Anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies at 90, voice of justice falls silent

On December 26, 2021 Archbishop Desmond Tutu died in Cape Town. The 90-year old Nobel laureate and impressive leader had been ailing for some time. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his death, on Sunday. Tributes have been pouring in for the indefatigable leader of the anti-apartheid movement.

President Ramaphosa called Tutu “a patriot without equal.” He also described him as principled and pragmatic and said that he was a good example of giving meaning to the biblical insight that “faith without works is dead.”

Tributes also poured in from leaders around the world including former President Barack Obama who remembered him as a mentor. Nelson Mandela had described him years ago as a blessing and an inspiration and Mary Robinson who leads the Elders described him as an inspiration who helped her “to be ‘a prisoner of hope’ in his inimitable phrase.”

“Arch” as he was fondly called by many of his friends, had been a part of the anti-apartheid movement from years. He became the first black Dean of Johannesburg and continued to fight the apartheid regime. When he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, in his characteristic humorous manner he said “the oracle has spoken” and that people had started to listen to him.

12/7/1984 President meeting with Bishop Desmond Tutu of Anglican Church of South Africa in oval office

In 1994, when Archbishop Desmond Tutu voted for the first time in the first democratic elections to be held in South Africa, he happily told reporters that he want to sing, to cry and to laugh, jump and dance, everything together. He also said that it was an “incredible day for all of our people— black and white.” He called the country a “Rainbow Nation” to describe the ethnic mix, post apartheid.

Nelson Mandela, the first democratic President of South Africa and one of the tallest leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, asked Tutu to become the Chair of South Africa’s landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Tutu said that he had been humbled by the resilience of the people and at the magnanimity of spirit that they exhibited.

In his later years, Archbishop Desmond Tutu suffered illnesses. He also withdrew from the nitty gritty of South African affairs as he was critical of some of the policies put forth by the members of the African National Congress (ANC). He is survived by his wife and children.

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