A tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

If ever there was a reason for our country to unite in compassion, it lies in the life and spiritual leadership of our beloved Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu who has died on 26 December 2021 at the age of 90.

The Arch, as he remains affectionately known, was closely allied to Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, particularly in our promotion of the Charter for Compassion. He was an integral part of the birth of the Charter for Compassion when, in 2008, he participated in the milestone “Seeds of the Compassion” event alongside the Dalai Lama and Charter for Compassion founder Karen Armstrong.

In 2010, when CTII celebrated its 10th birthday by launching the newly established Charter for Compassion in Cape Town, The Arch was the guest of honour.

CTII’s 10th Anniversary was also marked by the publication of a booklet, The Dignity of Difference. In his message published in the booklet the Arch wrote: “How we love to separate and divide – whether it is class, colour or creed. We in the monotheistic religions have not done well in affirming that God is one and everything and everyone bears the divine image – a sure sign of the unity within the diversity.”

Even for those who never met the famous Nobel Laureate, his impact on our world and on our thinking has been profound. His clear and decisive spiritual leadership has helped us navigate the often turbulent path from the inter-cultural fear and separation of the apartheid era to a place of progressive reconnection through the cathartic process of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Archbishop Emeritus Tutu showed us how to show up, fearlessly speaking truth to power through two very different governments, and somehow always maintaining his special brand of humour, grace and compassion within the demands of a world at odds with itself. He always said that daily spiritual practice was foundational to his life and leadership, and his deep reverence for the Divine in all its forms was evident in his authentic and deep relationships with world leaders of diverse spiritual paths, most notably HH the Dalai Lama.

We at CTII will always remember the Arch’s authenticity, curiosity and humble servant leadership. We will continue in his blessed memory to promote the Charter for Compassion that was so dear to his heart. We will continue the critical conversations between people of diverse faiths, to learn from and be enriched by each other, seeking always a more inclusive, kinder world for the benefit of all.

We extend our deepest condolences to his beloved wife Nomalizo Leah and to his children Trevor Tamsanqa, Thandeka, Nontombi and Mpho Tutu van Furth, and all of their families.

We include the Arch’s many friends and loved ones across the globe in our prayers.  His love for humanity made him a universally loved man, a statesman and a force for justice, compassion and peace.

The significance of a life lies in the way it inspires transformation in behaviour and thought. In his memory, we invite you to join us in a renewed commitment to Compassion. You can sign on to the Charter for Compassion at this link, and leave a tribute or message of condolences here.

May he rest in peace and rise in Glory.