Desmond Mpilo Tutu (born 7 October 1931) is a South African cleric and activist who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid.
Tutu was elected and ordained the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, and the Magubela prize for liberty in 1986. He is committed to stopping global AIDS and has served as the honorary chairman for the Global AIDS Alliance. In February 2007 he was awarded Gandhi Peace Prize by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, president of India.
He was generally credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation as a metaphor for post-apartheid South Africa after 1994 under African National Congress rule. The expression has since entered mainstream consciousness to describe South Africa’s ethnic diversity.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal on 7 October, 1931, the son of Zacheriah Zililo Tutu. Tutu’s family moved to Johannesburg when he was 12 years old. Although he wanted to become a physician, his family could not afford the training, and he followed his father’s footsteps into teaching. Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 through 1953, and went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School and at Munsieville High School in Pietermaritzburg. However, he resigned following the passage of the Bantu Education Act, in protest of the poor educational prospects for African South Africans. He continued his studies, this time in theology, at St Peter’s Theology College in Rosettenville and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican minister.
Tutu then travelled to King’s College London, (1962–1966), where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Theology. During this time he worked as a part-time curate, first at St Albans Cathedral and then at St. Mary’s in Bletchingley, Surrey. He later returned to South Africa and from 1967 until 1972 used his lectures to highlight the circumstances of the African population. He wrote a letter to Prime Minister Vorster, in which he described the situation in South Africa as a “powder barrel that can explode at any time.” The letter was never answered. He became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare in 1967, a hotbed of dissent and one of the few quality universities for African students in the southern part of Africa. From 1970 to 1972, Tutu lectured at the National University of Lesotho .
In 1972 Tutu returned to the UK, where he was appointed vice-director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, at Bromley in Kent. He returned to South Africa in 1975 and was appointed Anglican Dean of Johannesburg—the first African person to hold that position.
In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, as a gesture of support for him and The South African Council of Churches which he led at that time.
In 1987 Tutu was awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for ‘Peace on Earth.’
He has been married to. Leah Nomalizo Tutu since 2 July 1955. They have four children: Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, all of whom attended the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Swaziland.
In 1996, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer
In 1998, he was appointed as the Robert R Woodruff Visiting Professor at Emory University, Atlanta. He returned to Emory University the following year as the William R Cannon Visiting Distinguished Professor. Since 2004, he has been a Visiting Professor at King’s College London.
In Spring 2007, he joined 600 college students and sailed around the world with Semester at Sea.
In 1976 protests in Soweto, also known as the Soweto Riots, against the government’s use of Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of instruction in black schools became a massive uprising against apartheid. From then on Tutu supported an economic boycott of his country. He vigorously opposed the “constructive engagement” policy of the Reagan administration in the United States, which advocated “friendly persuasion.”
Desmond Tutu was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 until 1978, when he became Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches. From this position, he was able to continue his work against apartheid with agreement from nearly all churches. Tutu consistently advocated reconciliation between all parties involved in apartheid through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. Though he was most firm in denouncing South Africa’s white-ruled government, Tutu was also harsh in his criticism of the violent tactics of some anti-apartheid groups such as the African National Congress and denounced terrorism and Communism.
Tutu’s opposition was vigorous and unequivocal, and he was outspoken both in South Africa and abroad, often comparing apartheid to Nazism and Communism. As a result the government twice revoked his passport, and he was jailed briefly in 1980 after a protest march. It was thought by many that Tutu’s increasing international reputation and his rigorous advocacy of non-violence protected him from harsher penalties.
On 16 October 1984, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee cited his “role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.”
In 1985, Tutu was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg before he became the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa on 7 September 1986. From 1987 to 1997 he was president of the All Africa Conference of Churches. In 1989 he was invited to Birmingham, England, United Kingdom as part of Citywide Christian Celebrations. Tutu and his wife visited a number of establishments including the Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook.
