Archbishop Desmond Tutu
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Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a South African cleric and human rights activist who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s, winning the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid.   He will be remembered for his courage and perseverance in his continued quest for equality of all races in South Africa, especially black and white.   By 1986 he became Archbishop Desmond Tutu, making him the official leader and first black cleric to head the Anglican Church in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I asked him for a meeting at the Dalai Lama’s Vancouver Peace Summit.  He said he had no time but invited me to meet him at the Quest for Global Healing summit in Bali later that month.   I went and shared the vision of Women’s Day Live, a global benefit to champion women and girls worldwide every year on International Women’s Day.  He became the Women’s Day Live Patron and for over a decade He always followed through on his promises. He and Leah Tutu are extraordinary human beings.   He said that he and the Dalai Lama both agree that the world will be saved by women!   See video.

A story from the Archbishop about him as a young boy that I have appreciated deeply:

I loved his quotes about forgiveness. He said that If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. “It doesn’t actually matter whether you’re a Muslim, or a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist. When you’ve quarreled with your wife, If you want that relationship to continue, you’re going to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s just a reality of life

I never thought that I had inner strength. I’ve known that I depended so very much on others. I had a wonderful mother; she was not an educated person. She was incredible in her generosity. And I resembled her physically; she had a large nose like mine, she was dumpy, too, like me… but I’ve always said, I hope I will be able to resemble her in her spirit as I resemble her physically. She was such an incredibly compassionate person. And I think that I owe her and others, like Father Trevor Hardenston who came to work in South Africa. The first time I saw him, I didn’t know who he was. I was surprised.

I was about 9 years old, standing with my mother who was a domestic worker, a cook at a facility for black blind women, and this white man strutted past wearing a long white cassock, and he had a huge sombrero, and as he passed my mother he tipped his hat to my mother. I didn’t know then that that gesture made such an incredible impression on me. A white man… tipping his hat to my mother, a black woman…in South Africa in those days, it was just mind-boggling, but I discovered later when I met with Trevor Hardenston, that was how he believed, that was what he believed about human beings—that we were created in the image of God, and that we have an inalienable dignity.

And when I was about 15 or so I had T.B. and I spent 20 months in hospital. I was just a township ghetto urchin, and he a very busy person, yet almost every week of those 20 months he visited me. This very important man made me think and believe that I was special. And I’ve had so many who have nurtured me and helped me to grow into a sense of wonder of God’s creation, how human beings are of infinite worth, whatever, whoever they may be, and it was just some of that that sustained and inspired me as I, with others, struggled against the injustices of apartheid..

And we speak then of a rainbow nation. It wouldn’t be a rainbow if it had one color. And celebrate who we are.  And say, I know ultimately, that I can’t exist without you, as you can’t exist without me.

“The world is beginning to realize more and more that spiritual values, which used to be pooh-poohed, are actually what make the world go around.”   

Lili FOURNIER
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