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Desmond Tutu: Africa’s Peace Bishop And Human Rights Activist


Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

He was the Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then the Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position. Theologically, he sought to fuse ideas from black theology with African theology; politically, he identifies as a socialist.

Like his countryman Albert Lutuli, the Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu was honored with the Peace Prize for his opposition to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. Tutu was saluted by the Nobel Committee for his clear views and his fearless stance, characteristics which had made him a unifying symbol for all African freedom fighters. Attention was once again directed at the nonviolent path to liberation.

Despite bloody violations committed against the black population, as in the Sharpeville massacre of 1961 and the Soweto rising in 1976, Tutu adhered to his nonviolent line. Yet he would not blame Nelson Mandela and his supporters for having made a different choice.

The Peace Prize award made a big difference to Tutu’s international standing, and was a helpful contribution to the struggle against apartheid. The broad media coverage made him a living symbol in the struggle for liberation, someone who articulated the suffering and expectations of South Africa’s oppressed masses. There are many indications that Tutu’s Peace Prize helped to pave the way for a policy of stricter sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s.

Tutu has campaigned for gay rightsand spoken out on a wide range of subjects, among them the Israel-Palestine conflict, his opposition to the Iraq War, and his criticism of South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. In 2010, he retired from public life.

Tutu polarised opinion as he rose to notability in the 1970s. White conservatives who supported apartheid despised him, while many white liberals regarded him as too radical; many black radicals accused him of being too moderate and focused on cultivating white goodwill, while Marxist-Leninists criticised his anti-communist stance. He was widely popular among South Africa’s black majority, and was internationally praised for his anti-apartheid activism, receiving a range of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He has also compiled several books of his speeches and sermons.

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