Desmond Tutu

Johnathan Gabert

Biography

Bishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany. He has campaigned to fight HIV/AIDS,tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning, homophobia and trans-phobia. He also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Role in Anti-Apartheid

Tutu supported an economic boycott of his country. He 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". He 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; as a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. 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. Tutu's work as a mediator to prevent all-out racial war was evident at the funeral of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani in 1993. He 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!"