South African-born Desmond Tutu was educated in mission schools where his father taught. As a young man, he hoped to become a physician, but his eventual path as a cleric made him one of the most famous peacemakers of the 20th century.
Tutu was ordained an Anglican priest in 1961 and in 1978 accepted an appointment as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. During the 1980s, he was an outspoken critic of apartheid in South Africa, bringing awareness of the struggle to the world stage and insisting on the use of non-violent resistance by black South Africans. He spoke out at great personal sacrifice when he risked being jailed after calling for a boycott of municipal elections. He urged the international community to use economic sanctions against the apartheid government—a move that resulted in South Africa canceling Tutu's passport.
Even at the height of apartheid violence, through everything his people endured, Tutu was consistent in his faith that a nonviolent solution could prevail. When he spoke in a Johannesburg suburb, after a violent police massacre on the black population, he told his followers, "Do not hate. Let us choose the peaceful way to freedom."
In 1984, the global community recognized Tutu's leadership by granting him the Nobel Prize for Peace. Two years later he was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town, an office he held for 10 years.
Eventually, of course, Tutu and his fellow foes of apartheid won the day, and apartheid was ended in the early 1990s. Afterward, Tutu became a mediator in the transition toward democracy. Beginning in 1995, he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established by former President Nelson Mandela to investigate human rights violations during apartheid.
Tutu was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize in India in 2007, the same year he founded the Elders, a group of international leaders that promotes conflict resolution and problem solving globally. He has received more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world. Until his retirement in 2010, at age 79, he continued to teach and travel the globe as a champion for international human rights and AIDS awareness.
Throughout his decades of tireless work for peace and tolerance, Tutu has been a shining example that with enduring faith in a cause, and persistent work toward a goal, we can achieve anything—without violence, without anger, but in the spirit of compassion, forgiveness and peace.
Peace. Pass It On!
This billboard about Peace features Desmond Tutu; activist, cleric.