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10 quotes from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Today we celebrate the birth of a living South African icon, retired cleric and anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. A beacon of hope, Tutu continues to inspire South Africa and the rest of the world with his fearlessness, great leadership, fighting for the improvement of the rights of all citizens. We share with you our selection of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu’s most profound and inspirational quotes.

Today we celebrate the birth of a living South African icon, retired cleric and anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, in 1931.

The Arch, as Tutu is affectionately known was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and bishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa).

A strong critic of the Apartheid regime and its racist and discriminatory policies, Tutu fought for racial equality and fervently campaigned for the end of Apartheid. The Arch is also know for his role as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and he advocated for forgiveness and racial harmony after the fall of the Apartheid system.

He has received numerous accolades  including the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), and has been called “South Africa’s moral conscience”.

Despite his struggle with ill-health, Tutu has remained a fervent fighter against discrimination. The Arch has remained resolute and critical in speaking on fundamental issues on governance, human rights, HIV/Aids, poverty, and social justice issues.

We salute this African hero, tirelessly working in pursuit of peace and justice

We share with you our selection of Archbishop Emeritus Tutu’s most profound and inspirational quotes.

1. “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”.  Quoted in Unexpected News : Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984) by Robert McAfee Brown.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, 2008. Photo: Wissam Nassar/Flash90
Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, 2008. Photo: Wissam Nassar/Flash90

2. “I am fifty-two years of age. I am a bishop in the Anglican Church, and a few people might be constrained to say that I was reasonably responsible. In the land of my birth I cannot vote, whereas a young person of eighteen can vote. And why? Because he or she possesses that wonderful biological attribute — a white skin”. Quoted in Guardian Weekly, April 1984.

3. “History, like beauty, depends largely on the beholder, so when you read that, for example, David Livingstone discovered the Victoria Falls, you might be forgiven for thinking that there was nobody around the Falls until Livingstone arrived on the scene”. Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches, 1984.

4. “When a pile of cups is tottering on the edge of the table and you warn that they will crash to the ground, in South Africa you are blamed when that happens”.  Quoted in The New York Times, January 1985.

5. “A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons”. Address at his enthronement as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, September 1986.

6. “There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative – not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew”. Quoted in Recovering from Apartheid, The New Yorker, November 1996.

7. “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 human rights”.

8. “Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment”. Excerpts from “Apartheid in the Holy Land” in The Guardian, April 2002.

9. “What has happened to us? It seems as if we have perverted our freedom, our rights into license, into being irresponsible. Perhaps we did not realise just how apartheid has damaged us so that we seem to have lost our sense of right and wrong”. Quoted in “Desmond Tutu turns 75”, News24, October 2006.

10. “Without forgiveness there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations”. Quoted in “Truth and reconciliation”, BBC Focus on Africa, January-March 2000.

Source: Wiki quotes/Tutu foundation.

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