A great fighter for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has left us today. His work against the intolerance and violence of Apartheid in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. His enormous impact over many decades in South Africa is undeniable, but the importance of what he taught us has reached far and wide. We will continue to strive to perpetuate his great legacy, and thus help future generations to work for a more just and peaceful world, where everyone has equal rights without discrimination of any kind.
Born in 1931 in Klerksdorf, he graduated from the University of South Africa in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1960. In 1975 he was appointed dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black South African to hold that position. In 1978, he became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Because of his openly anti-apartheid public stance, he received multiple slanders from his enemies, but also attacks from his friends, the media and politicians. However, thanks to his extraordinary love for his country and his commitment to humanity, his vision and fundamentally his faith, he persevered in his position. In 1994, after the first democratic and non-racial elections in South Africa, which ended eighty years of white minority rule, the new parliament created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, of which Tutu was appointed chairman, to confront the brutality of the past in a firm and not painless way. His faith in God is exemplified by his belief that the battle for good can be won or lost, but that to fight evil, prayers alone are not enough; concrete actions against evil on earth are necessary.
From 2007 to 2013, Archbishop Tutu was the President of The Elders, a group of prominent world leaders who contribute their integrity and moral stature to addressing some of the world's most pressing problems. Other members include Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus, another supporter of our human rights education program, Speak Truth to Power, like Archbishop Tutu.
A quote of his that epitomizes very well his attitude and work ethic that has always had a special impact on us here at RFK Human Rights Spain is the following:
“We have a god who doesn’t say, ‘Ah . . . got you!’ No. God says, ‘Get up.’ and God dusts of off and says, ‘Try again.’”