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November 9, 2016

The Day After: Healing Through Ubuntu

This morning, the morning after the 2016 election, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and President-elect Trump have all made the obligatory calls for unity, for us to come together as a nation. But after eighteen months of highlighting divisions, how do we do that? I think all of us in the U.S. woke up this morning knowing one thing for sure – our country is divided. On cable news, social media and over the dinner table, people have been in deep arguments over the state of our nation, and no matter who our preference for candidate, we are dismayed that anyone could ever vote for the other.

Last Sunday, I had a lively discussion with my father about politics. He lives in rural Texas and was telling me how he doesn’t know a single person who supports Hillary Clinton. I live in California’s Silicon Valley and said the same thing about Donald Trump. It occurred to me during that conversation that we live in two separate realities – worlds that might appear to be the same, but where we have different life experiences, interact with different people, and for the most part, have different priorities for what we want out of life.

As I begrudgingly logged into social media this morning, I witnessed people expressing shock and dismay at the outcome of the election, while I also witnessed people taking gleeful joy that the nightmare of the last eight years is almost over. I personally have felt a variety of emotions over the last 12 or so hours, but I think the emotion that stands out most is sadness. Not sadness over the outcome (although admittedly there is a little of that), but sadness that as Americans, there is such a deep divide in our society and we are somehow not able or willing to understand what the other is going through.

At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, one of our guiding principals is the South African concept of ubuntu. Archbishop Tutu has explained ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” That is to say that we are ALL part of a greater whole – not just the people we agree with, not just the people that have the same passions and desires as us – ALL of us.

One thing that has struck me today is that so many are now cutting people out of their lives – people that they once considered friends and in many instances, people that are family. I don’t personally think this is a great idea and I feel it is contrary to the spirit of ubuntu. It isn’t recognizing your shared humanity with people who disagree with you – it is doing the opposite, choosing to instead divide yourself even more. I understand that sometimes one feels the need to get perceived negativity out of their lives. But I would encourage everyone first to reach out, and learn more about what factors are going into their decision making process. Your assumption that someone is racist or homophobic or misogynistic might be totally accurate… OR ,that person may have been out of work for most of the last 2.5 years and can’t afford rent this month and saw one candidate as a someone who was working to address their needs.

Today, some of us are celebrating the outcome of this election and some of us are mourning it. I encourage everyone to take the time they need to do what they need to do. But despite candidates over the last 18 months telling us differently, there really is more that unites us than divides us. We need to remember that we are all in this together and it is only by listening to each other, working with each other and respecting each other, that any of us will have a way forward.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post


October 25, 2016

Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Celebrates Archbishop Tutu with Facebook Live: #TutuAt85

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

On October 7th, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, was able to do something remarkable. We launched Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, a multi-continent celebration of the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 85th birthday. From Cape Town to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, people around the world joined on social media to with celebrate our Arch – all thanks to the wonderful support of our friends at Facebook.

The celebration kicked off with a first – even for the social networking platform – at 7 am SAST, Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation launched a Facebook Live stream of the Friday Eucharist, presided by the Archbishop himself. This event was unique as it marked the first time a major church service had ever been streamed live to Facebook. Thousands across the globe joined friends, family and community members gathered in St George’s Cathedral to rejoice and celebrate the life of this amazing man. In addition to the traditional Eucharist service, the Archbishop paid a moving tribute to the cathedral, where he paused to weep briefly.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016 Photo: Sumaya Hisham

Archbishop Desmond Tutu gives Eucharist at St. George’s Cathedral on October 7th, 2016
Photo: Sumaya Hisham

That afternoon, the #ShareTheJoy team live-streamed as they went through downtown Cape Town, inspiring young people to perform acts of joy – a campaign inspired by the recent book by Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama, The Book of Joy. The streets of downtown Cape Town came alive as the #ShareTheJoy Team handed out cupcakes to passers by.

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

For six years now, the celebration of the Archbishop’s birthday celebration day culminates in South Africa with the Desmond Tutu Annual Peace Lecture. An event sponsored by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, this year’s lecture was hosted by Ms. Hina Jilani, an award-winning Pakistani Supreme Court advocate and human rights campaigner. Ms. Jilani who is a member of The Elders, an organization co-founded by Archbishop Tutu, gave a compelling speech on the need for peace in our communities. We were able to live-stream this event with the assistance of SABC television.

Of course, when the the celebration (at least the live-streaming portions) was wrapping up in Cape Town, we were just getting started celebrating across the globe! Friends and admirers of the Archbishop went live with their #TutuAt85 to share their birthday wishes to the Arch. Arianna Huffington, Richard Branson, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Alanis Morissette, Graça Machel, FW de Klerk and so many others took time throughout the day to wish the Archbishop a Happy 85th!

