“If you stay neutral in unfair situations, you choose the side of the oppressor” .
You may have read and heard this sentence several times in recent years, especially when some situation of violence and disrespect for human rights becomes public. Its author is the archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, who, today, December 26, passed, at the age of 90, in Cape Town.
His faith broke the limits of religion. He allied himself with all who “shared his passion for justice and love.” He was a tireless activist against apartheid and used his voice against all injustices , not only in Africa, but anywhere on the planet where he identified violence against the most vulnerable and voiceless in their societies.
At the request of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president , Tutu helped the people deal with the end of apartheid through public hearings: victims reported their pain and, upon gaining their recognition from their tormentors, forgave them .
For his fight against apartheid , in 1984 Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize and, when it came time to retire, joined other laureates with the same prize, as well as well-known former statesmen to form The Elders , an independent organization of global leaders committed to peace, justice and human rights .
The group was founded in 2007 by Mandela , who had a partnership with former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former US president Jimmy Carter and former UN secretary-general Kofi Anan, who won the same Nobel ( who died in 2018), among others.
And so Desmond Tutu continued to talk about ethical and moral issues as highlighted today by his foundation’s website – the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation : “illegal arms deals, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, respect for the state of right, HIV/AIDS, Tibet, China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and LGBTQI+ rights”.
The archbishop has also participated in campaigns for the planet’s climate: “for a gentler stewardship of the Earth and against the impending ravages of climate change”, being “a very real example of how human survival depends on our ubuntu – spirited capacity to cooperate and work together”.
In recent years Tutu devoted himself to prayer and contemplation ‘in the house he and his wife shared in Milnerton.” He leaves a great legacy of love and compassion composed by his actions and a series of inspiring messages that serve as encouragement and encouragement to anyone who, like him, defends peace on Earth.
“My humanity is linked to yours, as we can only be human together”, he said. Ubuntu!
“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another mournful chapter in our nation’s farewell to a generation of South African notables who bequeathed us a liberated South Africa” – Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa .
“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend and a moral compass to me and to many others. Universal in spirit, Archbishop Tutu was rooted in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned about injustice everywhere” – Barack Obama , former US president.
“This morning after Christmas, we are heartbroken to learn of the passing of a true servant of God and the people, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. . His courage and moral clarity helped to inspire our commitment to change American policy towards the repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa. We felt his warmth and joy when we visited him during the 2010 World Cup, which celebrated diversity and beauty of your beloved nation. And just a few months ago, we joined the world to celebrate its 90th anniversary and reflect on the power of its message of justice, equality, truth and reconciliation as we face racism and extremism in our time today” – Joe and Jill Biden, US President and First Lady.
“ Desmond Tutu’s death leaves a huge vacuum in a world that has a leadership deficit. His humor, always brilliant, was accompanied by impressive courage” – Jamil Chad, Brazilian journalist who interviewed him in 2008 about Brazil .
“ Desmond Tutu ‘s writings accompanied me in the pandemic, helping me to breathe during the toughest periods and seek a new way of seeing everything, always. Owner of a stubborn hope that he tirelessly shared with the world. His passing, today, makes me feel like a great friend is gone” – Emicida, Brazilian singer and composer.
Finally, I reproduce the moving story that artist Vik Muniz shared on his Instagram today, in which he tells about a beautiful moment he lived with Desmond Tutu, in Davos, in 2012, when he spoke about his affectionate vision of the Brazilian people:
“One of the most amazing things that ever happened to me was asking a stranger if I could sit with him in a crowded cafe in the center of the WEF in Davos in 2012, and after the first sip of coffee, finding myself sitting with Desmond Tutu. I looked at him and complained that the place was so crowded it was impossible to sit with someone who hadn’t received a Nobel Prize. He burst out laughing and asked me why I hadn’t received one yet. I told him I was a good person, but I was too lazy.
In our short and spontaneous interloquy, the friendly Archbishop told me that he was feeling very cold and afraid of slipping on the ice, that he loved Brazil and our people and that we were a culture of kindness and tolerance. I always believed that, but it was such a comfort to hear it from such a nice person. In recent years, I have seen a side of the Brazilian that I might not want to see, selfish, cruel and prejudiced and I must confess to an enormous sadness in relation to my own origin and culture.
When I learned of his death this morning, here in Salvador, I remembered his words and the Brazil that I love. I also remembered something else he said about the Brazilian, already getting up to leave: that we had an immense capacity to forgive and that this was an enormous power that is easily mistaken for weakness.
Tutu said everything and his death only reminded me that we are not weak, we are, for the most part, good and tolerant and that is what counts as long as there is a democracy. Go with God, Reverend Tutu, you’ve given me the richest coffee I’ve ever had in my life.”
Muniz’s account fits very well with one of the phrases he said in his statements, disseminated around the world, and which always inspire us: “We are not loved because we are good. We are good because we are loved”. Let’s be!
Now, check out the beautiful selection of portraits that The Elders website has prepared to honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu.