Desmond Mpilo TutuCH (born 7 October 1931) is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. (Wikipedia). My first memory of Bishop Tutu was of sitting at my grandmother’s table at breakfast in the 1980s. My grandmother, a counsellor of recovering alcoholics and abused woman, was eating a boiled egg with rye toast while reading the newspaper. I was nine or ten years old.

“Tsk,” she said, shaking the paper in irritation. “Bishop Tutu is a really evil man.”

At the time, I did not know who Bishop Tutu was, or even what a bishop was. In my imagination, I pictured a devilish ballet dancer, tatty red tulle, matching red eyes and horns. I was just a kid. Apartheid was not yet part of my consciousness. Little did I know that the man she was talking about would become one of the men I admire most. A man of integrity and passion, whose moral compass is always set to true North.

Fast forward a decade. My grandmother still eats a boiled egg and rye toast for breakfast, but her views have changed. She is a recovering racist: proof that anyone, of any age, is capable of change. Bishop Tutu is her hero and she quotes him often during telephonic counselling sessions.

I don’t remember her favourite Bishop Tutu quotes, like I said, she quoted him often, but I imagine these three are amongst them:


“Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion.”

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.” 


And these three are mine:


“History, like beauty, depends largely on the beholder, so when you read that, for example, David Livingstone discovered the Victoria Falls, you might be forgiven for thinking that there was nobody around the Falls until Livingstone arrived on the scene.”

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of human rights”

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” 


Factoid: Bishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Prize of Peace in 1984 for his leading role in the movement to resolve the problems of Apartheid. Two years later, he became the first black African Archbishop in history, when he was elected as Archbishop of Cape Town.


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Post by Rachel Zadok @rachelzadok