News & Updates
African National Congress
December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 following complications from a persistent lung infection. As the iconic leader of the African National Congress, his determination in the fight against apartheid inspired his followers to persevere until they had achieved victory. Today, millions around the world who are struggling for freedom are inspired anew by his example. But perhaps his greatest achievement may have been the spirit of reconciliation that he fostered after being elected President of South Africa.
Mandela became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement and joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first black president.
For his activities opposing apartheid, he spent 27 years in prison, including 18 years at the notorious Robben Island facility. In No Future Without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu wrote of that time, “Those twenty-seven years were the fires of the furnace that tempered his steel, that removed the dross. Perhaps without that suffering, he would have been less able to be as compassionate and magnanimous as he turned out to be. And that suffering on behalf of others gave him an authority and credibility that can be provided by nothing else in quite the same way.” His ability to forgive his tormentors was demonstrated during his inauguration when he invited his white jailer to attend as his honored guest. This attitude of forgiveness helped to transition the country peacefully to a democracy whose constitution protected the rights of all South Africans.
South Africa still has some distance to go to achieve full economic and political balance among its citizens. The first generation of South Africans who have grown up free of apartheid is now entering adulthood. The example set by Nelson Mandela will certainly serve as a powerful guide for how they will use their freedom to create their country’s future.
October 6, 2011
An active global citizen who embodies the values and virtues that the world needs now, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has chosen to stand up for the vulnerable. He has chosen to speak out against injustice. He has chosen to confront those who provide poor leadership. He has been committed to the values of environmental sustainability and he has galvanized a whole generation of activists to work for good environmental stewardship and an end to poverty.
Archbishop Tutu’s birthday celebrations have been marred, as his friend and fellow Nobel laureate, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was unable to attend. The South African government failed to issue the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa, in what critics say was a move to placate China, a major trading partner.
In typical fashion, Tutu was vocal in his criticism of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), vowing to pray for its downfall, just as he did for the demise of the Apartheid government in the 1980’s. He summarized the situation by saying, “We betrayed our struggle. All the people involved in our struggle are turning in their graves.”
Still an Untiring Activist
Desmond Tutu continues his activism and rarely refrains from criticizing the South African government’s policies, whether on HIV/AIDS or the ANC’s dominance of politics.
His concern for human rights and democracy extends beyond his own country. He demands freedom for the people of Myanmar and promotes the rights of Palestinians, often irking pro-Israel lobby groups. His latest campaign, championed through The Elders, a group of fellow global leaders, is to ban child marriage wherever it is practiced. Under Archbishop Tutu’s leadership, people around the world have grown up, and now demand an end to ancient, primitive practices that are widely abhorred, like child marriage.
The Tutu Legacy
Recently, Rev Mpho Tutu, the youngest daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, returned to South Africa to become the founding director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. The foundation will preserve his papers, regulate the use of his name and continue to provide an honest commentary on moral issues.
Across the world, people of all religions, races, ages, ideologies and social classes have been touched directly or indirectly by Desmond Tutu. They have been impacted by his actions. Their lives have been changed by his choices. Even now his legacy continues, influencing generations to come.
Desmond Tutu is a leader who has elevated truth to its rightful place at the top of the list of human virtues. Without seeking the truth and always speaking the truth, even in the face of danger, we cannot know courage or effect the changes needed for survival. Archbishop Tutu reaches out now, as he always has, to the new generation with his powerful, timeless message of global peace. His example is one of showing that to pursue this noble goal takes a tireless commitment to, and a deep respect for, all life. People around the world can join in celebrating our great good fortune of Desmond Tutu’s birth and remarkable life of 80 years so far. May the future bless us with his presence, wisdom,and inspirational leadership for years to come.