"When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. " - Desmond Tutu
Born on October 7th 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa, archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu is the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. During the 80's, he began to use his position to highlight the injustices of the apartheid system in his country. As Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of post-apartheid South Africa, he helped his country to heal its wounds and choose forgiveness over revenge.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Following are some excerpts from his lectures and life:
"The World has Forgotten to Forgive"
"The daughter of one of four African National Congress activists, whom the police ambushed and then killed gruesomely -- their mutilated bodies were found in their burnt-out car -- came to tell her story. We asked if forgiveness was possible. You could hear a pin drop in hall that was jam-packed to the roof. She said quietly, 'Yes we want to forgive but we just want to know whom to forgive'. How fantastic to see this young girl, still human despite all efforts to dehumanise her.
... when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.
Retribution leads to a cycle of reprisal, leading to counter-reprisal in an inexorable movement, as in Rwanda, Northern Ireland, and in the former Yugoslavia. The only thing that can break that cycle, making possible a new beginning, is forgiveness. Without forgiveness there is no future."
"Evil is an aberration."
"Even in hard-nosed cynical cultures, it is amazing that those we admire, indeed revere, are not the macho, the aggressive, and the successful. The people we hold almost universally in high regard are such as Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Why? Because they are good.
We have an internal antennae which home in on goodness because you see, we are created for goodness."
"We are Made for Goodness"
"Fly, Eagle, Fly" (Commencement speech at Brandeis University):
"... the norm is goodness. The norm is compassion. The norm is gentleness. Because that is what you and I are made for. Isn't that fantastic? That you and I are created for goodness. You know it. You know it. Who, of you, has never experienced when you have done something gratuitously good, when you have been nice to someone when you needn't have been. You have a wonderful glow inside of you. You really feel good.
The opposite is, I mean when you have done something lousy. Your body tells you. You, you feel it in your stomach. Anger, resentment affects you ... affects you. Your blood pressure goes up because our nature is in fact to be good. That is, that is, what we are created for.
That we are fundamentally good."
"... nothing has been more responsible for the majority of history's wars, death, destruction, and general misunderstanding than fervent attachment to exclusive religious ideology. So many acts of great hatred and evil are performed in the name of religion. But religion is like a knife. If it sits on the table it is neither good nor bad. If I take it and cut bread for sandwiches it is good. If I stick it in your gut it is bad. Religion in and of itself is not good or bad - it is what it makes you do ..."
"God's Own Image"
"When will we learn that human beings are of infinite value because they have been created in the image of God, and that it is a blasphemy to treat them as if they were less than this and to do so ultimately recoils on those who do this? In dehumanizing others, they are themselves dehumanized. Perhaps oppression dehumanizes the oppressor as much as, if not more than, the oppressed.
They need each other to become truly free, to become human. We can be human only in fellowship, in community, in koinonia, in peace."
"Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate.
If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream."
Books on / by Desmond Tutu »
- No Future Without Forgiveness
- God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time
- Believe: The Words and Inspiration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu
- Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu
- Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu
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