And while dawn was breaking in Cape Town, the party was just getting started in Los Angeles! Quincy Jones, Incubus, Fishbone, Lily Haydn, Pato Banton, Steve Vai, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and so many more artists joined Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Legacy Project. The three hour event was a celebration of the Archbishop kicked off the beginning of #TutuAt85, the first of a series of concerts scheduled to take place in cities all over the world. This entire event was shared live with tens of thousands of people across the world.

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert Photo: Michael Collopy

Quincy Jones arrives to the Saban Theatre for UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Tribute Concert
Photo: Michael Collopy

We are so especially grateful to everyone who helped to make the Archbishop’s 85th birthday an extra special one, and especially to our friends at Facebook for providing us with the technology and platform to be able to share this amazing day with his friends and supporters all over the world.

If you missed any part of the Facebook Live: #TutuAt85, check out the video archives on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DesmondTutuPF/

August 19, 2016

Artists Come Together for MINI-BIG Show Benefit Concert Series to Celebrate Desmond Tutu’s 85th Birthday

For decades, Archbishop Tutu has preached a message of unity through ubuntu – what affects one of us, affects us all. On October 7, at the Saban Theatre in Los Angeles, an all-star group of artists will unite to put this philosophy into practice with a concert in tribute to the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 13.46.22-1The Los Angeles show kicks off UNITY: The Desmond Tutu Legacy Project, a global effort spearheaded by the Archbishop, his daughter Mpho Tutu and the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to ensure his work for peace, justice, and equality continues for generations to come. Each concert will unify musicians, actors, artists, and activists who will lend their voices to raise awareness of Tutu’s life work and global impact. All artists are donating their time for this international cause.

The first UNITY Mini-Big Show will be held on Archbishop Tutu’s 85th birthday, October 7, 2016. It will coincide with a series of events attended by the Archbishop in Cape Town, South Africa, including a concert and the 6th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture. These events will mark the beginning of a year-long celebration of Archbishop Tutu’s life, culminating in October 2017, with an all-star grand finale event that will take place in Cape Town when numerous international artists come together for a birthday tribute concert and Legacy Award ceremony.

Each Mini-Big show is an intimate performance of notable artists designed to reach the largest audience possible worldwide. Each concert will take place in a theater as opposed to a stadium and will be live streamed in partnership with Facebook, with audio simulcasts on terrestrial radio in each market.

Additional Mini-Big Shows will be held throughout 2016-7. Confirmed cities, dates, and acts include: Toronto, November 2016; New York, December 2016; Miami, March 2017; Atlanta, April 2017; with more cities to be announced.

Each Mini-Big concert will be filmed for inclusion in an exclusive retrospective documentary on Archbishop Tutu’s life story, produced by Sir Bob Geldof, which will trace the evolution of his extraordinary legacy. The documentary will feature rare archival footage and interviews with iconic personalities including Annie Lennox, Bono, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Steve Tyler, Alfre Woodard, Sean Paul, Johnny Clegg, and others who have been inspired by his work. Quincy Jones will serve as Executive Producer of an all-star soundtrack to complement the film.

Special thanks to our sponsors – Facebook, Astrella, Glow Living, Guitar Center and Musician’s Institute.

Tickets for the Los Angeles show go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 at ticketmaster.com. There will be a fan pre-sale for American Express Card holders that beganon Wednesday, Aug. 17, and will run through 10 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19. Ticket prices range from $60 to $105. Twenty VIP tickets are available for $250 each, which include front row seats, a private meet and greet with the artists, access to the backstage reception (after the show), and a commemorative poster created and signed by artist Bob Masse.


July 29, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Reaching Within Ourselves for Solutions to Global Violence

Photo by Sumaya Hisham

Photo by Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation

Two knifemen claiming to be acting in the name of God beheaded an 85-year-old priest in Normandy this week.

In Jerusalem, troops destroyed the homes of 11 Palestinian families leading to clashes in which several Palestinians were wounded. In Mogadishu, a suicide bomber killed 13 people outside a United Nations office. In Aleppo, the United Nations called for a “critical” 48-hour ceasefire to ease the desperate plight of 200 000 civilians trapped in Syria’s all-but-destroyed second city. In Florida, two people died and 17 were injured after gunmen opened fire outside a Fort Myers nightclub – the latest in a string of mass shootings stretching back to Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999…

These acts of public violence and terrorism that we are witnessing across the world today are symptomatic of a shrinking global village led by people who prioritise their own interests above those of the rest of the human family.

Morality, our ability to discern right from wrong, and to seek and receive forgiveness, are among the characteristics that set us apart as a species. Love and compassion are in our DNA.