In 1990, Tutu and the ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape Professor Jakes Gerwel founded the Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. The Trust was established to fund developmental programmes in tertiary education and provides capacity building at 17 historically disadvantaged institutions. In 2001, the Trust, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, launched the Desmond Tutu Footprints of the Legends Awards which recognises leadership in combating prejudice, human rights, research and poverty eradication.
In 1993, he was a patron of the Cape Town Olympic Bid Committee. In 1994 he was a appointed a patron of the World Campaign Against Military and Nuclear Collaboration with South Africa, Beacon Millennium and Action from Ireland. In 1995 he became a patron of the American Harmony Child Foundation and the Hospice Association of Southern Africa.
After the fall of apartheid, he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for which he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999. In 2000, he founded the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to raise funds for the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town. In 2002, he launched the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation USA, which is designed to work with universities nationwide to create leadership academies emphasising peace, social justice and reconciliation.
In 2003, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims
He was named a member of the UN advisory panel on genocide prevention in 2006
Politics and political views
The Nobel laureate has expressed support for the West Papuan independence movement, criticizing the United Nations’ role in the takeover of West Papua by Indonesia. Tutu said: “For many years the people of South Africa suffered under the yoke of oppression and apartheid. Many people continue to suffer brutal oppression, where their fundamental dignity as human beings is denied. One such people is the people of West Papua.”
Before the 31st G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005, Tutu called on world leaders to promote free trade with poorer countries. Tutu also called on an end to expensive taxes on anti-AIDS drugs. Tutu said:
“I would hope they would begin to say, ‘lets to do something about subsidies’. You ask the so-called-developing world, ‘Why can’t you people produce more?’ – and they produce – and then they find that the markets have barriers that are put down or are clobbered twice over. I would hope that people would realise that ultimately it is in their own interest to begin to have a more equitable international economic system. So I hope you people here in Scotland will come out and say G8, do something useful.”
Tutu has criticised human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, calling Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe a “caricature of an African dictator”, and criticising the South African government’s policy of quiet diplomacy towards Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, on the other hand, has called Tutu a “angry, evil and embittered little bishop”.
He warned of corruption shortly after the election of the African National Congress government of South Africa, saying that they “stopped the gravy train just long enough to get on themselves.”
“We Africans should hang our heads in shame. How can what is happening in Zimbabwe elicit hardly a word of concern let alone condemnation from us leaders of Africa? After the horrible things done to hapless people in Harare, has come the recent crackdown on members of the opposition … what more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out ‘Enough is enough?”
In June 1999, Tutu was invited to give the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Kingston upon Hull, commemorating the life and achievements of the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Tutu used the occasion to praise the people of the city for their traditional support of freedom and for standing with the people of South Africa in their fight against apartheid. He was also presented with the freedom of the city.
The Fall 2004 issue of Greater Good magazine
The Fall 2004 issue of Greater Good magazine
In 2005, Tutu launched a global campaign, organised by Plan, to ensure that all children were registered at birth, as an unregistered child did not officially exist and was vulnerable to traffickers and during disasters. Tutu said a birth document was important because it “proves who you are”. Without it children are often barred from education, health care and citizenship. Tutu said:
“It is, in a very real sense, a matter of life and death. The unregistered child is a nonentity. The unregistered child does not exist. How can we live with the knowledge that we could have made a difference?”
Tutu has contributed to the field of social psychology. His writing appeared in Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. His contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships. His most recent article with Greater Good magazine is titled: “Why to Forgive”, which examines how forgiveness is not only personally rewarding, but also politically necessary in allowing South Africa to have a new beginning. However, Tutu states that forgiveness is not turning a blind eye to wrongs; true reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring healing.
On Israel and relationship with the Jewish community
Tutu has spoken of the significant role Jews played in the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, has voiced support for Israel’s security concerns, and has spoken against tactics of suicide bombing and incitement to hatred. He is also an active and prominent proponent of the campaign for divestment from Israel,  and has likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the treatment of Black South Africans under apartheid. 
