Today Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu turns 88 years old.
Born on this day, 7 October in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa, the Arch, as he is fondly known by many, is one of South Africa’s most well-known human rights activists.
Aside from the Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture taking place on Monday evening at the Cape Town City Hall, Rivonia Trialist Denis Goldberg unveiled the Forgotten Liberators exhibition at the Old Granary on Sunday, as part of celebrations to mark Tutu’s 88th birthday.
The exhibition, sub-titled Third World in World War II, presents a decolonised history of the Second World War, acknowledging the six million Jews who died in the holocaust as well as the 20 million others – including gay and lesbian people, gypsies, communists, Blacks and Third World conscripts – who lost their lives opposing the racism of Nazi Germany.
He is the recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid.
He became the first black Anglican Archbishop of both Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Known as the voice of the voiceless Black South Africans he was an outspoken critic of apartheid and he played a role in drawing national and international attention to the iniquities of apartheid.
He later chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has continued to draw attention to a number of social justice issues over the years.
In 1993, South African apartheid finally came to an end, and in 1994, South Africans elected Nelson Mandela as their first black president.
President Mandela also appointed Tutu to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with investigating and reporting on the atrocities committed by both sides in the struggle over apartheid.
“From prison and exile we watched and listened as he chastised the apartheid regime. His words and teachings were translated into deeds of courage and commitment as he confronted the might of the apartheid state and its agencies. In those dark days when our organizations were banned, and its leaders in exile, prison or underground he stepped in to give leadership and guidance,” Nelson Mandela said.
Although he officially retired from public life in the late 1990s, Tutu continues to advocate for social justice and equality across the globe. In his human rights work, Tutu formulated his objective as “a democratic and just society without racial divisions,” and set forth demands for its accomplishment, including equal civil rights for all, a common system of education and the cessation of forced deportation.
Tutu has also written several books over the years, including No Future Without Forgiveness (1999), the children’s title God’s Dream (2008) and The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (2016).
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Tutu has been bestowed numerous awards, including the Pacem in Terris Award, the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, the Lincoln Leadership Prize and the Gandhi Peace Prize.
Recently, the Archbishop met with Meghan Markle, Prince Harry and baby Archie on the historic premises of his Legacy Foundation in Cape Town. He said he was “thrilled by the “rare privilege and honour” to meet the royals.
For their part, the Sussexes were also excited, sharing a video of their family on Instagram with the cute caption “Arch meets Archie!”
Desmond married Nomalizo Leah on July 2, 1955, and they remain married to this day.
The couple have four children together — three daughters and a son — all of which were born in London.
His three daughters are: Mpho, Naomi and Theresa, and his son is named Trevor.
Desmond and wife Nomalizo are grandparents to three grandchildren.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”
“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”
“Without forgiveness, there’s no future.”
“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.”
“A person is a person because he recognises others as persons.”
“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.”
“Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.”
“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.”
“We are each made for goodness, love and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.”
“God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion.”
“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I’d say sorry. I mean, I’d much rather go to that other place.”
“I never doubted that we were going to be free because, ultimately, I knew there was no way in which a lie could prevail over the truth, darkness over light, death over life.”
“The universe can take quite a while to deliver. God is patient with us to become the God’s children he wants us to be but you really can see him weeping.”
“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another.”
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