Amazing!!!  I received an email late yesterday afternoon, inviting us to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu to film the welcome video from him for the Desmond Tutu Community Build!  Within an hour, Helen at the Habitat office had arranged a video crew, and we're off to Hull later this morning!  I am really looking forward to meeting this most inspirational man!

Here's a bit more about him. 




Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa, in 1931, son of a schoolteacher and a domestic worker.  At the age of 12 he first met an Anglican cleric, Father Trevor Huddleston, in the Johannesburg township of Sophiatown.  Trevor Huddleston was an outspoken early critic of apartheid and was to have a profound impression on the young Desmond Tutu.


After matriculating from the Johannesburg Bantu High School, he chose to follow his father’s career.  He took a teacher’s diploma at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College and studied for his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of South Africa.  He was a teacher at the Johannesburg Bantu High School for a year and then moved to Munsieville High School, Krugersdorp for three years.  It was here that he married his wife, Leah.  They have three daughters, a son and several grandchildren.


In 1958, following the introduction of Bantu education, the Archbishop decided to enter the ministry in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa and became an ordinand at St Peter’s Theological College, Rosettenville.  He received his Licentiate in Theology in 1960 and was ordained to the priesthood in Johannesburg in 1961. 


Shortly afterwards he furthered his studies at the University of London, United Kingdom, where he obtained his Bachelor of Divinity Honours and Master of Theology degrees whilst a part-time curate in a local parish.  In 1967 he returned to South Africa and joined the staff of the Federal Theological Seminary in Alice and became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare. 


In 1970 he moved to the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland where he held the post of lecturer in the Department of Theology.  This step was followed by a further spell in the United Kingdom as Associate Director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, based in Kent.


Tutu became Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, in 1975, but shortly thereafter was elected Bishop of Lesotho.  By this time South Africa was in turmoil, in the wake of the Soweto uprising of 1976, and Bishop Tutu was persuaded to leave the Diocese of Lesotho to take up the post of General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC).  It was in this position, a post he held from 1978-1985, that Bishop Tutu became a national and international figure.


The SACC represented all the major Christian churches in South Africa, apart from the Dutch Reformed Church and the Catholic Church (the latter is, however, an accredited observer of the SACC). The SACC is committed to the cause of ecumenism and to fulfilling the social responsibility of the Church.  Justice and Reconciliation feature prominently among its priorities.  As General Secretary, Bishop Tutu pursued these goals with vigour and commitment.  Under his guidance, the SACC became an important institution in South African spiritual and political life that voiced the ideals and aspirations of millions of Christians. The SACC was instrumental in providing assistance to the victims of apartheid. 


Inevitably Bishop Tutu became heavily embroiled in controversy as he spoke out against the injustices of the apartheid system.  For several years he was denied a passport to travel abroad, but in 1982 the South African government withdrew this restriction in the face of national and international pressure.  The name of Bishop Tutu became synonymous with that of the SACC as he became the leader of the crusade for justice and racial conciliation in South Africa.  In 1984, his contribution to the cause of racial justice in South Africa was recognised when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.


In 1985 Bishop Tutu was elected Bishop of Johannesburg.  In this capacity he did much to bridge the chasm between black and white Anglicans in South Africa.  His office as Bishop of Johannesburg was of short duration, as in 1986 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town.  In electing him, the Anglican Church placed its trust in him as its spiritual leader and showed its confidence in his pursuit of racial justice in South Africa.  In 1987 he was elected as President of the All Africa Conference of Churches. In the same year he was also elected a Fellow of Kings College, London and became Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, a post that he still holds today.


Before the unbanning of the African National Congress and other political organisations in 1990, there were many critics of Archbishop Tutu who, despite his protestations to the contrary, predicted that he would enter political life.  But he has not sought a political position.  Instead, he became a principal mediator and conciliator in the transition to democracy.


In 1995 President Nelson Mandela appointed Archbishop Tutu to chair South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body set up to probe gross human rights violations between 1960 and the President’s inauguration in 1994.   Archbishop Tutu and his fellow Commissioners presented the Commission’s Report to the President in October 1998. 


He retired from office as Archbishop of Cape Town in June 1996, but was named Archbishop Emeritus (an honorary title) from July 1996.   In October 1998 he took a sabbatical at Emory University, Atlanta, where he was invited as the William R Cannon Professor of Theology at the Candler School of Theology, a position he held until July 2000.   From February – May 2002 he has been Visiting Professor at the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts and in January – May 2003 he was Visiting Scholar in Residence at the University of North Florida, Jacksonville.


He holds honorary degrees from a large number of universities, including Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, Yale, Emory, the Rühr, Kent, Aberdeen, Sydney, Fribourg (Switzerland), Cape Town, Witwatersrand and the University of South Africa.  He has received many prizes and awards in addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, most notably the Order for Meritorious Service Award (Gold) presented by President Mandela, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Award for outstanding Service to the Anglican Communion, the Prix d’Athene (Onassis Foundation), the Family of Man Gold Medal Award, the Mexican Order of the Aztec Medal (Insignia Grade), the Martin Luther King Jr Non Violent Peace Prize and the Sydney Peace Prize.


Before 1990, Archbishop Tutu’s vigorous advocacy of social justice rendered him a controversial figure.  Today he is seen as an elder statesman with a major role to play in reconciliation, and as a leading moral voice.  Archbishop Tutu has become an icon of hope far beyond the Church and Southern Africa.   He has retired and has a private office in Cape Town near his home


His book, No Future Without Forgiveness, was honoured with the Book of the Year Award by the Association of Theological booksellers of the United States of America.  December 2001 saw the same book receive the Sandro Onofri Prize, bestowed by the Council of Rome, Italy.  He has subsequently published  God has a Dream.


I'm off now, will try and post again soon!