Homage to Bishop Desmond Tutu

What could be a more telling indicator of the values that infuse the Global Campaign for Peace Education than Bishop Tutu having joined the co-founders, Magnus Haavelsrud and Betty Reardon on its inaugural panel at The Hague Conference in 1999? Desmond Tutu was the embodiment of the staunch commitment to just peace that peace educators aspire to cultivate through the exercise of the skills of change applied as a consequence of ethical reflection. His life was a testament to a deeply held belief that societies and people could change themselves through such reflection and action.

The quotations cited by the Campaign’s good friend, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, each encapsulates a fundamental principle of peace education. We urge our readers to reflect upon these principles, recalling how they were manifest in Bishop Tutu’s life.

His life, his teaching, his courage and the joy which infused them will energize our endeavors so long as we pursue them. May he rest in power. (BAR, 12/30/2021)

Homage to Bishop Tutu

Ambassador Chowdhury with 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu at the Church of the Epiphany at Gramercy Park in New York City in 1985.

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN

(Message sent on December 26 to the Culture of Peace global network.)

Dear co-activists — Today the world has lost a precious treasure of humanity with the demise of Desmond Mpilo Tutu, globally respected and loved as Bishop Tutu. To the South Africans, he was the Arch.

Desmond Tutu’s laugh was contagious and his resoluteness against injustice and for freedom was deadly serious. He never took injustice as a fait accompli. His campaign of non-violent opposition to South Africa’s white-minority-rule brought him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

Next year he was visiting New York and as the UN was not convening any gathering to honor him, I decided to meet him and pay my respects, as a representative of a Least Developed Country which became a UN Member State only a decade ago, at the Church of the Epiphany at Gramercy Park. What an inspiring occasion was that!

Recalling his contribution to the world, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa articulated very solemnly,  “From the pavements of resistance in South Africa to the pulpits of the world’s great cathedrals and places of worship, and the prestigious setting of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Arch distinguished himself as a non-sectarian, inclusive champion of universal human rights.”

Allow me to share with you some of my selection of the most inspiring quotes of this man of compassion, dignity, and humility:

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

“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.”

“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”

“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.”

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”

“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread or stick in someone’s back.” 

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.” 

And finally, what he said to BBC in 2002,

“Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end, they bit the dust.” 

For all of us, the co-activists for the culture of peace, these quotes are so very meaningful and energizing.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN 

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