In 1988, the American Jewish Committee noted that Tutu was strongly critical of Israel’s military and other connections with apartheid-era South Africa, and quoted him as saying that Zionism has “very many parallels with racism”, on the grounds that it “excludes people on ethnic or other grounds over which they have no control”. While the AJC was critical of some of Tutu’s views, it was dismissive of “insidious rumours” that he had made anti-Semitic statements.
Tutu preached a message of forgiveness during a 1989 trip to Israel’s Yad Vashem museum, saying “Our Lord would say that in the end the positive thing that can come is the spirit of forgiving, not forgetting, but the spirit of saying: God, this happened to us. We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.” Some found this statement offensive, with Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center calling it “a gratuitous insult to Jews and victims of Nazism everywhere] Tutu was subjected to racial slurs during this visit to Israel, with vandals writing “Black Nazi pig” on the walls of the St. George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem, where he was staying
In 2002, when delivering a public lecture in support of divestment, Tutu said “My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?”He argued that Israel could never live in security by oppressing another people, and continued, “People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.” The latter statement was criticized by some Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League. When he edited and reprinted parts of his speech in 2005, Tutu replaced the phrase “Jewish lobby” with “pro-Israel lobby”
In 2003, Tutu accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International, a Christian liberation theology organization which supports the concerns of the Palestinian Christian community and has actively lobbied the International Christian community for divestment from Israel.
Also in 2003, Archbishop Tutu received an International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo School of Law, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, sparking scattered student protests and condemnations from representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Anti-Defamation League. A 2006 opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper described him as “a friend, albeit a misguided one, of Israel and the Jewish people”.The Zionist Organization of America has led a campaign to protest Tutu’s appearances at North American campuses.
In 2007, the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota canceled a planned speech from Tutu, on the grounds that his presence might offend some members of the local Jewish community. Many faculty members opposed this decision, and with some describing Tutu as the victim of a smear campaign. Marv Davidov, an adjunct professor at the university’s Justice and Peace Studies program, was quoted as saying “As a Jew who experienced real anti-Semitism as a child, I’m deeply disturbed that a man like Tutu could be labeled anti-Semitic and silenced like this. I deeply resent the Israeli lobby trying to silence any criticism of its policy. It does a great disservice to Israel and to all Jews.". The school’s president, Rev. Dennis Dease, denied that a lobbying effort had been conducted against Tutu, and was quoted as saying, “I was under no pressure from any pro-Israeli groups or individuals, nor did I receive any requests from them to refrain from inviting Archbishop Tutu to speak.”
The group Jewish Voice for Peace led an email campaign calling on St. Thomas to reconsider its decision. On October, 10, 2007, Rev. Dease reversed his decision in a letter to students and faculty and invited Tutu to campus.
Desmond Tutu was named to head a United Nations fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, where, in a November 2006 incident the Israel Defense Forces killed 19 civilians after troops wound up a week-long incursion aimed at curbing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the town.. Tutu planned to travel to the Palestinian territory to “assess the situation of victims, address the needs of survivors and make recommendations on ways and means to protect Palestinian civilians against further Israeli assaults,” according to the president of the UN Human Rights Council, Luis Alfonso De Alba Israeli officials expressed concern that the report would be biased against Israel.
Tutu cancelled the trip in mid-December, saying that Israel had refused to grant him the necessary travel clearance after more than a week of discussions. A spokesman from the Israeli foreign ministry indicated that no final decision had been made, to which Tutu responded, “At times not making a decision is making a decision. We couldn’t obviously wait in limbo indefinitely.” The Anti-Defamation League stated that the appointment of Tutu as head of the mission is not appropriate on the grounds that he would be a prepossessed observer, and criticized the mission for having not “address[ed] the continuing barrage of Kassam rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, killing and maiming Israeli citizens…Tutu has already publicly expressed his anti-Israel views and his opinions regarding what happened in Beit Hanoun, and combined with the one-sided anti-Israel mandate provided by the resolution, the results of the mission are all-but preordained”