‘I’m mortified‚’ says Tutu as SA author reveals abuse by priests

Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Image: Halden Krog

Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Friday he was “mortified” when he heard that award-winning South African author Ishtiyaq Shukri has been sexually abused by priests in Kimberley.

In a statement issued this week by his publisher‚ Jacana‚ Shukri lashed out at Tutu over his decision in February to step down as an Oxfam ambassador in the wake of a sex scandal that rocked the international aid organisation.

In early February it was reported that Oxfam staff paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti while in the country after the devastating 2010 earthquake. It is alleged that the organisation's money was used for this purpose.

While not stating outright that his resignation was directly due to the revelations - instead saying it was linked to his retirement from public commitments - Tutu's office said in a statement that the 86-year-old Nobel peace prize laureate was disappointed by the news.

But Shukri described this stance as hypocritical. He said reading Tutu’s statement was “excruciating for me‚ because I have seen first-hand the good work Oxfam does”.

“When Archbishop Tutu made his statement about Oxfam‚ saying that he is ‘deeply disappointed’ about the sex scandal‚ I was reminded of all the times I had been sexually abused by Anglican priests."

Shukri said he was “repeatedly and routinely” sexually abused by priests at St Cyprian's cathedral in Kimberley‚ where his maternal family worshipped.

In response to the statement‚ Tutu’s office said on Friday that action should be taken against those who victimised Shukri.

“Archbishop Emeritus Tutu was mortified to learn this week of the suffering Ishtiyaq Shukri has described enduring at the hands of priests in Kimberley. Members of the clergy who break the law or behave immorally are as accountable for their actions – now‚ in the past and in the future – as any other member of God's family‚” the statement said.

It continued that while Tutu had retired from public life‚ he had confidence that the church’s current leadership would take action. “[Tutu] has the utmost faith in archbishop Makgoba's commitment to hold those clergy accused of wrongdoing to account‚ and support those whose trust in the clergy has been betrayed."

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