Desmond Tutu, South African anti-apartheid icon, died on Sunday, at the age of 90. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind the movement to end racial segregation and discrimination.
Born in 1931 in a small gold-mining town, Tutu dedicated his life to voice his concerns over matters of justice and LGBT rights. A theology student at King’s College London, Tutu became the first Black Anglican dean of Johannesburg. He served as bishop of Lesotho from 1976-78, assistant bishop of Johannesburg and rector of a parish in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela appointed him as the head of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commission aimed at investigating crimes committed by both sides during the apartheid era.
In the year 1980, he led a delegation of church leaders to meet Prime Minister PW Botha, urging him to end apartheid. Even though the meeting was not conclusive, it is still termed as a historical moment where a black leader confronted a senior white government official.
In 1984, Tutu won a Nobel peace prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid. The next year, Tutu became the first Black bishop of Johannesburg. Following this, he became the first black person appointed bishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church of the province of Southern Africa. In 1996, he retired from the church to completely focus on the commission.
After being diagnosed with cancer and its treatment, Tutu declared his support for gay rights, saying he would never “worship a God who is homophobic”.
Also read | South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon, Desmond Tutu, dies at 90
The Nobel peace prize winner celebrated his 90th birthday in October this year with a church service at Cape Town’s St. Geroge cathedral.
Apart from all of his achievements, Tutu also voiced his concern on the Israel-Palestine issue. In April 1989, during his visit to Birmingham, he criticised what he termed “two-nation” Britain.
In another instance, he had also angered the Israelis. During a Christmas pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he compared black South Africans with the arabs in West Bank and Gaza. Voicing his opinion he said that he failed to understand how people who had suffered could impose such suffering on any other community, referring to the Palestinians.
He also voiced concern on the subject of poverty. During his visit to Ireland in 2010, he urged Western nations to consider the consequences of cuts in foreign aid.
Tutu had also opposed the then US President Donald Trump for his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. “God is weeping,” he wrote on Twitter.
Deemed as South Africa’s moral compass, he was considered as the reason for peace in South Africa.
(With inputs from agencies)