JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel Peace Prize winner icon, hard-core enemy of apartheid and modern-day campaigner for racial justice and LGBT rights, died Sunday at the age of 90. South Africans, world leaders and people around the world mourned the death of the man considered the moral conscience of the country.
Tutu worked passionately, relentlessly and without violence to bring down apartheid – South Africa’s brutal oppressive regime against its black majority that ended only in 1994.
The dynamic and outspoken clergyman used his pulpit as the first black bishop of Johannesburg and later as the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, along with frequent public protests, to galvanize public opinion against racial inequality, at the both in his country and in the world.
Nicknamed “The Ark”, the diminutive Tutu has become a prominent figure in the history of his country, comparable to his colleague Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela, a prisoner during the reign of the Whites who became the first black president of South Africa. Tutu and Mandela shared the commitment to build a better and more equal South Africa.
On becoming president in 1994, Mandela appointed Tutu chairman of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which exposed the abuses of apartheid.
Tutu’s death on Sunday “is another chapter of mourning in our nation’s farewell to a generation of exceptional South Africans who left us a liberated South Africa,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
âFrom the sidewalks of the resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the great cathedrals and places of worship of the world, to the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, l’Arche has distinguished itself as a non-champion. sectarian and inclusive of universal human rights, “he said.
Tutu passed away peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Center in Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Trust said. He had been hospitalized several times since 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.
âHe turned his own misfortune into an educational opportunity to raise awareness and reduce the suffering of others,â Tutu Trust said. “He wanted the world to know he had prostate cancer and the sooner it was detected, the better the chances of managing it.”
In recent years, he and his wife, Leah, have been living in a retirement community outside of Cape Town.
Former US President Barack Obama hailed Tutu as “a moral compass for me and so many others.” A universal spirit, Bishop Tutu was rooted in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned about injustice everywhere. He never lost his playful sense of humor and his desire to find humanity in his opponents.
Tutu’s life has been âentirely devoted to the service of his brothers and sisters for the greater common good. He was a real humanitarian, âsaid the Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader in exile and friend of Tutu.
“His legacy is fortitude, moral courage and clarity,” Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba said in a video statement. âHe felt with people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed – no, not just laughed, he sneered with pleasure – when he shared their joy.
A seven-day period of mourning is planned in Cape Town before Tutu’s funeral, including two days of burial, an ecumenical service and an Anglican requiem mass at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. Table Mountain, a landmark of the southern city, will be illuminated in purple, the color of the robes Tutu wore as Archbishop.
Throughout the 1980s – when South Africa was embroiled in anti-apartheid violence and the state of emergency gave the police and military sweeping powers – Tutu was one of the leaders most prominent blacks capable of denouncing abuses.
A sharp mind lightened up Tutu’s hard-hitting messages and heated up otherwise gloomy protests, funerals and marches. Courageous and tenacious, he was a formidable force with a shrewd talent for citing appropriate scriptures in order to harness support for change.
The Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 underscored his stature as one of the world’s most effective champions of human rights, a responsibility he took seriously for the rest of his life.
With the end of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, Tutu celebrated the country’s multiracial society, calling it a ârainbow nation,â a phrase that reflected the exhilarating optimism of the country. moment.
In 1990, after 27 years in prison, Mandela spent his first night at liberty at Tutu’s residence in Cape Town. Mandela later called Tutu âthe archbishop of the peopleâ.
Tutu has also campaigned internationally for human rights, particularly LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage.
âI wouldn’t worship a homophobic God,â he said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBTQ rights in Cape Town. âI would refuse to go to a homophobic paradise. No, I would say, “Sorry, I would much rather go to the other place.” “
Tutu said he was âas passionate about this campaign as I have ever been about apartheid. For me, it’s on the same level. He was one of the most prominent religious leaders defending LGBTQ rights – a position that put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent as well as within the Anglican Church.
South Africa, Tutu said, was a promising “rainbow” nation for racial reconciliation and equality, even though it has lost its illusions with the African National Congress, the anti-apartheid movement. which became the ruling party after the 1994 elections. His outspoken remarks long after apartheid have occasionally angered supporters who have accused him of being biased or out of touch.
Tutu was particularly outraged by the South African government’s refusal to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama, preventing the Tibetan spiritual leader from attending Tutu’s 80th birthday as well as a planned gathering of Nobel laureates in Cape Town. The government has rejected Tutu’s accusations that it was giving in to pressure from China, a major trading partner.
In early 2016, Tutu defended the policy of reconciliation that ended the white minority regime amid growing frustrations from some black South Africans who felt they had not seen the economic opportunities expected since the end of apartheid. Tutu had chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated atrocities committed under apartheid and granted amnesty to some perpetrators, but some people believed more former white officials should have been prosecuted.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg, and became a teacher before entering St. Peter’s Theological College, Rosetenville in 1958. He was ordained in 1961 and six years later was ordained. became chaplain at the University of Fort LiÃ¨vre.
He then moved to the small southern African kingdom of Lesotho and Britain, before returning home in 1975. He became bishop of Lesotho, president of the South African Council of Churches and, in 1985, the first bishop Anglican black from Johannesburg. In 1986, Tutu was appointed the first Black Archbishop of Cape Town. He ordained women priests and promoted homosexual priests.
Tutu was arrested in 1980 for joining a protest and later his passport was confiscated for the first time. He picked it up for trips to the United States and Europe, where he met with the UN Secretary General, the Pope, and other religious leaders.
Tutu called for international sanctions against South Africa and talks to end apartheid.
Tutu often organized funeral services after the massacres that marked the 1990-1994 negotiation period. He denounced black-on-black political violence, asking crowds, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” In a highlight, Tutu defused the rage of thousands of mourners at a county football stadium after the Boipatong massacre of 42 people in 1992, leading the crowd to chants proclaiming their love for God and them- same.
As head of the truth commission, Tutu and his panel listened to harrowing testimony about torture, killings and other atrocities during apartheid. At some hearings, Tutu openly cried.
“Without forgiveness, there is no future,” he said at the time.
The commission’s 1998 report placed much of the blame on the apartheid forces, but also found the African National Congress guilty of human rights violations. The ANC filed a lawsuit to block the publication of the document, which earned it a reprimand from Tutu. âI haven’t struggled to eliminate a group of those who thought they were tin gods and replace them with others who are tempted to think they are,â Tutu said.
In July 2015, Tutu renewed his marriage vows in 1955 with his wife Leah, surrounded by their four children.
âYou can see that we have followed the biblical injunction: we have multiplied and we are fruitful,â Tutu told the congregation. “But all of us here want to say thank you … We knew that without you we are nothing.”
Tutu is survived by his wife of 66 years and their children.
When asked once how he wanted to be remembered, he told The Associated Press: âHe loved. He’s laughing. He is crying. He was forgiven. He forgave. Highly privileged.
AP reporter Christopher Torchia contributed to this report.
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