Salute to Desmond Tutu – the Rainbow Nation’s man of peace

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mbilo Tutu – Nobel peace laureate and former teacher, often referred to as ‘South Africa’s moral conscience’ announced in St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on 22 July that he was finally withdrawing from public life, on his birthday in October when he turns 79. “My schedule has grown increasingly punishing over the years,” said Tutu, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 13 years ago.

“Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family, and reading and writing, and praying and thinking, too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels. The time has now come to slow down and sit with my beloved wife.”

Desmond Tutu is South Africa’s most famous cleric. He is an icon as near in stature as Nelson Mandela. When asked to name the highlight of his career, Tutu replied immediately: “The day I introduced Nelson Mandela as our newly democratically elected president to South Africa and the world – I said to God: ‘God if I die now, I don’t really mind’.”

Well-known for the courageous role he played in the fight for democracy in South Africa, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He has accumulated dozens of international accolades. Though his vigorous advocacy of social justice once rendered him a controversial figure, today Archbishop Tutu is regarded as an elder world states-man who has played a major role in reconciliation and as a leading moral voice. He became an icon of hope far beyond the Church and Southern Africa.

For many years Archbishop Desmond Tutu has supported Rotary. In February 2005 he was the keynote speaker at the Centennial Presidential Conference for Africa in Johannesburg, where the first Rotary club was chartered on the continent in 1921. He has been a keynote speaker at many Rotary events, more recently at the Rotary World Peace Symposium in Birmingham, England on June 18, 2009 when he encouraged Rotary World Peace Fellows and young Rotarians to “go for it” in working for world peace. He said that “Rotary’s dedication to peace in the world made God smile”.

A comment on the RI website at the time read “Tutu and Rotary equals world peace”.

A polio survivor himself, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, is a polio ambassador in Rotary’s “This Close” campaign. The football that has travelled through the 23 polio-affected countries during the Kick Polio Out of Africa Campaign, was signed by him and we believe – silently blessed for a safe journey.   

Rotarians in Africa, especially here in Southern Africa, thank Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, for his unwavering support of Rotary and for his dedicated commitment and contribution to world peace. We wish him well in his much deserved retirement from public life. We salute him as he continues to work and strive for peace at the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre which he established as his legacy for world peace.

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