His death was announced by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who called Tutu “a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical idea that faith without works is dead ”. Tutu had been hospitalized several times in recent years.
The passionate freedom activist led the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, a grueling investigation that investigated crimes committed during the apartheid era. It was widely seen as a crucial healing step in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. The CVR has become a model for similar commissions in other parts of the continent.
When Tutu first voted in 1994 in South Africa’s first democratic elections, he expressed the unbridled joy of a country emerging from a troubled past.
It was a long journey to get to this urn. For Desmond Mpilo Tutu, son of a high school principal, the church was not his initial vocation. After giving up his plan to go to medical school, he started out as a teacher. But the champion of justice considered the inferior education that white minority rulers forced on black South Africans to be an insult.
Tutu then turned to the priesthood and was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1960. Fifteen years later he became Johannesburg’s first black dean and publicly engaged in the struggle against apartheid.
The campaigning priest has been arrested more than once but has drawn strength from his beliefs and fellow South Africans, he said. He condemned all forms of violence and confronted both apartheid police and vengeful black mobs who “stick” with so-called spies by throwing tires around their victims and setting them on fire. Now firmly on the international radar, Tutu warned apartheid leaders that racism defied God’s will and that apartheid would not succeed.
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