The world is mourning the loss of anti-apartheid activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. Tutu, who had been dogged by rumors of poor health in recent years, passed away this morning at age 90. Known as the conscience of South Africa by Black and White South Africans, Tutu is beloved for his fight to end apartheid, free former South African president Nelson Mandela and to create a “rainbow nation” where all South Africans would enjoy freedom and equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of race.
In 1984, Archbishop Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, becoming the first black African to hold each position.
A decade later, he witnessed the end of White minority-rule and chaired a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established to document and uncover atrocities committed during the Nationalist party’s Apartheid regime. The TRC was based on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offered, “As Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission he articulated the universal outrage at the ravages of apartheid and touchingly and profoundly demonstrated the depth of meaning of ubuntu (humanity), reconciliation and forgiveness.”
In a statement about Archbishop Tutu’s passing, President Ramaphosa said the following:
“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa. Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead. A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.”
Archbishop Tutu authored the books No Future Without Forgiveness (1999) and Dios Tiene Un Sueno/God Has A Dream (2005) and co-authored several books including The Book of Joy with the 14th Dalai Lama in 2016 and several books with his daughter Rev. Mpho Andrea Tutu. Check out an interview about their book The Book of Forgiving, a guide to help perpetrators and victims embrace their shared humanity. This excerpt of the interview discusses the importance of concepts like Ubuntu (humanity) below:
Archbishop Tutu is survived by his wife of 66 years Nomalizo “Leah” Tutu, four children Mpho, Naomi, Trevor and Theresa and twelve grandchildren. No cause of death has been communicated. Rest in power.
This news brief was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on Twitter @Ntellectual.