Desmond Tutu's 80th Birthday but Dalai Lama Forced To Pull Out

Carey asked me to replace the photo I had rece...Image via Wikipedia

Renowned activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu turns 80 this Friday October 7th, but his close friend the Dalai Lama won't be there in person to join in the celebrations after bureaucratic visa delays from the South African Government.

Like Catholic Archbishop Denis Hurley of Durban -- "on whose shoulders we stood," as Archbishop Tutu once put it -- he condemned apartheid as a heresy. The blasphemy of apartheid, Archbishop Tutu said repeatedly, "is that it can make a child of God doubt that he or she is a child of God."

"I believe that everyone is a saint until the contrary is proven," he said in a 1989 interview.

Archbishop Tutu has always emphasized God's love and encouraged an active prayer life.

"God loves you not because we are lovable. No, we are lovable precisely because God loves us," he once wrote.

Coming from the High Anglican tradition, Archbishop Tutu's spiritual life is in many ways close to Catholicism. At one point the baptized Methodist considered becoming a Catholic priest. Instead he married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, a Catholic, and went on to become an Anglican minister.

Had he become a Catholic priest, he probably would have been in frequent conflict with the hierarchy, and not because of his political engagement -- of which many Anglican clergy also disapproved. Archbishop Tutu has expressed liberal views on topics such as homosexuality and bioethics. 
He was an early supporter of the ordination of Anglican women and has said that the procedure of electing the archbishop of Canterbury, the primate of the Anglican Communion who is recommended by the British prime minister and appointed by the monarch, is neither democratic and nor representative.
Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelisch...Image via Wikipedia


Archbishop Tutu's social and political engagement is rooted in the mandate of the Gospel to stand with the poor and oppressed. During apartheid, he subscribed to the principle of nonviolence.


By the late 1970s he and other church leaders, including the Catholic bishops of South Africa, concluded that apartheid could be fought peacefully by means of international economic sanctions

Calling for sanctions was not without dangers, because agitating for "economic sabotage" was outlawed under the stringent Terrorism Act. Historians now increasingly conclude that South Africa's weak economy and pressure from business were decisive factors in the death of apartheid.

The other factor was, of course political protest. Archbishop Tutu was instrumental in staging the event that, in 1989, signalled the death of apartheid.

During protests on the day of the final apartheid elections in September that year, police in Cape Town killed more than 20 people, many of them innocent bystanders. In response, Archbishop Tutu called a protest march. 

After negotiations, new President F.W. de Klerk allowed the march to go ahead, the first such concession under apartheid. The march drew an unprecedented multiracial crowd of 35,000 "rainbow people," as the archbishop named them that day, and was replicated throughout South Africa. De Klerk later said it helped push apartheid over the cliff.

The rainbow metaphor to describe the South African nation stuck after democracy became a reality in April 1994. Archbishop Tutu has remained the most ardent advocate for the Rainbow Nation, even as racial divisions still mark South Africa's public discourse.

After 1994, Archbishop Tutu and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela became agents for reconciliation. As head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s, the archbishop and his colleagues on the commission worked toward the very Christian cycle of confession, penitence and forgiveness. The commission has served as a model for reconciliation in several damaged societies -- how effective it was as a tool for national reconciliation remains a matter of dispute.

As he enters the ninth decade of his life, the man who once admitted that he loves to be loved is held dear by millions all over the world. His legacy will long survive the faithful servant of a loving God.

The celebrations have been overshadowed by his government's dithering on whether to allow his close friend the Dalai Lama to visit.

Today, Tuesday the Dalai Lama's office finally gave up on the application for the 76-year-old. "His holiness was to depart for South Africa on 6 October, but visas have not been granted yet," a spokesperson for the office said. "We are, therefore, now convinced that, for whatever reason or reasons, the South African government finds it inconvenient to issue a visa to … the Dalai Lama."

Tutu is understandably enraged and devastated at the news that his close friend will be absent..

“This is one of our sons who is celebrating his 80th birthday and near the end of his life and... his wish is only to have a friend of his who in our view has done nothing to hurt South Africa,” Ntsebeza told AFP. 

Tutu felt the monk was an apt choice to speak on the push on the Arab Spring and “addressing the power and the usefulness of peaceful measures of bringing about change”, he said. 

Organisers are considering allowing the Dalai Lama to speak via live video link, if he agrees.

Three days of birthday events are planned for the retired archbishop who is once again a prickly thorn for authorities, after decades of fighting apartheid's racist rulers, by raising the spotlight on its fawning to China. 

“It has brought an unnecessary adverse attention to what should be a moment for celebration,” said Dumisa Ntsebeza, chairman of the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre. 

“Nothing short of the presence of the Dalai Lama to give his own message in South Africa on Tutu's birthday is acceptable... It's so unfortunate.” 

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was invited to give the inaugural Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture on October 8 to wrap up the events to honour one of South Africa's best-loved personalities. 

 Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...Image via Wikipedia

South Africa maintains the visa is under consideration. Two years ago, the Dalai Lama was denied a visa, with Pretoria openly admitting that it feared angering China, now the country's biggest trade partner. 
The Dalai Lama visited South Africa in 1996, meeting Nelson Mandela, but was prevented from attending a Nobel laureates' conference in the country two years ago, when the government said his visit would distract from preparations for the football World Cup. At the time, Tutu called the decision disgraceful, and accused the authorities of bowing to pressure from China.

“It's unlikely that they'll give him a visa. If they were going to, they would have done so already. I think they're going to hold on so there's little time for people to get nasty against the government. It's sad,” Tutu said.

The full report from the Guardian newspaper is here

and another here 

The celebrations will begin on Thursday with the launch of a glossy biography “Tutu: The Authorised Portrait”, co-authored by his youngest daughter Mpho which outlines his life story with pictures and tributes from world dignitaries. 

The guestlist for the week is being kept under wraps but Tutu, known affectionately worldwide simply as the “Arch”, counts among his friends and fans everyone from US President Barack Obama to rock band U2 frontman Bono. 

A public church service follows on his October 7 birthday at St Georges cathedral, where Tutu rallied for all-race democracy as Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, followed by a private picnic. 
Time magazine 10 questions for Desmond Tutu

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