The development of technology has placed us all within reach of one another, but, instead of being led to understand and embrace each other, for our common good, we find ourselves embroiled in the pursuit of much narrower agendas.

Over my long lifetime I have been privileged to witness the advance of the concepts of human rights and universal justice.

But 71 years after the end of the Second World War and establishment of the United Nations, 60 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that came to define the US Civil Rights Movement, 49 years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 22 years since the demise of apartheid in South Africa symbolised the end of European domination over Africa, our world faces unprecedented levels of immorality, inequity, intolerance, insecurity, prejudice, greed, corruption – and impunity.

Instead of viewing the ghastly 9/11 attacks on US civilians as a sign of the necessity to build bridges, today, 15 years after the horrendous attacks, we have been led to the edge of the abyss.

Bombs continue to rain from the skies above Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, forcing more and more civilians to flee their homes. People in Somalia and Nigeria are likewise being forced into migrancy. And, on the streets of our cities – from Bagdad to Kabul, from Damascus to Gaza City and from Istanbul to Dallas to Paris to Munich – the global village is lurching from one incident of indiscriminate violence to the next.

Some of the perpetrators claim to be pursuing “just” military objectives; some, spiritual objectives; some acting in opposition to racism, economic or social injustice – and some are responding to their perceived or actual estrangement from society.

They have collectively triggered unprecedented levels of human migration, suffering and insecurity, and are contributing – daily – to a growing sense of immorality and crisis of leadership across the world.

Righteous people are asking: What do we do to turn back the tide of hatred, corruption and destruction? To whom do we turn for peace and security, for morality, and environmental and social sustainability?

Thankfully, we harbour the answers within ourselves, in acknowledging our inter-dependence. In understanding how much we need each other. Whether we are rich or poor, white, black, pink or green, Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, from north or south…

When theCold War ended and the world surfed into the new global era on a giant wave of technology, people collectively failed to understand the structural and human impacts. We were quick to identify short-term economic opportunities, new free-trade zones, tax havens and financial tools to enable money to flow freely across the planet, but slow to embrace those members of the family we regarded as “other”. And, slow to comprehend the vacuum in checks and balances created by the reduction from two global super-powers to one.

Instead of entering the global village with grace and in humility – which is what set Nelson Mandela apart after ascending to South Africa’s presidency – some of the politically and economically powerful began to believe they were invulnerable.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed 9/11 were breathtaking in their shortsightedness and cost, while the ongoing protection of Israel and the territories it occupies, at the expense of Palestine, is a fundamental cause of global friction, as are access to fossil fuels – and, as climate change begins to bite, to water.

The human family has entered a phase of growing recklessness and willingness to disregard the rights of others, to grab resources and resort to violence to make their arguments or settle their differences.

Humanity is crying out for good leaders, role models with the skills, compassion and sense of justice to hear the cries of their neighbours, to reconcile differences in the human family and share the earth’s resources so that all can eat.

I am very sad.

As a young priest I travelled to the United States to meet leaders of the civil rightsmovement, and rejoiced in their victories over prejudice and discrimination. Today, I battle to reconcile that joy with the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison and being shot in the streets.

I spent much of my life opposing apartheid in South Africa, and was later given the honour of leading the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Today, the reconciliation project is on the back burner, inequity remains pervasive, and our leaders – like those of the rest of the world – have failed to emulate Mr Mandela’s selflessness.

I have had the privilege of being called to travel widely, to interact with leaders and paupers, and contribute where I could for justice and human rights. Today, the fabric of communities and cities is under threat from gunmen and bombers with a total disregard for the rights of anyone else.

Instead of asking how we may be contributing to turning back the immorality pandemic, we seekstealthier weapons, more draconian security solutions, and more economic prosperity for ourselves.

In effect, instead of reconciling anything, we are unravelling the human family. We are closing our eyes to our commonality, to our common purpose and our common interest. We are disavowing the love and compassion with which we were born. We are subverting the fact that we are made for inter-dependence.

Nobody is benefitting.

If you want to make peace, you speak to your enemy. You don’t shoot him or her. You don’t raise your voice; improve your argument, my father would have quite correctly advised.

I am an old man now. I pray for signs before I die of a new type of world leadership that eschews economic, ethnic, regional or religious dominance. I pray for a new cadre of leaders who make peace and equity in the global village, on earth, a priority.

If I don’t see these signs I will die of a broken heart.

(Source: Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation)

July 11, 2016

Our Glorious Diversity: Why We Should Celebrate Difference

Excerpted from a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001:

desmond-tutuWe inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. There is not just one planet or one star; there are galaxies of all different sorts, a plethora of animal species, different kinds of plants, and different races and ethnic groups. God shows us, even with a human body, that it is made up of different organs performing different functions and that it is precisely that diversity that makes it an organism. If it were only one organ, it would not be a human body. We are constantly being made aware of the glorious diversity that is written into the structure of the universe we inhabit, and we are helped to see that if it were otherwise, things would go awry. How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?

