Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the theologian and human rights activist who helped end apartheid in South Africa, died Sunday in Cape Town. He was 90.
Tutu’s death was announced by the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who called Tutu a “patriot without equal.”
“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,” Ramaphosa tweeted.
“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. We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”
The Nobel Peace Laureate, who once headed the South African Council of Churches, emphasized nonviolent means of protest throughout anti-apartheid movements in the 1980s and encouraged other countries to introduce economic sanctions against the country unless apartheid was lifted.
When apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela became president, Tutu was named as chair of the newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission — a massive, televised inquiry listening to testimony from victims of human rights abuses to seek restorative justice.
Tributes from the world’s religious and political leaders began pouring in Sunday after Tutu’s death was announced.
“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. His work for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was an inspiration for others around the world,” the letter reads.
Naomi Tutu, another of the late cleric’s children, released a statement about her father on Twitter.
“My dad is at rest. Thank you Tshezi for all you have been to our family and the world. Lala ngo xolo Desmond Mpilo Tutu,” she tweeted.
Bernice King, the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and youngest daughter of the late American civil rights leader to whom Tutu was often compared, called Tutu a “global sage” in a tribute on Twitter.
“I’m saddened to learn of the death of global sage, human rights leader, and powerful pilgrim on earth, Archbishop #DesmondTutu. A great, influential elder is now an eternal, witnessing ancestor. And we are better because he was here,” King tweeted. “I’m praying for Archbishop Tutu’s family.”
Former President Barack Obama, who awarded Tutu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, honored Tutu in a statement to Twitter.
“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,” Obama tweeted.
This article originally appeared on UPI.
Statement By Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, moral and civil rights leader and retired Anglican Archbishop in South Africa, has died at the age of 90 in Cape Town.
I had the pleasure of knowing Bishop Tutu, a person who inspired me, along with many others not only in South Africa but justice lovers around the world. His non-violent leadership on ending apartheid in South Africa made him akin to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s civil rights leadership in America.
Like Dr. King, he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent campaign against apartheid. Like Dr. King, an ordained Baptist minister and pastor of a local congregation who became a national and international moral leader, Desmond Tutu was also a religious leader who held formal church positions. He was ordained a priest in 1961, became a bishop in 1975 and was consecrated Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986.
President F. W. de Klerk released Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison in 1990 and gradually took steps to end apartheid and bring a multi-racial democracy to South Africa.
Bishop Tutu became the chair of the South African Reconciliation Commission that conducted public hearings on apartheid for two years between 1996 and 1998 documenting the injustices that took place during apartheid. Those who came forward and told the truth about their actions during apartheid were offered amnesty and those who suffered under apartheid were offered restitution according to the principles of “restorative justice.”
Bishop Tutu remained active even after he left his official church position by clashing with his own government by speaking out in support of gay rights and internationally by speaking out in opposition to Israeli occupation of Palestine and the denial of self-determination to Palestinians.