‘Thinker, leader, shepherd’: The world reacts to the death of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nelson Mandela Foundation lead tributes to Archbishop Tutu

Nqobile Dludla
Sunday 26 December 2021 16:42
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<p>File photo: Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to speeches at at event in Cape Town, South Africa, 30 July 2010</p>

File photo: Archbishop Desmond Tutu listens to speeches at at event in Cape Town, South Africa, 30 July 2010

Tributes have been pouring in following the death of South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-apartheid veteran.

Widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience” because of his staunch opposition to white minority rule, Archbishop Tutu died on Sunday aged 90.

Archbishop Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and in recent years he was hospitalised on several occasions to treat infections associated with his cancer treatment.

While he was recognised worldwide for his prominent role in the campaign against apartheid, the cleric and social activist also worked to draw awareness to LGBT rights, poverty, AIDS and lack of democracy in developing countries.

Here are some of the reactions to his death by leading figures around the world:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

“The passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.

“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.”

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a prophet and priest, a man of words and action – one who embodied the hope and joy that were the foundations of his life. Even in our profound sorrow we give thanks for a life so well lived.

“His love transformed the lives of politicians and priests, township dwellers and world leaders. The world is different because of this man. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Nelson Mandela Foundation

“He was larger than life, and for so many in South Africa and around the world his life has been a blessing.

“His contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies. He was an extraordinary human being. A thinker. A leader. A shepherd.”

The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader

“The friendship and the spiritual bond between us was something we cherished.

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was entirely dedicated to serving his brothers and sisters for the greater common good. He was a true humanitarian and a committed advocate of human rights.”

John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party

“A true South African giant has left us today, but his spirit will live on in the everyday kindness we South Africans show each other, and in our continued effort to build a united, successful, non-racial South Africa for all ... When we lost our way, he was the moral compass that brought us back.”

Barack Obama, former US president

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere.

“He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries.”

UK’s Queen Elizabeth

“I am joined by the whole Royal Family in being deeply saddened by the news of the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who tirelessly championed human rights in South Africa and across the world. I remember with fondness my meetings with him and his great warmth and humour.

“Archbishop Tutu’s loss will be felt by the people of South Africa, and by so many people in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and across the Commonwealth, where he was held in such high affection and esteem.”

Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town

“Desmond Tutu’s legacy is moral strength, moral courage and clarity. He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people’s pain. And he laughed, no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight when he shared their joy.”

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King

"I’m saddened to learn of the death of global sage, human rights leader, and powerful pilgrim on earth ... we are better because he was here."

Wasel Abu Youssef, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation

"Father Desmond Tutu was one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian cause. He had always advocated the rights of the Palestinians to gain their freedom and rejected Israeli occupation and Apartheid."

Shenilla Mohamed, Amnesty International South Africa executive director

“He was never afraid to call out human rights violators no matter who they were and his legacy must be honored by continuing his work to ensure equality for all.”

Reuters / AP

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