening Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of Black South Africans under apartheid. Tutu drew this comparison on a Christmas visit to Jerusalem in 1989, when he said 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.” He made similar comments in 2002, speaking of “the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about”.
In 1988, the American Jewish Committee noted that Tutu was strongly critical of Israel’s military and other connections with apartheid-era South Africa, and quoted him as saying that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism”, on the grounds that it “excludes people on ethnic or other grounds over which they have no control”. While the AJC was critical of some of Tutu’s views, it dismissed “insidious rumours” that he had made anti-Semitic statements. (The exact wording of Tutu’s statement was reported differently in different sources. A Toronto Star article from the period indicates that he described Zionism “as a policy that looks like it has many parallels with racism, the effect is the same.”)
Tutu preached a message of forgiveness during a 1989 trip to Israel’s Yad Vashem museum, saying “Our Lord would say that in the end the positive thing that can come is the spirit of forgiving, not forgetting, but the spirit of saying: God, this happened to us. We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.” Some found this statement offensive, with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calling it “a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere.” Tutu was subjected to racial slurs during this visit to Israel, with vandals writing “Black Nazi pig” on the walls of the St. George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem, where he was staying.
In 2002, when delivering a public lecture in support of divestment, Tutu said “My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?” He argued that Israel could never live in security by oppressing another people, and stated, “People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.” The latter statement was criticised by some Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League. When he edited and reprinted parts of his speech in 2005, Tutu replaced the words “Jewish lobby” with “pro-Israel lobby”.
In August 2011, Archbishop Tutu met with Israeli students and stated that “boycotts are not the way”. He also acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. 
In 2003, Tutu accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International, a Christian liberation theology organisation which supports the concerns of the Palestinian Christian community and has actively lobbied the international Christian community for divestment from Israel. In the same year, Archbishop Tutu received an International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo School of Law, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, sparking scattered student protests and condemnations from representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Anti-Defamation League. A 2006 opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper described him as “a friend, albeit a misguided one, of Israel and the Jewish people”. The Zionist Organization of America has led a campaign to protest Tutu’s appearances at North American campuses.
Tutu was appointed as the UN Lead for an investigation into the Israeli bombings in the Beit Hanoun November 2006 incident. Israel refused Tutu’s delegation access so the investigation didn’t occur until 2008.
During that fact-finding mission, Tutu called the Gaza blockade an abomination and compared Israel’s behaviour to the military junta in Burma.
During the 2008–2009 Gaza War, Tutu called the Israeli offensive “war crimes”.
Protests against Tutu in the USA
In 2011 some members of the American Psychiatric Association refused to attend the group’s annual meeting in Honolulu to protest on the selection of Tutu as speaker because of the bishop alleged “anti-Semitic” statements. Dr. Thomas G. Gutheil went as far as to resign from the organisation.
In 2007, the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota cancelled a planned speech from Tutu, on the grounds that his presence might offend some members of the local Jewish community. Many faculty members opposed this decision, and with some describing Tutu as the victim of a smear campaign. The group Jewish Voice for Peace led an email campaign calling on St. Thomas to reconsider its decision, which the president did and invited Tutu to campus. Tutu declined the re-invitation, speaking instead at the Minneapolis Convention Center at an event hosted by Metro State University. However, Tutu later addressed the issue two days later while making his final appearance at Metro State.
“There were those who tried to say ‘Tutu shouldn’t come to [St.Thomas] to speak.’ I was 10,000 miles away and I thought to myself, ‘Ah, no,’ because there were many here who said ‘No, come and speak,’” Tutu said. “People came and stood and had demonstrations to say ‘Let Tutu speak.’ [Metropolitan State] said ‘Whatever, he can come and speak here.’ Professor Toffolo and others said ‘We stand for him.’ So let us stand for them.”
Tutu wrote to the Chinese government demanding the release of dissident Yang Jianli in 2007. He criticised China for not doing more against the Darfur genocide. During the 2008 Tibetan unrest, Tutu praised the 14th Dalai Lama and said that the government of China should “listen to [his] pleas for… no further violence”. He later spoke to a rally calling on heads of states worldwide to not attend the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony “for the sake of the beautiful people of Tibet”.
The Dalai Lama was not granted a visa to South Africa to participate in the 80th birthday party of fellow Nobel peace prize winner Tutu on 7 October 2011. He said his application for a visa had not come through on time despite having been made to Pretoria several weeks earlier. In 2009 Beijing had warned against allowing the Dalai Lama into the country.
