South Africa

LIFETIME OF ACTIVISM

Archbishop Desmond Tutu named Human Rights Global Treasure

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 30, 2017: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is pictured during the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) graduation ceremony in Bellville on March 30, 2017 in Cape Town South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was named the Human Rights Global Treasure by the US-based NGO Article3 this week for his courageous opposition to apartheid. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba accepted the award on Tutu’s behalf in San Francisco.

Thirty-six years ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize. Now at 89 years old Tutu has received the Human Rights Global Treasure Award by US-based NGO Article3.org for his courageous opposition to apartheid.

The ceremony was live-streamed on 10 December, Human Rights Day, from San Francisco, while Tutu and his wife, Leah, live-streamed it from their Cape Town home.

The event also had four former UN High Commissioners discussing the way forward for human rights in an increasingly violent world, according to a statement released by the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

The award was formally accepted by the current Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba on Tutu’s behalf. In his speech, Makgoba said: “how do we inspire today’s young – tomorrow’s leaders – to take up the cause of human rights? I can think of nothing better than to quote from a speech which Archbishop Desmond gave in Sudan in October 1989. It was three months after Brigadier Omar al-Bashir had seized power in a coup, and the Archbishop was asked to give an impromptu address to students at Khartoum University. This, in part, is what he said:

If you are a believer, whether you are a Muslim, whether you are a Christian, whether you are a Hindu or a Buddhist, one of the common factors of these faiths is that no one of them has a low doctrine of human beings… each of these religions in their intrinsic nature compels their adherents to be people who strive for justice, for peace and for goodness. People of religion have no choice; where there is injustice and oppression, where people are treated as if they were less than who they are, those created in the image of God, you have no choice but to oppose, and oppose vehemently that injustice and oppression.’”

The CEO of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation Piyushi Kotecha said: “Over a lifetime of activism for fairness, dignity and justice for all, the Arch has had the courage to act on his choices: Friend of the underdog, voice of the voiceless, nemesis of unscrupulous leaders; he is a tailor who heals the tears and the tears in the fabric of humanity. A pastor to the world.”

See the video clip here of the ceremony:

Graca Machel, who is part of The Elders, was also part of the virtual ceremony, described Tutu as “the embodiment of courage, integrity, standing for the disenfranchised and speaking truth to power.”

Even in his old age, Tutu has often spoken out about injustices. This year for his birthday in October, Tutu had a series of online lectures on the climate crisis. 

Tutu and US former vice-president Al Gore had warned in a joint statement that “corporations, governments and institutions that continue to invest in fossil fuels despite all the evidence of their effect on accelerating climate change are furthering environmental, economic and social injustice”.

Tutu, who advocates for forgiveness and reconciliation, chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1995. He’s also written a number of books including The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. 

Over the years Tutu has been battling with ill health. In 2019, he was admitted into hospital with what his wife described as “a stubborn infection.” In a letter written to parishioners, Makgoba said that Tutu had “been hospitalised a number of times over the past few years for such infections.” DM

 

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