Last night, April 9, I went to a very compassionate and moving talk, given by Capetown Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He talked about human rights and social issues at The World Affairs Council's International Speakers Series in Portland, OR. He began by talking about what it was like to be a child in South Africa under apartheid.. He spoke about being embarrassed for his father, who was emasculated and humiliated by a system of showing passes if one was black, and where his father, who was a teacher, was excluded from having a pass but still had to show his exclusion. And where signs excluding "blacks and dogs" were common. Years later, when he brought his family from England to Johannesburg, he felt that same humiliation with his daughter when she asked to go play in a playground and he had to tell her she could not. |
Tutu credited American young people with helping South Africa to be free, and emphasized that the gains achieved in South Africa were achieved nonviolently for the most part... "We were not bombed into freedom," ; "Those courageous young people" convinced the American congress to apply pressure that eventually got long-time enemies to nonviolently resolve their differences and form a government where the former white leader became Deputy Minister under black President Nelson Mandela. He encouraged those at the talk to join the protest this Saturday at Waterfront Park in Portland. He feels neutrality puts you on the side of the oppressors. "When an elephant stands on the tail of a mouse, the mouse does not appreciate your neutrality!"
Some wonderful pearls of wisdom: "Anything war can do, peace can do better" It is possible to have a world with more compassion: caring, sharing, laughter and joy, disparities of wealth are reduced. "God smiles through the tears" God sees the extraordinary display of humanity and caring, and says, "I hope one day my children will realize we are all members of one family". ..Jesus said ALL. [this means, all races, gays and lesbians,americans and iraqis, men and women, all religions...] God says, "We wouldn't be spending an obscene amount on death and destruction when a small amount would help give food and water...[to all]" ..."Those who are for peace are on the winning side... Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God".
In a Q&A session, he told Americans not to be ashamed of our prosperity. Our prosperity is a blessing. "God is hoping you will use your prosperity to help the world be a better place". When asked why we are warring with Iraq but not with Korea, where WMD do exist, he simply said, "I would ask the same question. It's odd". [Followed by a very long silence.] When asked about the right role for the UN, he said, "Isn't it bizarre? That you have an international organization and then you have one nation that says, "We will tell you what to do". [And the UN simply asked to give the inspectors more time.] "It makes you want to weep. We have what was an unnecessary war".
Desmond Tutu said, finally, "I was extraordinarily exhilarated by the people who came out in favor of peace." Encouraging everyone to attend the peace rally on Saturday, he said, "Thank you to all of you who care! Thank you on behalf of the people of Iraq. We'd like you to become free but we hope you would not become free in a way that would entail many of you being killed. Thank you for that!"
With compassion and humor and extraordinary spirituality that touched every single person at the event, Desmond Tutu's standing ovation went on and on. There was noone who wasn't touched by this beautiful man whose spirituality, courage, wisdom and love expanded to fill the entire gilded concert hall.
**Today's very buried (pg A14 April 10) Boregonian article: Tutu warns of world resentment toward U.S. in Iraqi invasion emphasizing when violence to overthrow one oppressive regime was appropriate, and when it is clearly not. He argues that compassion and forgiveness are necessary to create the world we want to live in. **Monday's equally buried Boregonian article Archbishop will bring message to Oregon students, where he points out the analogous relationship between a schoolyard bully and the attack on Iraq. This article also empahsizes his stand on the need for students to be aware of history as they are more likely to act with wisdom if have a context for how things have changed and how struggles have gone in the past. The need for Reparations is mentioned here as well.
As printed in the program: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Increasing Awareness About Human Rights & Social Issues in Africa: Archbishop Desmond Tutu's nonviolent campaign against apartheid, his work on behalf of civil rights and educational opportunity for all earned him the highest international honor, the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1984. Archbishop Tutu attracted international attention as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) from 1978-1985, during one of South Africa's most treacherous and chaotic times in history. Under Tutu's leadership, the SACC became a vital institution in South Africa voicing the ideals and aspirations of millions of South Aricans and assisting the victims of apartheid. His groundbreaking work eventually led to the unity of black and white Anglicans in South Africa and to his appointment by President Mandela to head South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995.
In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Tutu has received numerous awards including the Order for Meritorious Service Award (Gold), presented by President Nelson Mandela, and the Archbishop of Canterbury's Award, for exceptional service in the Anglican Communion. Additionally, Tutu was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the Family of Man Gold Medal Award, and the Prix d'Athene (Onassis Foundation). He also holds honorary degrees from a multitude of Universities including Harvard, Aberdeen, and Oxford.
Archbishop Tutu has published several books including: "No Future Without Forgiveness, Crying in the Wilderness: The Struggle for Justice in South Africa, Hope and SUffering: Sermons and SPeeches, The Words of Desmond Tutu, and The Rainbow People of God. Tutu is currently working on two additional books; one book documents the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision, the other, transfiguration.
Tutu is presently the Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape and is Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.