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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.

April 16, 2016

Finding Inner Peace to Love Our Human Family — Addressing the World Refugee Crisis

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani holds a bucket at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border . Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo

A Syrian Kurdish refugee child from the Kobani holds a bucket at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border . Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo

Last fall, the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation launched Peace3, a campaign to inspire young people how to create a world of peace within themselves, peace between people, and peace among nations, based on the legacy of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

Since launching that program, I have been struck by how may people have reached out to us from all over the world, specifically asking us if we can address the issue of refugees .

This situation becomes worse with every passing week. As Pope Francis prepares to visit the Syrian refugees, the nations of Europe turn to fear mongering among their populace, endorsing an attitude of xenophobia. In the United States, a candidate has risen to the top of a major party by promising to build a wall to keep out migrants and refugees trying to enter from Mexico. All the while, people, many of them children, are drowning in the Mediterranean, being forced into slavery, or detained for months on end in camps or detainment centers. From Malaysia to Texas, mass graves filled with the corpses of migrants are being discovered as their families are left to worry and wonder.

Xenophobia toward refugees is a world-wide dilemma, what can we do?

At its very core, our Peace3 program is based in the South African concept of ubuntu —Archbishop Tutu has explained this concept by saying, “my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to Yusuf Batil refugees at a camp in South Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to Yusuf Batil refugees at a camp in South Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

When we see refugees suffering, and we choose not to do something, isn’t that deliberately hurting them? No one chooses to be a refugee. Refugees face poverty, discrimination, starvation, physical abuse, and separation from loved ones — but it is still better than the war or genocide they often face if they remain in their home countries.

Many of our leaders, abetted by our media, want us to be afraid of these refugees. They encourage a xenophobic attitude so that we as a society have an irrational fear of these innocents.

But we can overcome this. The first principal of Peace3 is peace within. We can be realistic about our fears and encourage others to overcome theirs. We can educate ourselves, learn about the refugee situation, learn about the economic facts related to immigration. We can make an effort to get to know each other without the blinders of fear that have been thrust upon us.

All of us remember the image of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who was found dead on a beach off the coast of Turkey last year. That one image shifted the way that so many people throughout the world viewed the Syrian refugee crisis and humanized the issue for so many of us. But that goodwill toward the Syrian refugees ended when Paris was attacked last November and once again, an irrational fear was promoted.

But we can choose to have inner peace which will in turn allow us to change our mindset. What political messages do we listen to? Where are we getting our information? Are we choosing to feed our minds with content that subjects ourselves to fear and violence — or can we choose sources that are focused on love and peace?

It is easy to be influenced by negativity. We listen to the messages that we want to hear. When you look at a refugee, are you looking for a terrorist or a brother? Are you looking for hatred or love? By choosing to focus our minds on positivity, we not only will find happiness — we will find inner peace.

Nelson Mandela said, “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.” Those of us living in free societies need to find freedom from our mental chains, and then make an effort to welcome refugees.

But we also need to do more. Not every person can live in the U.S. or Canada or Europe. But we have the resources to help everyone in the world. The financial costs of terrorism and wars is far more than the cost of dealing with the issues that lead to refugees at their source. Most refugees don’t want to be refugees and would stay in their home countries if they could.

As long as people in the world are suffering from a lack of food, a lack of clean drinking water, a lack of education — we will have people wanting to escape those conditions. When people live with corrupt governments or a lack of care for the environment, or are denied their civil rights — those people will not have happiness.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets a refugee in a Yusuf Batil camp in Southern Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Desmond Tutu greets a refugee in a Yusuf Batil camp in Southern Sudan. Photo/Adriane Ohanesian

Archbishop Tutu says, “We all belong to this one family, this human family, God’s family.” Are we going to fear our brothers and sisters, or are we going to learn about them, embrace them? Happiness comes from our relationships with other people. We can choose not to fear and instead to show love and compassion.

We can find peace within ourselves, share that peace with our brothers and sisters, and it will lead to peace among nations.

February 12, 2016

Bay Area Youth Create Song, Video Inspired by Desmond Tutu Peace3 Initiative

#Peace3 video aims to inspire millennial peace builders to find Peace Within, Peace Between, and Peace Among.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation (DTPF) is thrilled to announce the release of the song and music video “Peace3”, which is the result of a collaboration between the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and Bay Area youth non-profit NegusWorld. The song is the first in a series of collaborations between the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and youth organizations across the United States in support of their #Peace3 initiative.

The mission of #Peace3 is to be a catalyst for global peace by creating a world in which everyone values human dignity and embraces our essential interconnectedness – using Desmond Tutu’s life and teachings to inspire young people to build a world of peace within, peace between people and peace among nations. The project also aims to inspire one million young adults, aged 17-22, to learn and engage in peacebuilding as their life’s work.

“We launched the #Peace3 program with the idea to inspire young people to take action. The youth of NegusWorld came to us inspired by the idea of peace within, peace between and peace among and asked us if they could write a song about it,” said Brian Rusch, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. “They perfectly captured the essence of the program while simultaneously creating an anthem of peace for their generation.” Read More