Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu is South Africa’s most popular religious leader, who witnessed the atrocities, massacre, oppression, and killings of South Africans, in the apartheid era, by the white minority government of South Africa. To the oppressed South Africans, Tutu was a “messiah” but to the white minority, he was a “devil,” since his aim is to fight against apartheid and bring a change in his beloved South Africa.
It was this objective which placed him in a center of a political storm. He is viewed by a section of the public to belong to the pulpit, rather than politics. Born October 7th, 1931, in Klerksdorp (Transvaal) in South Africa, to a schoolmaster called Zachariah and a poor woman called Aletha Matlehare, who washed clothes for a white family. Tutu married a lady by name Leah Nomalizo and had four children with her. In the midst of political hatred, he rose from the scum society, defied all odds and emerged as a unique man of God.
Desmond Tutu believes that as a man of God, he has a duty to perform, even if that will lead him to death. Through his lifetime, he condemned apartheid and spoke strongly against politicians, who were opposing his dream of liberating the oppressed South Africans to be a reality. As a minister of God, he is considered to and expected to stick to religion and leave the realms of politics to politicians. But this is something he wasn’t prepared to do.
Barack Obama and Desmond Tutu
It was his condemnation against the evils of apartheid, which has led some come to the conclusion that Tutu is a political priest, a subversive rather than a man of peace. As a matter of fact, there is no way a true priest, or man of God, can sit without care, looking at the killings of innocent people and children, without any intervention. It is against this background that one has to understand that Tutu is not a politician, even though his actions and public utterances have direct political implications.
In the field of Christianity, many are those who are known to be God servants. In Europe and America, how many priests have taken the trouble of visiting war affected victims or victims of natural disasters apart from Reverend Jesse Jackson and Desmond Tutu in Africa? The 83-year-old Truth and Reconciliation Commission chairman and Nobel peace laureate have travelled extensively to any part of the world including Sierra Leone and Rwanda.
In 1984, he visited Nairobi-Kenya and gave a keynote address on human rights and apartheid. He received an emotional welcome when he visited Kigali-Rwanda, a country torn apart by mass and brutal killings between Tutsis and Hutus. He has visited Ghana, many times. But his visit again in 1994, to the Holy Trinity Cathedral Church in Accra, was another significant day in the history of Ghana. Not even a president has such admirers. As if the mighty God, has come down to earth in the likelihood of a man, Tutu’s presence was felt by everyone.
Despite his concern for suffering people and his ability to solve disputes, when he received his Noble Peace in Oslo-Norway in 1984, while Africans generally were glad for his recognition of his good works, a section of the media greeted his prize with derision and was scorned by the white administration.
God took the whole human life seriously and sent his servants to help mankind. It is this Godly work of solving conflicts, helping the poor and helpless victims, attending conferences and preaching that Tutu stands for. In this way, Tutu is seen as another Moses, not of the old testament but of the new in Africa generally.