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Injustice the enemy of all God's people

By unknown | Jul 24, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is arguably the most vocal and decorated of all past and present South African Council of Churches (SACC) general secretaries.

His tenure saw the SACC catapulted from being a mere church organisation concerned with pastoral issues to a vigorous institution that gnawed at the consciences of the apartheid masters. He is best known for his unrelenting activism in apartheid South Africa, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

The Anglican Archbishop Emeritus is steadfast in his religious beliefs and places great value on religious inclusiveness and inter-faith dialogue. His famous statement has always been: "God loves all his people regardlessly. God did not create apartheid."

Born in Klerksdorp, North West, in 1931, Tutu initially followed his father's example and obtained teaching qualifications. However, following the introduction of Bantu Education in 1958, he decided to enter the ministry.

Following further theological studies in London, Tutu held several positions in teaching and theological work in South Africa and southern Africa. In 1976 South Africa was on the brink of major political upheaval and it was in this environment that Tutu was asked to assume the post of general secretary of the SACC. Then, in 1978, he was persuaded to leave his job as Bishop of Lesotho to become the new general secretary of the SACC. He held this position until 1985.

The SACC represented all the major Christian churches in South Africa, apart from the Dutch Reformed Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Under Tutu's leadership and guidance, the SACC became a leading institution in South African spiritual and political life that gave voice to the ideals and aspirations of millions of Christians.

The period between 1978 and 1985 launched Tutu on to the national and international stage as the SACC was at the forefront of helping those who were disenfranchised by apartheid. It was during this period that Tutu would be at the forefront of a group of clerics who came to be known as "the turbulent priests" for their outspokeness against apartheid.

Also, it was during this period that saw the rise of the largely Black Consciousness-aligned theology. Tutu and the SACC became inexorably linked as he became the unofficial leader of the crusade for justice and racial conciliation in South Africa.

Following a short stint as the Bishop of Johannesburg, Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, an office he held until his retirement in 1996.

After the fall of apartheid, Tutu became a key mediator in the difficult transition toward democracy. In 1996, he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the body set up to probe gross human rights violations during apartheid.

Following presentation of the TRC's report in October 1998, Tutu has been a visiting professor at several overseas universities. He has also published several books, the latest of which is entitled God Has a Dream. He has set up an office in Cape Town near his home.


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