News & Updates
April 14, 2016
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
In April of 2014, I was working for His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the Deputy Director of his U.S. Foundation. We had programs for peace all over the world. One that held a special place in my heart was a school that we sponsored in Jos, Nigeria. This school’s focus was to incorporate secular ethics into the already rigid curriculum that was outlined by the Nigerian government.
Because of my connection with this school, the faculty, and the students, I was particularly shocked and saddened when, on April 14th of 2014, Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 girls from the nearby town of Chibok. This sadness was compounded when a few weeks later, assailants from the same group set off a bomb in the market place in Jos, killing more than 30 including one of our students from the school.
Who of us doesn’t remember the outpouring of support that accompanied the hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls? The campaign was taken up from such a variety of luminaries – from Michelle Obama to Kim Kardashian – and it shone a global light on the brutal yet largely ignored conflict that has been raging in Nigeria for more than seven years. Archbishop Desmond Tutu stood with ONE leaders to call for an action to free these girls.
So what happened to the girls?
According to Mr. Ufuoma Akpojivi, a media researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, 219 of those 276 girls are still missing. Most have not been seen since a video that Boko Haram released in May 2014. Then the Los Angeles Times reported today that the November following the kidnappings in Chibok and bombings in Jos, more than 400 people, mostly children, vanished after a Boko Haram invasion of Damasak. Despite the world’s attention on Nigeria, a Human Rights Watch report has concluded that the Nigerian security forces never really made an effort to locate the missing girls and boys from Damasak.
219 girls missing from Chibok, more than 400 people missing from Damasak – and this is just a small fraction of the thousands of women, girls and boys that have been abducted. Amnesty International reports that more than 2000 women were abducted just in 2015 and 2016. UNICEF reports that in 2015,In 2015, the estimated number of Boko Haram bomb attacks in North-East Nigeria and neighboring countries increased sharply, as did the proportion of attacks involving children. Three quarters of these so-called suicide-bombing attacks involve young girls. These children are victims, not perpetrators. Usually the bombs are strapped to their bodies and detonated remotely, without the children even knowing what they are.
In the two years since the Chibok girls were abducted, Nigeria held free elections as well as demonstrated an impressive vigilance in defending against the Ebola virus. Nigeria can handle this, but they need our help. We need to continue telling the story of these girls, but we cannot stop there. The international community needs to renew their full support to all local, regional and national governments to dedicate their resources and and expertise, to do whatever necessary, to #BringBackOurGirls.
April 12, 2016
Not everything need be a grand gesture.
Many people know the Archbishop for his work on the global stage, but this week, the Times Live in Cape Town was alerted to the Archbishop’s efforts to make the world better on a somewhat smaller scale.
On Sunday evening, real estate agent Peter Andrianatos spotted the Archbishop picking up trash while on a walk in the the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton, where the Archbishop lives.
“He walks the streets daily for exercise‚ but whatever litter he sees lying in the street‚ he picks up and puts it in the nearest dustbin,” Andrianatos posted to Facebook. “I believe he does this on a regular basis in Milnerton.”
The Archbishop, who was hospitalized twice toward the end of last year but who has been returning to a more regular schedule, took the praise with his usual humility. “I am feeling much better‚ thank you‚ though not necessarily any younger than I did six months ago,” he explained. “I’ve been picking up litter on my walks for years‚ and encourage other to do the same.”
“I think it’s remarkable for a man of that age and that stature bother,” said Andrianatos of the archbishop who is 85 years old. “May our local resident of Milnerton be blessed‚ Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a legend.”
(Source: Times Live)
April 11, 2016
The following is a speech by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu given April 8, 2016 at the inauguration in Cape Town by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health of the Desmond Tutu Professorship in Public Health and Human Rights.
After a lifetime of struggle, standing up for the rights of others, I have reached the stage of life that simply standing up is a struggle requiring great forethought and planning.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether your asking one as decrepit as I am to address you would be more accurately described as an abuse of human rights or a public health issue?
More than 70 years ago, Tuberculosis came very close to taking my life. The loving care that I received made a deep impression on me, and although I had fallen behind with my studies, I resolved to become a doctor.
I worked very hard to catch up, applied to Medical School – and my application was accepted. But our family didn’t have the resources to pay the steep fees, and I was unable to nail down a bursary. So I qualified as a teacher, instead.
Of course, I later gave up teaching to study theology and join the ranks of the clergy. But that’s another story.
The point of this story is that although I have been blessed to lead a wonderfully fulfilling life, to travel widely, meet fantastic people – and even receive a few honorary doctorates – there has always been a part of me that would have preferred to be a real medical doctor.
Your establishing this professorship combining my passions for human rights and health care is therefore especially meaningful to me. You are, as it were, helping an old man assuage a childhood itch.
