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HomeWorldArchbishop Desmond Tutu: Father of South Africa's 'Rainbow Nation'

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Father of South Africa’s ‘Rainbow Nation’

P. Pratap Kumar, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Durban, (South Africa), December 27 (The Conversation) Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mplo Tutu has died at the age of 90.

Archbishop Tutu earned the respect and love of millions of people in South Africa and around the world. He made a permanent place in his heart-o-mind. People fondly called him “The Ark”.

When South Africans came out on the morning of 7 April 2017 to protest against the removal of the then-President Jacob Zuma respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Archbishop Tutu also left his Hermanus retirement home to join the protest. At that time he was 86 years old and his health was very bad. But protest was in his blood. In his view, no government was legitimate unless it represented all its people well.

There was still that sharpness in his words when he said that we would pray for the downfall of a government that does not represent us properly.

These words echoed his moral conviction as well as his stand for human dignity. On the basis of these principles, he fought bravely against the system of apartheid and became a vocal defender of human rights and campaigner of the oppressed, which the Desmond Tutu Foundation affirms.

But after the formal end of apartheid in 1994, Archbishop Tutu did not stop his fight for human rights. He continued to speak critically against politicians abusing their power. He raised his voice on a wide range of issues including HIV/AIDS, poverty, racism, homophobia and transphobia.

His fight for human rights was not confined to South Africa. Through his Peace Foundation, which he created in 2015, he advances his vision for a peaceful world “in which everyone values ​​human dignity and our mutuality”.

He was also always ready to support the Dalai Lama, whom he considered his best friend. He condemned the South African government for denying a visa to a Tibetan spiritual leader in exile who had come to deliver the “Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture” in 2011.

early years

Archbishop Tutu belonged to a humble family. He was born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, in the North West Province of South Africa, where his father, Zakaria, was a high school headmaster. His mother, Aletha Matlare, was a domestic worker.

One of the most influential figures for her in her early years was Father Trevor Huddleston, a fierce campaigner against apartheid. Their friendship introduced young Tutu to the Anglican Church.

After completing his education he briefly taught English and history at Madiben High School in Soweto and then west of Johannesburg; He attended Krugersdorp High School, where his father was the headmaster. It was here that he met Nomalizo Leah Shenxen, whom he later married.

It is interesting that he agreed to a Roman Catholic marriage, although he himself was an Anglican. This work done in the early stages of his life gives us an indication of his commitment to worldwide work in later years.

He left teaching in 1953 in view of the introduction of less “Bantu education” for black people. Under the Bantu Education Act, 1953, the education of the native African population was limited to making them an unskilled.

In 1955 Tutu entered the service of the church as sub-deacon. He got married in the same year. He enrolled for religious education in 1958 and, after completing his studies, was appointed as a deacon of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg in 1960, becoming its first black dean in 1975.

In 1962 he went to London to pursue further religious education with funding from the World Council of Churches. He earned a master’s degree in theology, and after serving in various parishes in London, returned to South Africa in 1966 to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary in Ellis, Eastern Cape.

One of the lesser known facts is that he had a special interest in the study of Islam. He wanted to pursue it in his doctoral studies, but it could not happen.

The activities he was involved in in the early 1970s would lay the foundation for his political struggle against apartheid. These included teaching in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland, and then, posting in London as Associate Director for Africa at the Theological Education Fund and his exposure to Black Theology. He also toured several African countries in the early 1970s.

He eventually returned to Johannesburg in 1976 as Dean of Johannesburg and Rector of St. Mary’s Anglican Parish.

political activism

Tutu first encountered then-apartheid Prime Minister John Vorster in St. Mary’s, writing a letter to him in 1976 condemning the depressing conditions black people lived in.

Soweto burst into flames of protest on June 16, when black high school students protested the forced use of Africans as a medium of instruction, and were crushed by apartheid police.

Bishop Tutu went deeper and deeper into this struggle. He gave one of his most passionate and fiery speeches after the custodial death of black consciousness leader, Steve Biko in 1977.

His role as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, and later as rector of St. Augustine’s Church in Orlando West in Soweto, saw him as an ardent critic of the most egregious aspects of apartheid. This included the forcible removal of black people from urban areas considered to be white areas.

a target

Because of his increasing political activism in the 1980s, Ark became a target of apartheid government persecution and faced threats of death as well as bomb attacks. His passport was revoked in March 1980. After much international outcry and interference, he was given a “limited travel document” to travel abroad two years later.

His work was recognized globally, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984 for a major role in the campaign to solve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.

He received more distinguished awards. He became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1984 and Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. In the four years following Nelson Mandela’s release after 27 years in prison, Ark reduced his works to him. This included campaigning to bring international pressure on apartheid through sanctions.

democracy year

After 1994, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its primary goal was to give repentance to those who violated human rights – for or against apartheid. Also offering legal amnesty to those who deserved it.

The two greatest moments of his personal life took his religious outlook beyond the confines of the church. One was when his daughter Amfo announced that she was gay and the church denied her same-sex marriage. Arch declared that if God, as they say, is afraid of homosexuality, then I would not worship that God.

The second was the time he declared his preference for euthanasia.

South Africa is blessed to be guided by a brave and courageous man like The Ark, who truly embodies the idea of ​​the country as the “Rainbow Nation”. The coming generations of South Africa will feel the lack of moral education of this brave soldier of God. Humba Kahale (Get Well) Ark.

The Conversation Ekta

Unity

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