Desmond Tutu, Nobel peace laureate, has a message for the future

Nonviolence International celebrates the life, legacy, and moral clarity of Desmond Tutu. 

Along with many all over the world, we mourn the news of the death of one of our time's greatest advocates for active nonviolence. While we celebrate his enduring legacy, we must ask - what can we do to prove worthy of the example he set for all of us?

NVI’s Founder, Mubarak Awad, celebrates his friend Desmond Tutu & calls on us to not only remember his unflinching moral vision and joyous spirit, but also to take seriously his legacy by boldly facing the challenges before us. 

“The Arch” as he was fondly known in his native South Africa was a shining light onto the nations. He put his unshakable faith into effective action. He should be remembered not only for his visionary, tireless, and loving activism against the brutal apartheid system, but also for his decades of moral consistency.  

He was a person of enormous courage that few can match. It is hard to understand or emulate his greatness, but we know he would call on all of us to do whatever we can even when facing difficult circumstances. 

We remember his distinctive laugh and his personal warmth and kindness, but also note that he was scathing in his critique of the powerful and his constant call for justice. 

His profound faith led him to provide a moral compass for his nation and the world. His righteous indignation never ceased to amaze and inspire. He spoke with deep insights about the need to abolish all nuclear weapons, to raise up the humanity of Palestinians, and when some in his church questioned his support for gay rights he said, "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this."

He stood along side young leaders seeking a better future and made clear his commitment to ending the climate crisis saying, “Through the power of our collective action we can hold those who rake in the profits accountable for cleaning up their mess. The good news is that we don't have to start from scratch. Young people across the world have identified climate change as the biggest challenge of our time, and already begun to do something about it.”

Personally, I've been inspired by his warmth and wisdom for decades. In 1994, when he first cast a ballot he danced with joy, I celebrated with him and wrote a piece for The Nonviolent Activist. I wrote that piece while serving on the National Committee of the War Resisters League along with Matt Mayer, who just wrote this beautiful piece for the International Peace Research Association and Waging Nonviolence. “The Arch” inspired many of us. Ken Butigan of Campaign Nonviolence shared this lovely remembrance. The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation posted this moving tribute. 

We thank you for all you gave and will strive to build a world shaped by the values that guided your life. Your vision will light our path forward even as we mourn your loss. 

As usual, Democracy Now does a wonderful job covering this great leader. They provide an important overview and then let us hear once again from him - in his own words. 

Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, was the archbishop of Cape Town and chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He died on December 26th, 2021 

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