Museum Statement on the Passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Museum Statement on the Passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The National Civil Rights Museum grieves the loss of world leader and 1992 Freedom Award honoree, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Tutu became the first black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975, Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. Under his vigorous leadership, the church in South Africa became immersed in the political struggle.

He was chosen by President Mandela to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate the crimes committed by all sides during the apartheid system to facilitate the government’s transition into a democratic nation.  In 1984, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of his quest for a non-violent end to apartheid. He was heralded not only for his moral conscience but also for his sociopolitical acumen.

After apartheid, the Archbishop challenged social issues including discrimination against homosexuals, combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and international war crimes. Tutu also spoke out to encourage free trade with poorer countries and affordable access to anti-AIDS drugs.  

He was awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama. Even after retirement in 2010, he remained engaged in human rights issues such as eradicating poverty, LGBTQ rights, and climate change.  

The world has lost a champion of truth and reconciliation, a strong warrior in the fight for justice. 

Our lives are forever changed by his cheerful goodwill, kind candor, and audacious empathy.  Rest well, Archbishop Tutu, good and faithful servant. Thank you for your purest forms of love in action.  

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