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November 9, 2016

The Day After: Healing Through Ubuntu

This morning, the morning after the 2016 election, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and President-elect Trump have all made the obligatory calls for unity, for us to come together as a nation. But after eighteen months of highlighting divisions, how do we do that? I think all of us in the U.S. woke up this morning knowing one thing for sure – our country is divided. On cable news, social media and over the dinner table, people have been in deep arguments over the state of our nation, and no matter who our preference for candidate, we are dismayed that anyone could ever vote for the other.

Last Sunday, I had a lively discussion with my father about politics. He lives in rural Texas and was telling me how he doesn’t know a single person who supports Hillary Clinton. I live in California’s Silicon Valley and said the same thing about Donald Trump. It occurred to me during that conversation that we live in two separate realities – worlds that might appear to be the same, but where we have different life experiences, interact with different people, and for the most part, have different priorities for what we want out of life.

As I begrudgingly logged into social media this morning, I witnessed people expressing shock and dismay at the outcome of the election, while I also witnessed people taking gleeful joy that the nightmare of the last eight years is almost over. I personally have felt a variety of emotions over the last 12 or so hours, but I think the emotion that stands out most is sadness. Not sadness over the outcome (although admittedly there is a little of that), but sadness that as Americans, there is such a deep divide in our society and we are somehow not able or willing to understand what the other is going through.

At the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, one of our guiding principals is the South African concept of ubuntu. Archbishop Tutu has explained ubuntu as meaning “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” That is to say that we are ALL part of a greater whole – not just the people we agree with, not just the people that have the same passions and desires as us – ALL of us.

One thing that has struck me today is that so many are now cutting people out of their lives – people that they once considered friends and in many instances, people that are family. I don’t personally think this is a great idea and I feel it is contrary to the spirit of ubuntu. It isn’t recognizing your shared humanity with people who disagree with you – it is doing the opposite, choosing to instead divide yourself even more. I understand that sometimes one feels the need to get perceived negativity out of their lives. But I would encourage everyone first to reach out, and learn more about what factors are going into their decision making process. Your assumption that someone is racist or homophobic or misogynistic might be totally accurate… OR ,that person may have been out of work for most of the last 2.5 years and can’t afford rent this month and saw one candidate as a someone who was working to address their needs.

Today, some of us are celebrating the outcome of this election and some of us are mourning it. I encourage everyone to take the time they need to do what they need to do. But despite candidates over the last 18 months telling us differently, there really is more that unites us than divides us. We need to remember that we are all in this together and it is only by listening to each other, working with each other and respecting each other, that any of us will have a way forward.

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post


July 29, 2016

Desmond Tutu: Reaching Within Ourselves for Solutions to Global Violence

Photo by Sumaya Hisham

Photo by Desmond Tutu Legacy Foundation

Two knifemen claiming to be acting in the name of God beheaded an 85-year-old priest in Normandy this week.

In Jerusalem, troops destroyed the homes of 11 Palestinian families leading to clashes in which several Palestinians were wounded. In Mogadishu, a suicide bomber killed 13 people outside a United Nations office. In Aleppo, the United Nations called for a “critical” 48-hour ceasefire to ease the desperate plight of 200 000 civilians trapped in Syria’s all-but-destroyed second city. In Florida, two people died and 17 were injured after gunmen opened fire outside a Fort Myers nightclub – the latest in a string of mass shootings stretching back to Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999…

These acts of public violence and terrorism that we are witnessing across the world today are symptomatic of a shrinking global village led by people who prioritise their own interests above those of the rest of the human family.

Morality, our ability to discern right from wrong, and to seek and receive forgiveness, are among the characteristics that set us apart as a species. Love and compassion are in our DNA.

The development of technology has placed us all within reach of one another, but, instead of being led to understand and embrace each other, for our common good, we find ourselves embroiled in the pursuit of much narrower agendas.

Over my long lifetime I have been privileged to witness the advance of the concepts of human rights and universal justice.

But 71 years after the end of the Second World War and establishment of the United Nations, 60 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that came to define the US Civil Rights Movement, 49 years after Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 22 years since the demise of apartheid in South Africa symbolised the end of European domination over Africa, our world faces unprecedented levels of immorality, inequity, intolerance, insecurity, prejudice, greed, corruption – and impunity.

Instead of viewing the ghastly 9/11 attacks on US civilians as a sign of the necessity to build bridges, today, 15 years after the horrendous attacks, we have been led to the edge of the abyss.

Bombs continue to rain from the skies above Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, forcing more and more civilians to flee their homes. People in Somalia and Nigeria are likewise being forced into migrancy. And, on the streets of our cities – from Bagdad to Kabul, from Damascus to Gaza City and from Istanbul to Dallas to Paris to Munich – the global village is lurching from one incident of indiscriminate violence to the next.

