Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa is now 81 years old. He has spent his entire life trying to bring about justice for the poor of South Africa. He and Nelson Mandela were the two primary catalysts in abolishing apartheid in that nation—and it took decades of blood, sweat, tears, and prayers.
His dedication led to him being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984…and yet it was several more years after that before government sanctioned inequality was ended. He continues to work diligently as an agent for peace and reconciliation. Here are some of my favorite quotes by him:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
Be nice to the whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.
When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.
I want the government to know now and always that I do not fear them... There is nothing the government can do to me that will stop me from what I believe is what God wants me to do. I cannot help it when I see injustice. I cannot keep quiet.
You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.
This award is for you, who down the ages have said we seek to change this evil system peacefully. The world recognizes that we are agents of peace, of reconciliation, of love, of justice, of caring, of compassion. I have the great honor of receiving this award on your behalf. It is our prize. It is not Desmond Tutu's prize. The world recognizes that and thanks God that our God is God. Thank God that our God is in charge. (from his Nobel Peace Prize speech)
Stability and peace in our land will not come from the barrel of a gun, because peace without justice is an impossibility. Armies have far too frequently been used not to protect the people but to repress them as they defended totalitarian and unrepresentative regimes. South Africa should dismantle its armaments industry. The arms race is particularly obscene amongst struggling poverty-stricken people.
When a pile of cups is tottering on the edge of the table and you warn that they will crash to the ground, in South Africa you are blamed when that happens.
In our African language we say 'a person is a person through other persons.' I would not know how to be a human being at all except I learned this from other human beings. We are made for a delicate network of relationships, of interdependence. We are meant to complement each other. All kinds of things go horribly wrong when we break that fundamental law of our being. Not even the most powerful nation can be completely self-sufficient.
I am opposed to both the violence of those who maintain an unjust system and the violence of those who seek to overthrow it.
We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.