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May 17, 2017

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Oppression of gays is ‘new Apartheid’

Editor’s note: On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we revisit a 2014 interview Archbishop Tutu did with Ann Curry. This interview was conducted prior to his daughter Mpho’s coming out of the closet to him.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led a decades-long fight against racial discrimination in South Africa, says the oppression of gay people around the world is the “new Apartheid.” In an interview arranged by the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, the retired Anglican archbishop spoke openly with NBC’s Ann Curry about God, the Bible, and homophobia.

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April 27, 2017

Jimmy Carter: Losing my religion for equality

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. This editorial originally appeared in The Age on April 27, 2017

March 28, 2017

Desmond Tutu: Climate Change Is The Human Rights Challenge of Our Time

The destruction of the earth’s environment is the human rights challenge of our time.

Over the 25 years that climate change has been on the world’s agenda Global emissions have risen unchecked while real world impacts have taken hold in earnest.

Time is running out.

We are already experiencing loss of life and livelihood due to intensified storms, shortage of fresh water, spread of disease, rising food prices, and the creation of climate refugees.

The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A deep injustice.

Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.

We are on the cusp of a global transition to a new safe energy economy. We must support our leaders to make the correct, moral choices.

Freeze further exploration for new fossil sources. We cannot maintain a livable temperature and climate for humanity if we burn more than a fraction of the fossil fuels already discovered.
Hold those responsible for climate damages accountable. Change the profit incentive by demanding legal liability for unsustainable environmental practices.

Encourage governments to stop accepting funding from the fossil fuel industry that blocks action on climate change.

Divest from fossil fuels and invest in a clean energy future. Move your money out of the problem and into solutions.

There is a word we use in South Africa that describes human relationships: Ubuntu. It says: I am because you are. My success and my failures are bound up in yours. We are made for each other, part of one family, the human family, with one shared earth.

God bless you.

January 16, 2017

Tutu and King: Two Kinds of Nonviolence

This article written by Charles Krauthammer and originally appeared in his syndicated column on January 17, 1986, three days before the first national holiday honoring the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1987, Mr. Krauthammer won the Pulitzer prize for commentary and this was his winning entry.


The accepted wisdom in South Africa, Lionel Abrahams, a literary critic, told Joseph Lelyveld of The New York Times, has it that “nothing will do but that hard black men come to grips with hard white men, to which end the soft men between must clear out of the way.”

In revolution, the soft men between must always clear out of the way. Revolution is not for moderates. From Alexander Kerensky to Arturo Cruz, nothing changes: the man of qualms, of balance, of ambivalence is lost.

Bishop Desmond Tutu — Nobel Peace Prize winner, anti-apartheid activist and leading spokesman for nonviolence in South Africa — is not a hard man. “I am the marginal man between two forces, and possibly I will be crushed,” he admits. “But that is where God has placed me, and I have accepted the vocation.”

The miracle of Martin Luther King, Jr., what set him apart even from Desmond Tutu, was the militance of his moderation, the steel will with which he insisted not just on his ends but on his means.

In a revolution, unwavering pursuit of ends is no great distinction. Everyone has an idea about destination. But only great, hard men are sure exactly of the path. Men like Lenin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh. (The list is depressingly long.)

Or like Gandhi, who believed with religious certainty that satyagraha, truth-force, was the way to freedom. And like King, who never wavered in his commitment to nonviolence, and who understood that for the moderate to survive in revolutionary times he must stick as hard by his means as the hard men at the extremes do by theirs.

Tutu is also deeply personally committed to nonviolence, and has shown extraordinary personal courage in its service. At least twice he has risked his life to save a suspected informer from a murderous mob. Last August in Daveyton, he stood alone between black demonstrators and heavily armored South African troops and negotiated a solution that averted certain violence.

Tutu’s nonviolence, however, seems more a personal choice. “I wouldn’t, myself, carry guns or fight and kill. But I would be there to minister to people who thought they had no alternative.” Asked two days ago whether there is any justification for violence, he replied, “If I were young … I would have rejected Bishop Tutu long ago.”

Personal choices are not forced on others. Instead, says Tutu, tactics are not even his domain. “I am an idealist. It is unfair to ask an idealist how he will move toward a utopian goal.”