Some of the perpetrators claim to be pursuing “just” military objectives; some, spiritual objectives; some acting in opposition to racism, economic or social injustice – and some are responding to their perceived or actual estrangement from society.

They have collectively triggered unprecedented levels of human migration, suffering and insecurity, and are contributing – daily – to a growing sense of immorality and crisis of leadership across the world.

Righteous people are asking: What do we do to turn back the tide of hatred, corruption and destruction? To whom do we turn for peace and security, for morality, and environmental and social sustainability?

Thankfully, we harbour the answers within ourselves, in acknowledging our inter-dependence. In understanding how much we need each other. Whether we are rich or poor, white, black, pink or green, Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, from north or south…

When theCold War ended and the world surfed into the new global era on a giant wave of technology, people collectively failed to understand the structural and human impacts. We were quick to identify short-term economic opportunities, new free-trade zones, tax havens and financial tools to enable money to flow freely across the planet, but slow to embrace those members of the family we regarded as “other”. And, slow to comprehend the vacuum in checks and balances created by the reduction from two global super-powers to one.

Instead of entering the global village with grace and in humility – which is what set Nelson Mandela apart after ascending to South Africa’s presidency – some of the politically and economically powerful began to believe they were invulnerable.

The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed 9/11 were breathtaking in their shortsightedness and cost, while the ongoing protection of Israel and the territories it occupies, at the expense of Palestine, is a fundamental cause of global friction, as are access to fossil fuels – and, as climate change begins to bite, to water.

The human family has entered a phase of growing recklessness and willingness to disregard the rights of others, to grab resources and resort to violence to make their arguments or settle their differences.

Humanity is crying out for good leaders, role models with the skills, compassion and sense of justice to hear the cries of their neighbours, to reconcile differences in the human family and share the earth’s resources so that all can eat.

I am very sad.

As a young priest I travelled to the United States to meet leaders of the civil rightsmovement, and rejoiced in their victories over prejudice and discrimination. Today, I battle to reconcile that joy with the disproportionate number of African Americans in prison and being shot in the streets.

I spent much of my life opposing apartheid in South Africa, and was later given the honour of leading the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Today, the reconciliation project is on the back burner, inequity remains pervasive, and our leaders – like those of the rest of the world – have failed to emulate Mr Mandela’s selflessness.

I have had the privilege of being called to travel widely, to interact with leaders and paupers, and contribute where I could for justice and human rights. Today, the fabric of communities and cities is under threat from gunmen and bombers with a total disregard for the rights of anyone else.

Instead of asking how we may be contributing to turning back the immorality pandemic, we seekstealthier weapons, more draconian security solutions, and more economic prosperity for ourselves.

In effect, instead of reconciling anything, we are unravelling the human family. We are closing our eyes to our commonality, to our common purpose and our common interest. We are disavowing the love and compassion with which we were born. We are subverting the fact that we are made for inter-dependence.

Nobody is benefitting.

If you want to make peace, you speak to your enemy. You don’t shoot him or her. You don’t raise your voice; improve your argument, my father would have quite correctly advised.

I am an old man now. I pray for signs before I die of a new type of world leadership that eschews economic, ethnic, regional or religious dominance. I pray for a new cadre of leaders who make peace and equity in the global village, on earth, a priority.

If I don’t see these signs I will die of a broken heart.

(Source: Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation)

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.

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

December 22, 2015

CONVERSATIONS ON RACE: Moving Out of My Cocoon

By Haven McLaughlin, Valencia College Peace & Justice Institute Ambassador
This article originally appeared in the Valencia College PJI Newsletter.

During my time with the Peace and Justice Institute, I have had a plethora of good experiences. This is especially true of the ones that dealt with social justice. One such experience was from the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation’s Conversations on Race workshop. It has stood out to me as the most interesting and one of the most profound experiences during my tenure as a PJI Ambassador.

When the presentation that declared race as a construction of human design and culture was shown, it was a rather shocking revelation that piqued my interest to actually think about how there truly wasn’t much of a real biological alteration that dictated race. We are human after all, but we are also so different and unique at the same time. We were asked to move in to small groups of approximately four to five people and urged to have different races in our group. The majority of the event comprised of prompts appearing on the screen with instructions for each member in the small group to discuss their stories and personal experiences.

Participants enjoying a lively conversation.

You can show people the statistics and provide logic, however, nothing can truly compare to another person’s experience firsthand when they regale some of the difficult situations they faced or the injustice they may have seen. After I heard these personal experiences it was easy for me to empathize with them and I felt like it helped me to better understand this issue that I had removed myself from without being detached or cynical. Read More

December 5, 2015

The Reality of War

By Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama

Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous – an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering. Read More