Desmond Tutu quotes
Birthdate: 7. October 1931
Other names: Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Desmond Mpilo Tutu is a South African anti-apartheid and social rights activist, as well as an Anglican clergyman and theologian. He was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and bishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa . Theologically, he sought to fuse ideas from black theology with African theology.
Born to a poor family in Klerksdorp, Tutu is of mixed Xhosa and Motswana heritage. Moving around South Africa as a child, he trained as a teacher and married Nomalizo Leah Tutu, with whom he had several children. In 1960, he was ordained as a priest and in 1962 moved to the United Kingdom to study theology at King's College London. After this education he returned to southern Africa, working as a lecturer at the Federal Theological Seminary and then the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1972, he returned to London as the Theological Education Fund's director for Africa, necessitating regular tours of the continent. Back in South Africa, he took an active role in opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white-minority rule. During the 1980s, he emerged as one of the most prominent anti-apartheid activists within South Africa. Unlike other sectors of the anti-apartheid movement, he stressed non-violent protest.
After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990 and negotiated the dissolution of apartheid with President F. W. de Klerk, Tutu became a supporter of the new government. Mandela selected Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Since apartheid's fall, Tutu has campaigned on other social justice issues; combating poverty, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, as well as opposition to forms of prejudice like racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Tutu has been widely praised for his anti-apartheid activism. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. He had attracted some criticism for his views on Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has also compiled several books of his speeches and sayings.
Quotes Desmond Tutu
As quoted in New York Times (19 October 1984)
"And God Smiles," sermon preached at All Saints Church, Pasadena, California (6 November 2005)
Context: This family has no outsiders. Everyone is an insider. When Jesus said, "I, if I am lifted up, will draw..." Did he say, "I will draw some"? "I will draw some, and tough luck for the others"? He said, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all." All! All! All! – Black, white, yellow; rich, poor; clever, not so clever; beautiful, not so beautiful. All! All! It is radical. All! Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Bush – all! All! All are to be held in this incredible embrace. Gay, lesbian, so-called "straight;" all! All! All are to be held in the incredible embrace of the love that won’t let us go.
Address at his enthronement as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town (7 September 1986)
Often attributed to Desmond Tutu, actual source is G. W. F Hegel: What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it. Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1832)
„Do a little bit of good wherever you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world“
Variant: Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
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„It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul.“
Source: God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time
„If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.“
As quoted in Unexpected News : Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984) by Robert McAfee Brown, p. 19
As quoted in "Dalai Lama honours Tintin and Tutu" at BBC News (2 June 2006) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5040198.stm
Context: I give great thanks to God that he has created a Dalai Lama. Do you really think, as some have argued, that God will be saying: "You know, that guy, the Dalai Lama, is not bad. What a pity he's not a Christian"? I don't think that is the case — because, you see, God is not a Christian.
„Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice.“
Speech in Boston (2002)
Context: Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.
„I am fifty-two years of age. I am a bishop in the Anglican Church, and a few people might be constrained to say that I was reasonably responsible.“
Guardian Weekly [London] (8 April 1984)
Context: I am fifty-two years of age. I am a bishop in the Anglican Church, and a few people might be constrained to say that I was reasonably responsible. In the land of my birth I cannot vote, whereas a young person of eighteen can vote. And why? Because he or she possesses that wonderful biological attribute — a white skin.
„We appear to be scared of diversity in ethnicities, in religious faiths, in political and ideological points of view. We have an impatience with anything and anyone that suggests there might just be another perspective, another way of looking at the same thing, another answer worth exploring.“
Source: God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations (2011), Ch. 1 : God is Clearly Not a Christian: Pleas for Interfaith Tolerance
Context: Isn’t it noteworthy in the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus does not give a straightforward answer to the question "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). Surely he could have provided a catalog of those whom the scribe could love as himself as the law required. He does not. Instead, he tells a story. It is as if Jesus wanted among other things to point out that life is a bit more complex; it has too many ambivalences and ambiguities to allow always for a straightforward and simplistic answer.
This is a great mercy, because in times such as our own — times of change when many familiar landmarks have shifted or disappeared — people are bewildered; they hanker after unambiguous, straightforward answers. We appear to be scared of diversity in ethnicities, in religious faiths, in political and ideological points of view. We have an impatience with anything and anyone that suggests there might just be another perspective, another way of looking at the same thing, another answer worth exploring. There is a nostalgia for the security in the womb of a safe sameness, and so we shut out the stranger and the alien; we look for security in those who can provide answers that must be unassailable because no one is permitted to dissent, to question. There is a longing for the homogeneous and an allergy against the different, the other.
Now Jesus seems to say to the scribe, "Hey, life is more exhilarating as you try to work out the implications of your faith rather than living by rote, with ready-made second-hand answers, fitting an unchanging paradigm to a shifting, changing, perplexing, and yet fascinating world." Our faith, our knowledge that God is in charge, must make us ready to take risks, to be venturesome and innovative; yes, to dare to walk where angels might fear to tread.