King was forever telling people how to move. His means were as inseparable a part of his being and his message as his ends. King made nonviolence the cornerstone of his philosophy of social action. Tutu’s two books, “Crying in the Wilderness” and “Hope and Suffering,” are a passionate, prophetic call for reconciliation and negotiation. But of the books’ 62 speeches, sermons and writings, not one is devoted to the theory and practice of nonviolence. For Tutu, nonviolence is a discipline, a matter of conscience. For King, it was that and more: a weapon, a matter of hard political strategy.

Tutu is King’s natural heir. On Monday, the first annual holiday commemorating King’s birth, that kinship receives ratification from King’s living memorial, the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change. It will award Tutu its 1986 Non-Violent Peace Prize.

To compare Tutu to King is therefore inevitable, though it is perhaps unfair. First, because King was a great political leader and Tutu does not pretend to be one at all. “I am just a religious leader standing in for the real leaders of our people who are in jail and exile,” he says. “If I am a leader it is only by default.”

But more important, because South Africa is not America. There is no Kennedy, no Johnson. No franchise. No white public ready to be galvanized to action by scenes of Southern violence. South Africa is all South, old South.

Tutu knows that well. “Nonviolence presupposes a minimum moral level. And when that minimum moral level does not operate, I don’t think nonviolence can succeed.” The oppressor society must be capable of “moral revulsion.” It happened in Gandhi’s Britain and King’s America. “I don’t see that happening here,” says Tutu.

The Pretoria regime won’t talk to him. And the young black militants want him out, says Tutu, so they can “get on with the revolution” without him. The hard men want the soft men to move.

King would not be moved. True, he was more fortunate than Tutu in his choice of birthplace. America had the capacity for shame that is the necessary condition for the success of nonviolence. But it is also a sufficient condition. The ground needs a figure. Nonviolent revolution needs a hard man to lead it. America was even luckier than King for his choice of birthplace. Monday, we give thanks for that good fortune.

December 30, 2016

What’s in a year? 2016 highlights from the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation

As we prepare for what is sure to be an exciting new year, we love to take the opportunity to appreciate all of the accomplishments we have achieved at the Foundation – accomplishments that are due the exceptional efforts and generosity of our supporters, staff and friends. From revolutionary digital experiences to inspiring a major world city, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation is thrilled to share some of the highlights from our year…

We debuted Tutu: Then and Now, a photo exhibition.

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After more than a year of planning, we debuted the Tutu: Then and Now photography exhibition at St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City. The photo exhibit features the works of two South African photojournalists, Sumaya Hisham and Eric Miller and spans a period of thirty years of the Archbishop’s life – from his work during the Apartheid era to his acclaimed work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with Nelson Mandela, to his peace and justice work since his “retirement” in 2010.

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Tutu: Then and Now exhibit set up in the newly renovated St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan.

The exhibition was held in Manhattan’s historic St. Paul’s Chapel and hosted 1000-1500 people daily.

We went live with Facebook to celebrate #TutuAt85.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivers the Eucharist at St. Paul’s Chapel on the morning of his 85th birthday.

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Archbishop Tutu pauses to weep during the Eucharist on his 85th birthday.

Thanks to the generosity of Facebook, we were able to do something remarkable on the Archbishop’s 85th birthday. We were able to use Facebook Live to share ALL of the days festivities with an audience across the globe AND we were able to involve them in the festivities as they were able to join the conversations and wish the Archbishop a “Happy Birthday”.
From Cape Town to Los Angeles, the events were broadcast live. The Archbishop trended across social media platforms in countries all over the world and the day also marked a first for tech giant Facebook as the Archbishop’s birthday morning eucharist marked the first time a major church service had ever been streamed live to the site.

Our Peace3 program expanded…

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Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth speaks to a sold out crowd at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation welcomed one of the Archbishop’s daughters, the Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth to Southern California for our Peace3 programming. Unfortunately, her visit was cut short due to a surgery the Archbishop was having but she was able to give a lecture that we arranged on the Peace and our connection to the environment at Deepak Chopra’s Sages & Scientists.

and Peace3 went international…

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Peace leaders from across Haiti came together in the coastal town of Jacmel to learn how to host their own Peace Conferences.

Continuing our partnership with the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, we returned to Jacmel, Haiti for the Jacmel Peace Conference – this year creating a training for peace leaders to be able to host their own conference and, using the Peace3 concept as an outline, our partners at the Valencia Peace and Justice Institute developed a workbook for leading Peace Seminars.

