• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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12 things you didn’t know about late Desmond Tutu

As the Bishop of Africa departs

In the early hours of Boxing Day, the office of South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed the death of Desmond Tutu, the cleric who used his pulpit and spirited oratory to help bring down apartheid and then became the leading advocate of peaceful reconciliation under Black majority rule.

The cause of death was cancer, the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said, adding that Archbishop Tutu had died in a care facility.

He was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997, and was hospitalized several times in recent years, amid recurring fears that the disease had spread.

Here are 12 unpopular facts about the Archbishop whose voice was a powerful force for nonviolence in the anti-apartheid movement, earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Israeli Bombing

Desmond Tutu was appointed as the UN Lead for an investigation into the Israeli bombings in the Beit Hanoun November 2006 incident. Israel refused Tutu’s delegation access, so the investigation didn’t occur until 2008.

Clash with British’s prime minister

In January 2003, Desmond Tutu attacked British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s stance in supporting American President George W. Bush over Iraq. Tutu asked why Iraq was being singled out when Europe, India and Pakistan also had many weapons of mass destruction

Patron of Sabeel International

Desmond Tutu accepted the role as patron of Sabeel International, a Christian liberation theology organisation that supports the concerns of the Palestinian Christian community in 2003 and also has actively lobbied the international Christian community for divestment from Israel. In the same year, Tutu received an International Advocate for Peace Award from the Cardozo School of Law, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, sparking scattered student protests and condemnations from representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and AntiDefamation League

Like his father, Tutu was a schoolteacher from 1954-1957

After studying at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 to 1953, he moved to Johannesburg to teach at the Johannesburg Bantu High School and Munsienville High School in Mogale City. He had originally wanted to be a doctor, but his family couldn’t afford the schooling, so he followed in his father’s footsteps.

Tutu resigned his teaching post after the passage of the Bantu Education Act

Following the passage of the Bantu education act, a law that created a separate inferior education system for black students, Tutu resigned his teaching position in protest and shifted his focus to speak more directly to issues of discrimination and inequality in South Africa.

From 1986 to 1996, he served as the first black Archbishop of Cape Town

While this bit is well known, it isn’t necessarily common knowledge that as the first black Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu was not only the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, but also in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Lesotho.

Read also: Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaigner has died

This established Tutu as a leader in his own country, as well as the surrounding region, allowing him to become a major voice and leader for all of Southern Africa.

Tutu gets credit for the term “Rainbow Nation”

Used to describe post-apartheid South Africa, Rainbow Nation reflects the ethnic diversity and racial acceptance that has become ingrained in the political (and hopefully societal) culture in the country. It’s become a part of the mainstream language across the world and is even reflected in the nation’s colorful flag.

In 1998, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer

Fortunately, Tutu underwent successful treatment in the U.S. and went into full remission. This also shaped his activities on the world stage, as he became an advocate for health causes and access to health care, especially with regard to cancer-related diseases and HIV/AIDS.

He appeared in an Off-Broadway play in New York

In October 2004, Tutu busted out his acting chops to play Lord Justice Steyn in “Guantanamo: Honor-bound to Defend Freedom.” The play harshly criticized the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, and Tutu’s role was a judge who questioned the legal justification of the facility and American soldiers’ known practices there.

Member of The Elders

In 2007, Nelson Mandela formed The Elders, a group of “elder statesmen” that would work together on global issues. Along with Mandela and Tutu, other Elders included former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Their first mission was to Darfur in Sudan to advocate for an end to the ongoing genocide there.

He wrote a children’s book

In December 2012, Tutu released a children’s book called “Desmond and the Very Mean Word.” Without giving away too much, the plot follows Desmond as he bikes around his neighborhood and is called a mean word by some boys nearby. Rather than fighting back with more insults, he learns that this is not the best way, and he should show compassion even to those that hurt him. It’s basically a very thinly veiled metaphor for Tutu’s entire approach to his life if you didn’t pick up on that yet.

The Desmond Tutu House in Soweto is on a pretty cool street

This is the house that Tutu and his family moved into in 1975, and is one of the only streets in the world where two Nobel Prize winners have lived – Nelson Mandela and Tutu lived several doors down from one another in Soweto. Mandela even spent his first night at Tutu’s house after being released from Robben Island in 1990.