A Visit With Desmond Tutu
This past August, Executive Director of the Desmond Tutu Center, Allan Boesak, led a group of individuals from Indianapolis on a quest to deepen their understanding of peace and reconciliation in the post-apartheid country of South Africa.
It began as a cloudy Cape Town day—posing an uncanny resemblance to San Francisco weather—when the group left their hotel to visit the Desmond and Lead Tutu Legacy Foundation located on the Cape Town Waterfront. Under the guidance of Desmond Tutu’s daughter, Mpho Tutu, who serves as Executive Director, The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation exists to harness, consolidate, preserve and propagate the values, principles and mission of its founders to contribute sustainably to the creation of a more compassionate world.
Given the health of the Archbishop, who had been in the hospital around this time, the group was treated to the surprise of a lifetime—an intimate meeting with the Archbishop himself. Along with his daughter Mpho Tutu, the Archbishop received the group with incredible graciousness and high spirits, stating that he could not bear the thought of letting down the people who came from so far away, hoping to see him.
He began by speaking about his long friendship with Dr. Boesak. He recalled how many years ago, he encouraged Dr. Boesak to share his gift of oratory because God wanted him to be a part of the building of God’s people by encouraging them to have hope that things would change, and to share the story of the apartheid—especially given the situations like Ferguson, unfolding across the United States. He explained how Dr. Boesak’s experience in the struggle to end apartheid made him especially well suited to help move our country forward from the root causes that led to events like Ferguson—events that share similarities with the apartheid.
The Archbishop ended his visit by sharing a very important lesson from biblical theology, stating that the main point is that it keeps reminding you to “look to the rock from which you were hewn,” meaning it keeps calling us back to remember where we come from, and to remember who we are because of where we come from. He expanded by saying that, “God is calling us to be fellow workers with God to bring about the kind of community that values each member and recognizes that we value them not because of what they can do, but for who they are. No matter what you look like, we are God’s gift to one another. Although we have this extraordinary diversity, at heart we are one.”
Dr. Boesak and Archbishop Tutu’s friendship began in the 1980’s when they worked together to lead efforts against apartheid while promoting reconciliation. Dr. Boesak was an outspoken critic and opponent of the National Party’s policies and played a major anti-apartheid activist role as a patron of the United Democratic Front. It was during this time that the Archbishop encouraged Dr. Boesak to use his gift of oratory to move South Africans towards reconciliation rather than for political purposes.
There is no doubt this experience made a powerful and inspiring impression on those who were fortunate enough to be a part of this unforgettable trip.