Peace3 inspired youth through song…

We sponsored the work of NegusWorld, an organization working to inspire young people to make change through hip-hop. Through their work with NegusWorld and DTPF, the brother-sister duo of TatuVision came together with Stoney Creation to create Peace3, a song inspired by DTPF’s main program of Peace3 – Peace Within; Peace Between; Peace Among.

And we loved it so much, we gave a little something back…

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The kids from NegusWorld spend some time with Quincy Jones backstage at Desmond Tutu’s birthday celebration in Los Angeles.

Inspired by the kids’ dedication to promoting Peace3, we invited them to be part of the birthday celebrations for the Archbishop where they performed the song live, and had the opportunity to meet and learn from the legendary Quincy Jones.

And Peace3 combined with the Tutu: Then and Now photo exhibition inspired a new program…

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Photographer Sumaya Hisham leads the #TutuInspiresNYC photography workshop for the students of Leadership and Public Service High School of New York.

With the help of our amazing photographers, the team at Trinity Church Wall Street, and the staff and students of Leadership and Public Service High School in New York, we launched our newest program, “Tutu Inspires…”. Created as a workshop to accompany the Tutu: Then and Now exhibit, our debut was with #TutuInspiresNYC and teaches youth to use photography as a tool to tell their own story, rather than have others tell it for them.

The work of the students amazed! Click on the gallery links above for a sample or see al lof the students’ photos on the Instawall created in partnership with Instagram to support this project at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/tutuinspiresnyc/

We had so many, many more accomplishments – great and small – this year, but more than anything else, in this year marking Archbishop Tutu’s 85th birthday…

We celebrated!

We celebrated his birthday in Cape Town where friends and family from across the world came together to wish him a Happy Birthday…

Arch presented with a birthday cake by his grandchildren.

Arch presented with a birthday cake by his grandchildren.

…and we celebrated his birthday in Los Angeles where the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation through a Tribute Concert to honor the Arch and bring together friends of his who couldn’t make the trip to South Africa.

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Legendary Quincy Jones pays tribute to his friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Unity celebration concert in Los Angeles.

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Members of Fishbone and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones perform live for at the Archbishop’s birthday tribute concert.

Some of the celebrations took a serious tone…

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre. Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Human rights champion, Advocate Hina Jilani delivers the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre.
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

But of course, we always celebrated with JOY!

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Desmond Tutu teaching the Dalai Lama to dance.

DTPF joined the Archbishop, the Dalai Lama, Doug Abrams and the Book of Joy team to promote The Book of Joy. The response to this book has been overwhelming and has now been on the New York Times Bestseller list for TEN WEEKS!

As we wrap up 2016, we are faced with excitement for new opportunities to come in 2017. As we plan for new exciting Peace3 events across North America, as we explore new venues cities for Tutu Inspires, and as we hold on to the lessons that the Archbishop has given us for how to move forward in this world, we do so with the knowledge that in 2017, it is imperative that all of us make an impact that is bigger than ever by being compassionate, collaborative, innovative, strong and by having our voice heard.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation is funded completely by donations. It is with the help of generous, inspired, and passionate individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations that we are able to do the work we do. By clicking the link below, you are not just giving a gift, you are standing up to help us help young people find their voices and share them with the world.

Please donate today to help us spread peace education and the legacy of Desmond Tutu to people throughout the United States and around the world with a U.S. tax-deductible donation. Thanks in advance for your generosity.

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November 18, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Child marriage harms our human family

Millions of girls are married as children. This fact harms our human family and reminds us how deeply biased our world still is against mothers, sisters and daughters. We now have a moral duty to end one of humankind’s most destructive traditions. Experts say it is feasible in one generation.

Maybe because I am a man, I have spent much of my life ignorant of the scale and awfulness of child marriage. But, in recent years, I have talked to many girls and women who have educated me. It wasn’t until my retirement that I realised that one in three women in the developing world is married before the age of 18, or understood what they risk as a result.

Across the world, girls are powerless to choose when they marry, to whom, or whether they marry at all. The day of their marriage is the day they give up school. Under pressure to bear children, they cannot negotiate safe or consensual sex. As pregnant young mothers, they face the danger of injury and death. Indeed, childbirth is one of the biggest killers of teenage girls in the developing world — and their children face the same tragic odds.

Marrying a girl young, often to a much older man, is a sure way to inflict poverty and inequality in her community. But there is an alternative: to end this cycle is to free a girl to be safe and healthy — to let her flourish and become who she wants to be, on her own terms.

Five years ago, I organised a… continue reading on Financial Times

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