News & Updates
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
July 11, 2016
Excerpted from a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001:
We 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 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
June 7, 2016
Editor’s Note: Last week, convicted rapist Brock Turner was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation for raping an unconscious woman. Widespread outrage has erupted throughout the United States over what most consider to be a sentence that was too lenient. A Change.org petition to recall the judge has received over 130,000 signatures. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a video surfaced showing a 16-year old being assaulted by more than 30 men sparking a protest. We must do something to change this culture of rape and the fist step is having an honest discussion about it.
What will you discuss with your children this evening? Sports, the weather, celebrity gossip, rape?
We are from three generations, three faiths (Christian, Muslim, Jewish) and three continents (Africa, Asia, North America). One of us is a religious leader, one a writer and rape survivor and one the CEO of a non-profit organisation. We come together in the wake of the recent upheaval around rape in India, South Africa, the US and the UK, because we share a passionate conviction: we must bring the discourse home to the next generation on every continent.
Why did the men in the recent India and South Africa crimes rape, torture, and murder their victims? How could Jimmy Savile of the BBC molest hundreds of people and still die a hero? Why did the gang rapists in Ohio feel safe boasting on camera about what they had done? Why do too many Indians dehumanise women, and too many South Africans believe that men are just intrinsically badly behaved and programmed to rape? Who do we think these sub-human women and out-of-control men are?
They are us and, if we are not careful, they will be our children. We do not have the answers, but we should all be asking the questions, and we should include our sons, daughters and all the young people in our lives in our discussions. We need to stop behaving as if it’s all a terrible problem out there, and start talking about it with each other and with our children.
o much ink has been spilt in the media over the past few weeks. Rape has become a ubiquitous global topic, and that is encouraging since it is a global blot on our collective humanity. But hardly anyone has paid attention to how this affects the most important group of all: the next generation, which is poised to inherit our poisonous baggage.
The fact is, rape is utterly commonplace in all our cultures. It is part of the fabric of everyday life, yet we all act as if it’s something shocking and extraordinary whenever it hits the headlines. We remain silent, and so we condone it. The three of us deal with this issue in different ways every day of our lives, yet we too are guilty of protesting articulately outside but leaving it on the other side of the door when we sit down to dinner with our families. Until rape, and the structures – sexism, inequality, tradition – that make it possible, are part of our dinner-table conversation with the next generation, it will continue. Is it polite and comfortable to talk about it? No. Must we anyway? Yes.
It seems daunting. But which is more painful: talking sensibly with young people about this issue, the same way we might talk with them about drugs, guns or bullying, or waiting for something terrible to happen so close to home that you have to address it in a time of turmoil?
Children can seem fragile, and adults often have the mistaken notion that telling children about harsh realities will destroy their innocence. But you do not lose innocence when you learn about terrible acts; you lose your innocence when you commit them. An open culture of tolerance, honesty and discussion is the best way to safeguard innocence, not destroy it.
Changing rape culture is family work, but it cannot be only family work. It is a public health issue of gravest concern. The statistics are everywhere, but the evidence is weirdly shadowy: like the one in four girls abused in South Africa, by the one in four men who admit to having raped someone. (But who are these girls, and where are these men? Hardly anyone is talking.) The cost in human suffering, lives decimated, families destroyed, mental anguish, physical trauma … the cost of rape is probably bigger than any of us can comprehend. Rape is expensive. Not just families from China to Canada, but also all the important institutions in young people’s lives everywhere – schools from Finland to the Philippines, youth programmes from London to Laos – should spend less energy ignoring the issue and more energy helping children understand the basic concepts of respect and choice.
Yes, governments must step up. But so should we all. Why shouldn’t rape be dinner-table conversation? We talk about war, we talk about death, we discuss values with our children. But on the subject of sexual assault, we remain silent and squeamish. We leave them ill-prepared, with whispers of untold horrors and no guidance for our sons on how they should behave if one day they should find themselves in a group of boys with a girl in their power.
Rape does not exist in a vacuum, and we cannot talk about it as if it is removed from the rest of our lives. Let’s teach our children that they don’t need to live in little boxes defined by their gender or culture. Let’s teach them that they are all of equal worth. Let’s not favour our boys over our girls. Let’s not tolerate bullying or stereotyping. Let’s reject utterly the notion that boys will be boys and girls must work around this assumption or pay the price.
Yes, policies should change, laws should be just. But if we want to make a fundamental difference, all of us must bring the conversation home. It is our opportunity to start to create true change. It might not be polite and comfortable, but it is essential. We owe it to our children.
This article originally appeared in The Guardian on April 26, 2013.
April 26, 2016
Mandela: An Audio History is an audio documentary on the struggle against apartheid through the intimate accounts of Nelson Mandela, as well as those who fought with him, and against him. The series weaves together first person interviews from the people on the front lines of history and dozens of rare archival recordings.
These audio artifacts bring us into the courtroom on the day Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 and take us inside Robben Island during a Mandela family visit, a secret recording saved for more than two decades by a prison guard. Government propaganda films and pirate radio broadcasts from the ANC help to recreate the time and place that saw this extraordinary history unfold.
This 3-part series is recognized as one of the most comprehensive oral histories of apartheid ever broadcast and is narrated by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Follow the links to listen to or download the full podcast.
April 19, 2016
A group of 250 faith leaders from around the world, including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, signed an Interfaith Climate Statement, urging nations to sign on to the Paris climate agreement and called for scaling up ambition to combat climate change.
Leaders belonging to the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim faith have signed on, “We as faith communities recognize that we must begin a transition away from polluting fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energy sources,” the leaders said in the statement.
April 16, 2016
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.”
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 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.