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1984 Desmond Mpilo Tutu – Biography Bishop Desmond Tutu

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1984 Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu – Biography

Bishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. His father was a teacher, and he himself was educated at Johannesburg Bantu High School. After leaving school he trained first as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and in 1954 he graduated from the University of South Africa. After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960. The years 1962-66 were devoted to further theological study in England leading up to a Master of Theology. From 1967 to 1972 he taught theology in South Africa before returning to England for three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Tutu is an honorary doctor of a number of leading universities in the USA, Britain and Germany.

Desmond Tutu has formulated his objective as "a democratic and just society without racial divisions", and has set forward the following points as minimum demands:

1. equal civil rights for all
2. the abolition of South Africa's passport laws
3. a common system of education
4. the cessation of forced deportation from South Africa to the so-called "homelands"

The South African Council of Churches is a contact organization for the churches of South Africa and functions as a national committee for the World Council of Churches. The Boer churches have disassociated themselves from the organization as a result of the unambiguous stand it has made against apartheid. Around 80 percent of its members are black, and they now dominate the leading positions.

Desmond Tutu's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech December 10, 1984

"Your majesty, members of the Royal Family, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

"Many thousands of people round the world have been thrilled with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1984 to Desmond Mpilo Tutu. I was told of a delegation of American churchpeople who were visiting Russia. On hearing the news they and their Russian hosts celebrated the Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

"There has been a tremendous volume of greetings from heads of state, world leaders of the Christian church and other faiths as well as from so-called ordinary people-notable exceptions being the Soviet and South African governments.

"The prize has given fresh hope to many in the world that has sometimes had a pall of despondency cast over it by the experience of suffering, disease, poverty, famine, hunger, oppression, injustice, evil and war-a pall that has made many wonder whether God cared, whether He was omnipotent, whether He was loving and compassionate. The world is in such desperate straits, in such a horrible mess that it all provides almost conclusive proof that a good and powerful and loving God such as Christians and people of other faiths say they believe in could not exist, or if He did He really could not be a God who cared much about the fate of His creatures or the world they happened to inhabit which seemed to be so hostile to their aspirations to be fully human.

"I once went to a friend's house in England. There I found a charming book of cartoons entitled My God. One showed God with appeals and supplications bombarding Him from people below and He saying, 'I wish I could say, Don't call me, I'll call you.' And another declared 'Create in 6 days and have eternity to regret it.'

"My favorite shows God somewhat disconsolate and saying, 'Oh dear, I think I have lost my copy of the divine plan.' Looking at the state of the world you would be forgiven for wondering if He ever had one and whether He had not really botched things up.

"New hope has sprung in the breast of many as a result of this prize-the mother watching her child starve in a Bantustan homeland resettlement camp, or one whose flimsy plastic covering was demolished by the authorities in the KTC squatter camp in Cape Town; the man emasculated by the Pass Laws as he lived for 11 months in a single-sex hostel; the student receiving an inferior education; the activist languishing in a consulate or a solitary confinement cell, being tortured because he thought he was a human and wanted that God-given right recognized; the exile longing to kiss the soil of her much loved motherland, the political prisoner watching the days of a life sentence go by like the drip of a faulty tap, imprisoned because he knew he was created by God not to have his human dignity or pride trodden underfoot.

"A new hope has been kindled in the breast of the millions who are voiceless, oppressed, dispossessed, tortured by the powerful tyrants; lacking elementary human rights in Latin America, in South East Asia, the Far East, in many parts of Africa and behind the Iron Curtain, who have their noses rubbed in the dust. How wonderful, how appropriate that this award is made today-December 10, Human Rights Day. It says more eloquently than anything else that this is God's world and He is in charge. That our cause is a just cause that we will attain human rights in South Africa and everywhere in the world. We shall be free in South Africa and everywhere in the world.

"I want to thank the Nobel Committee, I want to thank the Churches in Norway and everywhere for their support, their love and their prayers.

"On behalf of all these for whom you have given new hope, a new cause for joy, I want to accept this award in a wholly representative capacity.

"I accept this prestigious award on behalf of my family, on behalf of the South African Council of Churches, on behalf of all in my motherland, on behalf of those committed to the cause of justice, peace, and reconciliation everywhere.

"If God be for us who can be against us?"

NOTE: This speech was taken from The Words of Desmond Tutu, selected and introduced by Naomi Tutu, Newmarket Press, New York, 1989.

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