United Nations role
However, Tutu has also criticised the UN, particularly on the issue of West Papua. Tutu expressed support for the West Papuan independence movement, criticising the UN’ 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 was named to head a United Nations fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, where, in a November 2006 incident the Israel Defense Forces killed 19 civilians after troops wound up a week-long incursion aimed at curbing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the town. Tutu planned to travel to the Palestinian territory to “assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults,” according to the president of the UN Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso De Alba. Israeli officials expressed concern that the report would be biased against Israel. Tutu cancelled the trip in mid-December, saying that Israel had refused to grant him the necessary travel clearance after more than a week of discussions. However, Tutu and British academic Christine Chinkin are now due to visit the Gaza Strip via Egypt and will file a report at the September 2008 session of the Human Rights Council.
Tutu is a supporter of the magazine New Internationalist, which campaigns for social and environmental justice worldwide.
Before the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005, Tutu called on world leaders to promote free trade with poorer countries. Tutu also called on an end to expensive taxes on anti-AIDS drugs.
Following this summit, the G8 leaders promised to increase aid to developing countries by $48bn a year by 2010. Further, they gave their word of honour that they would do the best they could to achieve universal access to prevention and treatment for the millions and millions of people globally threatened by HIV/AIDS.
Before the 32nd G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in 2007, Tutu called on the G8 to focus on poverty in the Third World. Following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000, it appeared that world leaders were determined as never before to set and meet specific goals regarding extreme poverty.
In January 2003, Tutu attacked British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stance in supporting American President George W. Bush over Iraq. The alliance of Britain and the United States of America led to the outbreak of the Iraq War later that year. Tutu asked why Iraq was being singled out when Europe, India and Pakistan also had many weapons of mass destruction.
In October 2004, Tutu appeared in a play at Off Broadway, New York, called Guantanamo – Honor-bound to Defend Freedom. This play was highly critical of the US handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Tutu played Lord Justice Steyn, a judge who questions the legal justification of the detention regime.
In January 2005, Tutu added his voice to the growing dissent over terrorist suspects held at Camp X-Ray in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, referring to detentions without trial as “utterly unacceptable.” Tutu compared these detentions to those under Apartheid. Tutu also emphasised that when South Africa had used those methods the country had been condemned, however when powerful countries such as Britain and the United States of America had invoked such power, the world was silent and in that silence accepted their methods even though they violated essential human rights.
In February 2006, Tutu repeated these statements after a UN report was published which called for the closure of the camp. Tutu stated that the Guantanamo camp was a stain on the character of the United States, while the legislation in Britain which gave a 28-day detention period for terror suspects was “excessive” and “untenable”. Tutu pointed out that similar arguments were being made in Britain and the United States which the South African apartheid regime had used. “It is disgraceful and one cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and the United States and some of their allies have accepted,” said Tutu. Tutu also attacked Tony Blair’s failed attempt to hold terrorist suspects in Britain for up to 90 days without charge. “Ninety days for a South African is an awful déjà-vu because we had in South Africa in the bad old days a 90-day detention law,” he said. Under apartheid, as at Guantanamo, people were held for “unconscionably long periods” and then released, he said.
In 2007, Tutu stated that the global “war on terror” could not be won if people were living in desperate conditions. Tutu said that the global disparity between rich and poor people creates instability.
HIV, AIDS and TB
Tutu has been a tireless campaigner for health and human rights, and has been particularly vocal in support of controlling TB and HIV. He is Patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, a registered Section 21 non-profit organisation[clarification needed], and has served as the honorary chairman for the Global AIDS Alliance and is patron of TB Alert, a UK charity working internationally. In 2003 the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre was founded in Cape Town, while the Desmond Tutu TB Centre was founded in 2003 at Stellenbosch University. Tutu suffered from TB in his youth and has been active in assisting those afflicted, especially as TB and HIV/AIDS deaths have become intrinsically linked in South Africa. “Those of you who work to care for people suffering from AIDS and TB are wiping a tear from God’s eye,” Tutu said.
On 20 April 2005, after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected 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 2007, statistics were released that indicated HIV and AIDS numbers were lower than previously thought in South Africa. However, Tutu named these statistics “cold comfort” as it was unacceptable that 600 people died of AIDS in South Africa every day. Tutu also rebuked the government for wasting time by discussing what caused HIV/AIDS, which particularly attacks Mbeki and Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang for their denialist stance.
In 2002, Tutu called for a reform of the Anglican Communion in regard to how its leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is chosen. The ultimate appointment is made by the British Prime Minister and thus Tutu said that the selection process will be properly democratic and representative only when the link between church and state is broken. In February 2006 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 to diminish their differences. For Tutu, “a united church is no optional extra.”
