Who is Desmond Mpilo Tutu?

Early Life
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in the gold-mining town of Klerskdorp, Witwatersrand, Transvaal, South Africa, on October 7, 1931. His father, Zachariah Tutu, was a schoolteacher, and his mother, Aletta, was a domestic servant. Although Tutu was baptized a Methodist, his parents later joined the Anglican church.
From an early age, he was profoundly influenced by the idealism of his parents. Father Huddleston was a parish priest in Sophiatown, a black slum, and as Bishop Huddleston, became a leading antiapartheid activist in the United Kingdom.
When Tutu was graduated from Western High School in Johannesburg, he was unable to fulfill his ambition of becoming a doctor as his parents could not afford the tuition fees. His career as a teacher was short-lived, for Tutu resigned in 1957 to protest the “Bantu Education Act,” which introduced a discriminatory and inferior educational system for blacks. Tutu subsequently joined the Community of the Resurrection, the religious order to which Huddleston belonged. Although Tutu has said that he was not motivated to join the ministry by high ideals, his religious conviction grew while studying theology at Saint Peter’s Theological College in Johannesburg. He became a deacon in 1960 and was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1961.

Life’s Work
After serving as curate of two churches in Benoni and Alberton, Tutu left for England in 1962. When he returned to South Africa in 1967, he lectured at the Federal Theological Seminary in the Ciskei and from 1969 to 1971 at the University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, which later became known as the National University of Lesotho at Roma. Tutu returned to England in 1972 as associate director of the Theological Education Fund based in Bromley, Kent. During the next three years, he was responsible for administering scholarships for the World Council of Churches and traveled widely in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Tutu was rising rapidly in the ranks of the church, and, when he returned to South Africa in 1975, he was appointed the first black Anglican dean of Johannesburg. Tutu was becoming more active in the struggle against apartheid, South Africa’s oppressive system of institutionalized racism that denies the black majority any political rights. A few weeks before the Soweto riots on June 16, 1976, during which six hundred young blacks were murdered by the security forces, Tutu wrote an open letter to B. Vorster dismissed the letter as a “propaganda ploy,” and, since the uprising at Soweto, South Africa has faced continuing unrest and instability.

In 1978, Tutu became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). Tutu campaigned vigorously against the Pass Laws, the discriminatory and unequal educational system, and the forced relocation of blacks to Bantustans, or so-called homelands. Tutu began the call he has repeated over the years for the imposition of economic sanctions and an end to foreign investment in South Africa. Although the South African government confiscated his passport in 1979, Tutu continued his courageous opposition to its iniquitous system. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Tutu advocated civil disobedience and led many peaceful antigovernment demonstrations. He gained worldwide prominence, and his stature and reputation were enhanced internationally.

After the South African government restored his passport in 1981, Tutu traveled to the United States and Europe. In speeches and statements during his tour, Tutu reiterated the message that it was necessary for Western nations to apply diplomatic, political, and economic pressure on the South African government if there was to be peaceful change in South Africa. Upon his return to South Africa, his passport was again confiscated by the government. In 1982, Tutu was awarded an honorary doctorate of sacred theology by Columbia University but was denied permission to travel to New York to receive the degree. With his passport revoked, when permitted to leave South Africa, Tutu had to carry “travel documents” that stated that he was of “undetermined nationality.”

In 1984, the South African government adopted a new constitution under which Parliament consisted of three segregated chambers, one each for whites, coloreds, and Asians. Tutu was an articulate spokesperson for the widespread opposition to the constitution. Tutu emphasized that the award was not for him alone but was a moving tribute to all those who had played a part in the struggle for racial equality and justice. He announced that he would put the $193,000 prize money into a trust fund for scholarships for black South Africans. Shortly after receiving the Nobel Prize, a synod of twenty-three bishops appointed Tutu the first black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg.
South Africa had been in a state of turmoil since the introduction of the new constitution.

As disenfranchised blacks vented their rage in protests across the country, the government imposed a state of emergency and a ban on mass funerals for the victims of apartheid in the summer of 1985. Tutu defied the government’s ban on “political” funerals and continued his efforts to prevent civil war and massive racial bloodshed. He received increasing support from the international community as many companies and financial institutions disinvested in the South African economy. Members of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress adopted legislation banning the importation of Kruggerands into the United States, prohibiting new U.S. bank loans to South Africa and the export of computers and nuclear technology. In 1986, Tutu set another milestone with his election as Archbishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican church in South Africa. Walker, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C.

By 1994, international pressure, guided largely by Tutu, had forced South Africa to abandon the apartheid system. Free elections were held, and Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. In subsequent years, Tutu led an unprecedented attempt to bring about a peaceful reconcilation between the country’s bitterly divided populations. The commission’s final report left some dissatisfied, but the transition had been accomplished without the bloodshed many had feared, thanks in large part to Tutu’s dedications to peace and understanding rather than to retribution.

Summary
For most of his life, Desmond Tutu has been in the vanguard of the struggle for racial justice and equality in South Africa. In sermons, speeches, and other public statements, he has drawn attention to the inequalities in South African society and the urgent need of redressing them in order to prevent a catastrophe. As the Nobel citation stated, Tutu “has shown that to campaign for the cause of peace is not a question of silent acceptance, but rather of arousing consciences and a sense of indignation, strengthening the will and inspiring the human spirit so that it recognises both its own value and its power of victory.”

Tutu has been a pathbreaker in a racially segregated society. He has helped to open doors previously closed to blacks, and as head of the Anglican church (to which 75 percent of the South African people belong) he has used his position to be a peacemaker as well. Although Tutu is first and foremost a religious leader, the scope of his activities and influence go far beyond the religious domain into the political and social spheres. Tutu demonstrates that the struggle for political, social, and economic justice in South Africa has made politics and religion a “seamless garment.”

 

 


source: Abiodun Williams byhttp://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=6c4999d8-2259-407c-9ab6-955af7a125a7%40sessionmgr104&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=124176010&db=ssfaccessed 12/10/17

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