As his country marks Tutu’s life and death, people around the world are doing the same, including many from groups he supported, from LGBTQ communities to Palestinians and climate justice advocates.
While Tutu was best known for helping to end decades of institutionalized segregation and racism in South Africa, and for heading the truth and reconciliation commission that came in its aftermath, he was also celebrated for lending his voice to other injustices and oppression globally.
The respect Tutu had garnered as South Africa’s moral compass made him one of Africa’s most important LGBTQ allies.
Joni Madison, the interim President of the Human Rights Campaign — a prominent LGBTQ advocacy group — said Tutu’s “powerful allyship will never be forgotten.”
“We are forever grateful,” Madison tweeted.
Speaking about gender-based discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people, Tutu said: “I cannot keep quiet when people are penalized for something about which they can do nothing,” adding “I oppose such injustice with the same passion that I opposed apartheid.”
Tutu’s own daughter — Mpho Tutu van Furth, an Anglican minister herself — was forced to resign her post after she married a woman in 2016.
“My father campaigned for women’s ordination, and so every time I stand at the altar I know that this is part of his legacy,” Tutu van Furth said. “It is painful, a very odd pain, to step down, to step back from exercising my priestly ministry.”
Tutu was also vocal advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people, and politicians in Gaza and the West Bank mourned the late archbishop as an ally in their struggle.
“We will always remember Desmond Tutu as one of the most courageous and principled warriors for human rights and equality in South Africa and Palestine,” said Husam Zomlot, the head of Palestinian Mission to the UK.
Former Palestinian Minister of Higher Education Hanan Ashrawi tweeted that Tutu’s “humanity and compassion were equaled only by his courage and principled commitment in our shared struggle for justice and freedom.”
“His support for Palestine was an embrace of love and empathy,” said Ashrawi.
“We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared,” he said. “We also know the benefits that dialogue between our leaders eventually brought us; when organizations labeled ‘terrorist’ were unbanned and their leaders, including Nelson Mandela, were released from imprisonment, banishment and exile.”
“For anyone in Jerusalem, at Yad Vashem, to speak about forgiveness would be, in my view, a disturbing lack of sensitivity toward the Jewish victims and their survivors. I hope that was not the intention of Bishop Tutu,” Wiesel said at the time.
Tutu, over the years, said that he was opposed to oppression and violence on both sides of the conflict. But his frequent comparisons of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to that of Black South Africans and his support for boycotts of Israel drew the ire of many Israeli politicians, especially those that were more hawkish on defense issues.
Climate and environment
Tutu was a firm believer in the power of international boycotts, divestment policies and sanctions. He saw the global push to economically punishment and isolate South Africa as crucial factor in ending apartheid.
Though he retired from public service in 2010, Tutu advocate for the international community and individuals themselves to consider such boycotts to stop the climate crisis in the final years of his life. He lobbied to former President Barack Obama to stop the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from tar sands in Canada to the United States. In 2014, Tutu traveled to Canada assess the project on his own and hear from its supporters and opponents.
Canada’s former environment and climate minister, Catherine McKenna, called Tutu an “incredible force — not only leading the fight against apartheid but also fighting for racial equality, climate justice and LGBTQ+ rights.”
CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi and Riuki Gakio contributed reporting.