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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.

February 23, 2016

Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Church, and Ending Discrimination of LGBTI People

This article originally appeared on Medium.com

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about Apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.” — Desmond Tutu

At the end of 2015, the Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s youngest daughter, married her partner Professor Marceline van Furth. The event was a small civil ceremony held in the home of van Furth’s parents in The Netherlands. For those of us in North America and Europe, the news was received with joyous celebration, and congratulatory messages poured out from luminaries across the globe.


But in some circles, the news was not quite so positive. Particularly in parts of Africa and the Middle East, a stream of hatred and negativity came pouring in, directed not just at the couple, but toward the Archbishop, various Read More

February 8, 2016

Archbishop Tutu urges South Africans not to abandon commitment to reconciliation.

Chairman of the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) Archbishop Desmond Tutu (R) hands over the TRC report to South Africa's President Nelson Mandela at the State theater Building in Pretoria October 29. South Africa's Truth Commission has found that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is politically and morally accountable for gross human rights violations committed during its 30-year struggle against apartheid.

Chairman of the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) Archbishop Desmond Tutu (R) hands over the TRC report to South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela at the State theater Building in Pretoria October 29. South Africa’s Truth Commission has found that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is politically and morally accountable for gross human rights violations committed during its 30-year struggle against apartheid.

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

January 3, 2016

Ten Pieces of Wisdom from Desmond Tutu to Inspire Change Makers in 2016

Our mission at DTPF is to inspire a new generation of change makers to make this world a more peaceful place through exposing them to the actions, works and words of Archbishop Tutu. As we begin 2016 with the sense of hope and excitement that every new year brings, we thought we would visit some of the Archbishop’s most quotable to take into 2016.

 1. “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good that overwhelm the world.”  Read More

July 17, 2015

Desmond Tutu: Memories of Nelson Mandela

Excerpts from a special tribute ceremony honoring Madiba on 9 December 2013, hosted at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Fondest memory of uTata Madiba
“I went to have lunch with him. After lunch he went to the door and called ‘Driver, driver’. He was calling for my chauffeur. I told him that I had driven myself to lunch from Soweto. Three or four days later he called to inform me that he had secured a driver for me, and the funds to pay for the service. He wasn’t a man who did great things for great people only, he tried to help every person he encountered. I will always remember uTata for that.”

On meeting Mandela for the first time
“I first met Mandela when I was a student at a teacher training college, and he was the adjudicator in a debate. It was a fleeting meeting, and the next time we spoke was in 1990 when he came to stay at Bishop’s Court the night after his release from prison.”

On Madiba’s leadership qualities
“I wish that more leaders would emulate him. During my time as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it was alleged that one of our commissioners was implicated in a criminal case by someone who was applying for amnesty. I picked up the phone and asked Madiba to appoint a judicial commission as a matter of extreme urgency. He agreed. A few weeks later I got a call from the President’s residence asking for the contact details of the commissioner who had been implicated. I realised that the report had been issued and Madiba typically wanted to put this man out of his misery. Tell the President, I said, I am the Chair of this commission, and I must know anything that happens, first. A few minutes later the phone rang again. It was Madiba. He said ‘You are right, and I am sorry.’ There are not very many heads of state who will so easily say ‘I’m sorry’.”

On the state of the ANC
“We have come here to honour to Madiba, so let us honour him and celebrate the gift that he is. Let’s not talk about politics today.”

On the youth
“The youth were very close to Madiba’s heart. I hope we can all learn from him.

On Johannesburg
“Madiba came to the golden city under the incredible guardianship of Walter Sisulu, a self-effacing man who turned the limelight onto Madiba. When Madiba was here in Johannesburg, he woke up and saw what it was like to be black.”

On unifying moments
“Let’s look back a little and ask – where do we come from? We forget so easily that before, we had police climbing trees to creep into bedrooms and check whether the Immorality Act was being contravened. Now you see mixed couples pushing prams, and so far as I can make out, the sky is still in place. We don’t give ourselves enough credit.”

Source: Nelson Mandela Foudation

December 5, 2013

Honoring the Memory of Nelson Mandela

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.