Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is a South African clergyman, civil rights activist, and Nobel laureate. Born in Klerksdorp in 1931, in what is now North-West Province, Tutu was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960. He was named dean of Johannesburg in 1975 and bishop of Lesotho in 1977; the following year, he became the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. In 1984, Bishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid." Tutu was elected bishop of Johannesburg in 1984, and he was made archbishop of Cape Town and titular head of the Anglican church in South Africa in 1986.

In November 1995, Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, selected Archbishop Tutu to serve as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The purpose of the commission was to investigate and collect testimony on human rights violations and other crimes during the period from 1960 through 1994 and to consider amnesty for those who confessed their participation in atrocities. In June 1996, Tutu retired from his positions as archbishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican church in South Africa so that he could devote himself to his role on the commission. For more than two years he presided over the testimony from hundreds of perpetrators and victims of apartheid-era violence. The commission issued its final report in October 1998. Tutu wrote of the insights he gained from his work on the commission in No Future Without Forgiveness (1999).

Focus: Human Rights, Religion, South Africa, Africa

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Last Updated: May 13, 2008

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