Desmond Tutu was born in the year 1931, in South Africa. His first career was teaching. He later, in 1960, became a minster of the “Church of England” after he had studied theology”1. He also studied for a master’s degree in theology in England, at King’s College. This enabled him to come to his country and engage in teaching theology.
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In the year 1975, Tutu was given the position of the dean and he served in this capacity in St. Mary’s Cathedral located in Johannesburg2. In 1978, Tutu was appointed to become the bishop of Lesotho and later on, in 1986, he took up the position of Archbishop. While serving in the capacity of Archbishop, he always woke up very early in the morning to engage in prayer for a period of about one hour.
This is the religious faith as well as spirituality that directed him to end up in the politics field. For him, “being Christian meant opposing prejudice and racism in South Africa”3. This paper is going to discuss about Desmond Tutu’s role in the international affairs that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and also his role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa which he chaired.
The apartheid system in South Africa turned out to be known across the world to be associated with the violation of human rights and injustice4. The white minority in South Africa had been engaging in supporting segregated development; economically, socially as well as politically beginning from the year 1948.
The government policy targeted to secure dominance for the whites who were the minority and to repress the non-whites who were the majority in South Africa. After forty years of apartheid in South Africa, at the start of the 1990s, there was mounting pressure, nationally as well as internationally, to have the apartheid system brought to an end. Desmond Tutu was one of the people who played a major role in having apartheid abolished was Desmond Tutu5.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu started to draw the attention to the South African state of affairs in the early 1970s. It is pointed out that, Desmond Tutu used every available chance to talk about how wicked; morally wrong, diabolical and contradictory apartheid philosophy was with the Christian beliefs”6.
In the year 1975, when he became the “Dean of Johannesburg”, Desmond Tutu engaged in writing a distressed letter to Vorster who was the prime minister at that time. He wrote the letter with an aim of drawing the attention of the prime minister to the overwrought and greatly volatile situation in the country7. The letter was ignored and the situation grew from bad to worse with each coming day.
Tutu immediately realized the lack of willingness of the South Africa’s white government to engage in negotiations and came to hold a belief that it was only the international community support that would help in ending the apartheid system in South Africa.
When he was appointed to take up the position of “General Secretary of the South African Church Council”, which served to represent most of the churches in the country, he got an opportunity to reach out to the world8.
Through this, he received the needed political influence. He received support from other church leaders within the country and across the globe and this enabled him to engage in calling for the communal defiance among the people of South Africa and also called for having global economic sanctions in opposition to the South African government”9.
In 1984, Tutu was awarded the “Nobel Peace Prize” and this strongly placed South Africa to be a focal point for the international community. This further gave Desmond Tutu more influence and a better opportunity to work towards his goal10.
One year after the majority rule being achieved, Desmond Tutu was appointed to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela. The authority of this commission encompassed; offering compensation and support to the victims as well as their families, and undertaking the compilation of complete documentation of the impacts of apartheid on the people in this country11.
Any person had fallen victim of the violence that occurred during the apartheid system in South Africa was encouraged to present his or her testimony before the commission. Moreover, those who engaged in bringing about the activities of violence could as well provide evidence and subsequently ask for protection against prosecution12.
The South African Government saw this commission as being an instrument that could effectively be used to deal with the evils that resulted from apartheid. Applying the apartheid system in South Africa contributed towards having conflict increase in the country and this brought about violence and the abuse of human rights13.
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The main aim of the inquiry “was to preach forgiveness in order to heal the emotions and wounds of hatred or anger that had been created by the apartheid system”14. In the fresh society that came up after the country becoming independent, no room existed for one to engage in striking back.
It was considered that a person who forgives turns out to be a better individual than the person who does not forgive and is consumed with hatred. In the same manner, an argument was presented that in case one can find it in his or her heart to offer forgiveness, then this person is no longer enslaved to the one who offended him or her, that is, the perpetrator15.
Tutu believed strongly in people forgiving each other. He pointed out that true reconciliation is made on the basis of forgiveness, and forgiveness is given on the basis of true declaration of guilt, and declaration of guilt is made on the basis of repentance, on apology, and on grief for whatever one has done16.
He further pointed out that it is true that whenever there is a quarrel between a husband and his wife, either of them has to be prepared to utter the hardest words in whatever language, “I am sorry”17, and the one offended has to be prepared to offer his or her forgiveness for their relationship to have a future18.
This is as well applicable between; neighbours and friends among others. He also points out that in an equal manner, declaration of guilt, reconciliation and forgiveness between countries are not merely unfocused spiritual things, indefinable and impractical; but they are the substance of realistic politics19.
According to Archbishop Tutu, “to forgive is not just to be altruistic…it is the best form of self interest”20. It is as well a process which does not eliminate anger and hatred. Having emotions is very human and a person should under no circumstances have hatred for him or herself for hating other people who do horrible things: the deepness of one’s love is exhibited by the degree of his or her anger21.
Under the chairmanship of Desmond Tutu, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission brought forth a large number of witnesses who testified about the acts of violence that were committed during the apartheid system period22. On the 28th day of October, the year 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission handed in its report.
The report denounced the two sides for the acts of violence that were committed. In spite of some few errors here and there, the TRC was a critical constituent of the change to democratic system in South Africa and the commission is considered to have attained a high level of success”23.
In conclusion, it has been found out that Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Church leader in South Africa who has served in the capacity of bishop and archbishop. He studied theology in England and came back to teach the same subject in his country. His level of knowledge and experience has enabled him to be a renowned figure across the world. He has actually played a major role in the South African affairs as well as the international affairs.
He was committed to see apartheid come to an end and his effort yielded fruits since there is no longer apartheid in South Africa. The country has now become a democratic state led by black people. The big role he played in fighting apartheid earned him a Nobel Peace Prize. Moreover, his role as the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission served to ensure the South African people forgive each other and move on.
“Desmond Tutu: Extracts from the letter to Prime Minister John Vorster dated May 6th 1976.” dadalos. Web.
“Desmond Tutu(South Africa).” The for giveness project. Web.
“The day the truth hit home.” The Sunday Times. Web.
Tutu, Desmond. “Truth and reconciliation.” Greater good berkeley. Web.
“Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu.” NSW Department of Education.
“Desmond Tutu’s impact in the fight against apartheid.”. Dadalos. Web.
South African History Online. “Desmond Tutu and TRC.” SAHO. Web.
“Tutu, archbishop Desmond, and the South African truth and reconciliation commission.” Exhumator. Web.
1 “Tutu, archbishop Desmond, and the South African truth and reconciliation commission.” Exhumator.
4 “Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu.” NSW Department of Education.
5 “Desmond Tutu’s impact in the fight against apartheid.”.
7 “Desmond Tutu: Extracts from the letter to Prime Minister John Vorster dated May 6th 1976” dadalos.
8 “Desmond Tutu’s impact in the fight against apartheid”
11 South African History Online,. Desmond Tutu and TRC. SAHO.
16 Desmond, Tutu. “Truth and reconciliation.”
20 “Desmond Tutu(South Africa).”
22 “The day the truth hit home.” The Sunday Times.
23 South African History Online,. Desmond Tutu and TRC. SAHO.