For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. It is this imago Dei too that invests each single one of us — whatever our race, gender, education, and social or economic status — with infinite worth, making us precious in God’s sight. That worth is intrinsic to who we are, not dependent on anything external, extrinsic. Thus there can be no superior or inferior race. We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances. We are created freely for freedom as those who are decision-making animals and so as of right entitled to respect, to be given personal space to be autonomous. We belong in a world whose very structure, whose essence, is diversity, almost bewildering in extent. It is to live in a fool’s paradise to ignore this basic fact.

We live in a universe marked by diversity as the law of its being and our being. We are made to exist in a life that should be marked by cooperation, interdependence, sharing, caring, compassion and complementarity. We should celebrate our diversity; we should exult in our differences as making not for separation and alienation and hostility but for their glorious opposites. The law of our being is to live in solidarity, friendship, helpfulness, unselfishness, interdependence and complementarity as sisters and brothers in one family — the human family, God’s family. Anything else, as we have experienced, is disaster.

Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden. They have spawned the Ku Klux Klan and the lynchings of the segregated South of the United States. They have given birth to the Holocaust of Germany and the other holocausts of Armenians and in Rwanda; the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and the awfulness of apartheid; and what we have seen in Sri Lanka, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in the Sudan, where there has been a spiral of reprisals leading to counter-reprisals, and these in turn to other reprisals. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Where the law of an eye for an eye obtains, in the end all will be blind. If we don’t learn to live as brothers, we will die together as fools.”

Religion, which should foster sisterhood and brotherhood, which should encourage tolerance, respect, compassion, peace, reconciliation, caring and sharing, has far too frequently — perversely — done the opposite. Religion has fueled alienation and conflict and has exacerbated intolerance and injustice and oppression. Some of the ghastliest atrocities have happened and are happening in the name of religion. It need not be so if we can learn the obvious: that no religion can hope to have a monopoly on God, on goodness and virtue and truth.

Our survival as a species will depend not on unbridled power lacking moral direction, or on eliminating those who are different and seeking only those who think and speak and behave and look like ourselves. That way is stagnation and ultimately death and disintegration. That is the way of people in times especially of transition, of instability and insecurity, when there is turmoil and social upheaval, poverty and unemployment. Then people seek refuge in fundamentalisms of all kinds. They look for scapegoats, who are provided by those who are different in appearance, in behavior, in race and in thought. People become impatient of ambivalence. Differences of opinion are not tolerated and simplistic answers are the vogue, whereas the reality is that the issues are complex.

We need so much to work for coexistence, for tolerance, and to say, “I disagree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to your opinion.” It is only when we respect even our adversaries and see them not as ogres, dehumanized, demonized, but as fellow human beings deserving respect for their personhood and dignity, that we will conduct a discourse that just might prevent conflict. There is room for everyone; there is room for every culture, race, language and point of view.

June 17, 2016

Dozens of faith leaders and celebrities join Desmond Tutu in ‘call to action’ for refugees.

Dozens of faith leaders and celebrities have today urged governments around the world to take immediate action on the growing refugee crisis.

In a video released by the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Helen Mirren, Ben Stiller and more than 60 others join Archbishop Desmond Tutu in petitioning world leaders.

“Every day, war forces thousands of innocent families to leave their homes,” the video says.

“To escape the violence they leave everything behind… everything except their hopes and dreams. We believe all refugees deserve the right to protection and to live in safety. Together, we need to send a clear message to governments. We must act with solidarity and take shared responsibility. We stand together #WithRefugees. Please stand with us.”

A petition will be delivered to the UN headquarters in New York ahead of the September 19 UN General Assembly meeting, which will address the refugee crisis.

The petition urges international governments to ensure refugee families have somewhere safe to live, that each child has access to education and that every refugee is given the opportunity to make a positive contribution to their community through skills or work.

The number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict or persecution is now higher than it’s ever been since the Second World War, and “we are in a period of deepening conflict and turmoil,” said Filippo Grandi, UN high commissioner for refugees.

“It affects and involves us all, and what it needs is understanding, compassion and political will to come together and find real answers for the refugee plight. This has become a defining challenge of our times.”

Grandi paid tribute to the thousands who have died making the perilous journey from war zones to Europe, and praised the “extraordinary outpouring of empathy and solidarity, as ordinary people and communities opened their homes and their hearts to refugees”.

“The #WithRefugees campaign and petition aims to amplify those voices of welcome and show that the world stands with refugees,” he said.

Source: Christian Today