Archbishop Desmond Tutu – international social rights activist and campaigner for peace and reconciliation – arrives in Croydon tonight (Tuesday October 23) as part of his ongoing “conversation for change.”
This remarkable man, who with Nelson Mandela was one of the prime movers in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, continues his fight for peaceful reconciliation through the Tutu Foundation.
At the Fairfield Halls in Croydon and accompanied by his daughter, Reverand Mpho Tutu, he will once agains appeal for Ubuntu – an African word that taps into the essence of shared humanity. Clive Conway Productions has long supported Desmond Tutu’s work and two years ago staged a landmark evening in which the Archbishop was interviewed on stage by Sir Trevor McDonald.
Listening to Desmond Tutu speaking at a reception at Regents College in London last night one got a clear sense of his mission and perhaps a fuller understanding of why he his work as the first black Archbishop of South Africa in the 1980s led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Chosen by the then President Nelson Mandela in the 1990s to head the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu achieved the near impossible – he led a nation divided forward to a new understanding.
At Regents College last night his belief in the power of mutual respect and shared humanity still shone through. “An enemy,” he told the crowd. ‘Is just a friend that hasn’t yet been made.” Easy to say of course but Tutu, eyes still sparkling with undimmed idealism at the age of 81, isn’t a man to shy away from the tough realities of what he preaches. He spoke of appalling atrocities and unspeakable brutality – people burning bodies and celebrating with a barbecue just feet away. To respond with the voice of reason and the hand of friendship is extraordinarily difficult but it can be achieved.
To an extent Tutu was preaching to the converted. Regents College is committed to the study and teaching of how conflicts can be reconciled. The message – essentially love and respect one another, don’t forget but grow together and forgive – goes out into a western world driven by greed and competition. Tutu was clear. He has long witnessed workaholic business moguls and power-crazed politicians, men and women who lose any sense of human connection in their relentless pursuit of money and position. “When stomach ulcers become status symbols something is very wrong.” warned Tutu.
It was a good point and one that feeds directly into another major area of concern – the rejection of those in our society who are deemed to have failed. The message was that just being a human is achievement in itself. We need each other. Ubuntu: a person is only a person through other people.
*See Archbishop Desmond Tutu in A Conversation for Change at Fairfield Concert Halls in Park Lane, Croydon, tonight (Tuesday October 23) at 7.30pm
Box office: 0208 688 9291 or online at http://www.fairfield.co.uk