Tutu says he still reads the Bible every day and recommends that people read it as a collection of books, not a single constitutional document: “You have to understand is that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material,” he said. “There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn’t accept.”
In the debate about Anglican views of homosexuality, he has opposed Christian discrimination against homosexuals while suggesting homosexual church leaders should currently remain celibate. Commenting days after 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, 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.” Tutu has remarked that it is sad the Church is spending time disagreeing on sexual orientation “when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and conflict”.
Tutu has increased his criticism of conservative attitudes to homosexuality within his own church, equating homophobia with racism. Stating at a conference in Nairobi that he is “deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on ‘what do I do in bed with whom'”. In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on 18 November 2007, Tutu accused the church of being obsessed with homosexuality and declared: “If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn’t worship that God.”
Tutu has lent his name to the fight against homophobia in Africa and around the world. He stated at the launching of the book ‘Sex, Love and Homophobia’ that homophobia is a ‘crime against humanity’ and ‘every bit as unjust’ as apartheid. He added that “we struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about; our very skins…It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given.”
He supported the creation of the Harvey Milk Foundation after being a co-recipient of 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom with Harvey Milk and meeting Milk’s nephew, Stuart, who accepted the Medal on behalf of his uncle. Tutu remains involved as a founding member of the Foundation’s Advisory Board.
On 8 March 2009, Desmond Tutu joined the campaign “Africa for women’s rights” launched by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), Women and Law in South Africa (WLSA) and hundred other African human rights and women’s rights organisations. This campaign for the fulfilment of women’s human rights, and the end of violence and discrimination against women, aims to generate mass mobilisation and draw maximum attention, in order to increase pressure on African States to ratify the international and regional women’s human rights protection instruments, without reservation, and to respect them, in domestic laws and in practice.
In 1994, Tutu said that he approved of artificial contraception and that abortion was acceptable in a number of situations, such as incest and rape. He specifically welcomed the aims of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
Tutu was at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. He made a speech in front of many at the event. Tutu is also a “Climate Ally” in the “tck tck tck Time for Climate Justice” campaign of the Global Humanitarian Forum and a 350.org messenger.
US immigration laws
On 28 April 2011, Tutu published a strongly worded article about Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which criminalises undocumented immigration in the US State of Arizona, and requires Arizona police to request immigration documentation of any person suspected of committing a crime, a clause which would require immigrants to carry documentation on their person at all times. He stated that he was “saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in. Or that should a policeman hear her accent and form a “reasonable suspicion” that she is an illegal immigrant, she can – and will – be taken into custody until someone sorts it out, while her children are at home waiting for their dinner.” He urged the State of Arizona to create a new model to deal with the pitfalls of illegal immigration, one that “is based on a deep respect for the essential human rights Americans themselves have grown up enjoying.”
Other humanitarian initiatives
Also in 2009, along with prominent chefs and celebrities like Daniel Boulud and Jean Rochefort, Desmond Tutu endorsed Action Against Hunger‘s No Hunger Campaign calling on the former Vice-President Al Gore to make a documentary film about world hunger.
In 1998, he was appointed as the Robert R Woodruff Visiting Professor at Emory University, Atlanta. He returned to Emory University the following year as the William R Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor. In 2000, he founded the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to raise funds for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town. The following year he launched the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation USA, which is designed to work with universities nationwide to create leadership academies emphasising peace, social justice and reconciliation.
In 2001, the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, launched the Desmond Tutu Footprints of the Legends Awards to recognise leadership in combating prejudice, human rights, research and poverty eradication. Since 2004, he has been a Visiting Professor at King’s College London. In 2007 and in 2010, he joined 600 college students and sailed around the world with the Semester at Sea programme.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu co-chairs 1GOAL Education for All campaign which was launched by Queen Rania of Jordan in August 2009 which aims to secure schooling for some 72 million children world-wide who cannot afford it, in accordance with the Millennium Goal Promise of education for all by 2015 giving them an opportunity to get education through the FIFA 1Goal campaign.
In the ongoing effort to research the diversity of the human genome Archbishop Tutu donated some of his own cells to the project. It was sequenced as an example for a Bantu individual representing Sotho-Tswana and Nguni speakers (publication: February 2010).
One Young World
Desmond Tutu has signed up to be one of the Counsellors at One Young World – a non-profit organisation which hopes to bring together 1500 young global leaders of tomorrow from every country in the world.