Thank you Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
i. Thank you for honouring our work by inaugurating a professorship in my name.
ii. Thank you for acknowledging the indelible links between human rights and public health.
iii. Thank you for recognising the exceptionally capable and compassionate Chris Beyrer as the first bearer of this professorship. I am very proud to be associated with him.
iv. And thank you for taking the trouble to travel all the way to Cape Town for this ceremony, to allow this old man to bask in your glory.
I should say: Welcome Home to Africa. Because many years ago – before my time, even – human life started here. Our abilities to reason and to love started here.
There is an old African idiom that says: Wisdom is like a Baobab tree – no one individual can embrace it.
When enough of us link hands, hearts and minds – when we realise that we are all, ultimately, members of one family, God’s family – we make the undoable doable, the impossible possible, and become an irresistible force.
In South Africa, soon after the dawn of our democracy, HIV & AIDS taught us very painfullessons about the links between human rights and public health.
Poor South Africans were denied treatment for several critical years, leading to the unnecessary loss of hundreds of thousands of our people – many of them mothers and fathers at the most productive stages of their lives.
What was a public health crisis became a human rights crisis – and we thank God for the role that civil society played in eventually forcing our government to provide life-saving medicines.
To the north of us, in Zimbabwe, the collapse of the health care system (with the economy) eight years ago led to our collaborating with Dr. Beyrer for the first time.
The Darfur genocide in Sudan, the plight of political prisoners in Myanmar, the aftermath of the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe and the homophobic policies and practices of various African countries have been some of the theaters in which we have since cemented out ties.
Human rights is a universal measure. It was Martin Luther King who said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
To which we add the words of our extraordinary founding father, uTata Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
When we deny people access to health care on the basis of their class, ethnicity, sexuality or political allegiance we are in fact denying our own humanity.
Conversely, the manner in which we uphold the dignity of others is a measure of our humanity. It exposes who we really are, the essence of our being.
I know that with Dr. Beyrer in the chair, the Desmond M. Tutu Professorship in Public Health and Human Rights is in exceptional hands.
The struggle for human rights is in good hands.
God bless you all.
March 22, 2016
I woke up this morning to the news of yet another horrific terrorist attack. This attack is the second attack in a major European city in less than a week (the first being in Istanbul on Saturday). This doesn’t even begin to address the violence millions are faced with on a constant basis every day.
I am in the business of peace. But some days I have to be honest, I see the news and the overwhelming deluge of violence, of sexism, of the destruction of our planet, and I question if there is anything that I can do that can really make a difference. I mean, who am I to be able to make change?
And that may be true. Perhaps as an individual, I can only hope to make a tiny difference — but I still try to do that every day.
Because what happens when, as an individual, I team up with other individuals to make a difference? How much power can I have to affect change if I work with others toward this collective goal, this goal of peace?
At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, inspiring people to work together to create peace in this world is the primary goal of our Peace3 program. As our founder Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, “We are made for goodness, we are made for love…”. What does that mean? None of us, not one of us is born hating or discriminating against another. Children are taught racism. They are taught to discriminate or to be sexist or selfish or violent.
The wonderful thing, the thing that gives me hope, is that young people can be untaught these things. Learned behavior can be unlearned. But it takes all of us. We need to start taking responsibility and working to inspire peace. We need to start in our communities, in our homes, in our families — and we need to start within ourselves.
February 8, 2016
Responding to the laying of criminal charges last week against former President FW De Klerk and former police minister Adriaan Vlok by an organization called The Anti-Racism Action Forum, Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged South Africans not to abandon commitment to reconciliation. Tutu said the consequences of the TRC’s business being left unfinished included perpetrators of apartheid era human rights violations evading justice‚ victims being denied the closure they deserved – and cracks in the fabric of the nation emerging and being exploited by political opportunists.
Over the past few months‚ South African media had carried a stream of stories highlighting disturbing expressions of racism and prejudice on social media. Political commentators had increasingly and misguidedly blamed the country’s reconciliation process for its socio-economic and political woes.
“It has almost become fashionable to undermine the integrity of former President De Klerk‚ and even Madiba is being derided in some circles for ‘selling out’ in favor of white capital‚” Archbishop Tutu said. Read More
February 5, 2016
A meeting of more than 250 Muslim leaders in Morocco this week has released a document calling for full religious freedom for Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries and urging Muslim nations to defend Christians against persecution..
The ground-breaking document, called the Marrakesh Declaration, draws on the language of Muhammad’s Charter of Medina and bans religious violence in the name of Islam, the US magazine Christianity Today has reported.
It was the fruit of a summit of imams, political leaders and scholars, also attended by several American Christian leaders. Read More