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Obituary: Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s ‘moral compass’ | Stories

Desmond Tutu was known as a church leader who opposed white supremacy in South Africa and did not stop being criticized by the authorities after the African National Congress (ANC) apartheid for failing to save the poor black people.

But 90-year-old Tutu, who died Sunday in Cape Town after a long battle with prostate cancer and disease, he was criticized across South Africa, often humorous and humorous.

He condemned the Israeli occupation of Palestinians, the United States-led war in Iraq, and the bravery within his church. The search for peace led him to Cyprus, Northern Ireland, and Kenya.

“He was a moral compass in South Africa, a thorn in the side of apartheid because of deep divisions, and, in the same way, the post-apartheid government, which condemned corruption and strengthened China,” said Scott Firsing, an academic. who works in South Africa, told Al Jazeera.

“Tutu was a clear speaker, always on the side of justice, no matter how difficult it was. He, and Nelson Mandela, were a hero in many years of revolution. ”

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the middle, with the Vice-Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Saeed Jamal, right, and the leader of the Anglican Church in Israel, Bishop Samir Kafity (left Tutu) at the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, December. 23, 1989 [File: Anat Givon/AP]

Tutu was born in 1931 in the gold mining town of the Transvaal, Klerksdorp, to Zachariah, a teacher, and Aletta, a domestic worker. Initially, she followed in her father’s footsteps when it came to teaching, but she resigned from her job to oppose the government’s ban on black education.

Influenced by Bishop Trevor Huddleston and other anti-apartheid clergy, he became a priest in 1961 and the first dean of Black Anglican in Johannesburg in 1975.

With Mandela in prison, it was left to Tutu and others to campaign for change. When the police brutally supplied protests against Black students in Soweto in 1976, Tutu accused the white supremacist government of being racist, unjust, and out of harmony with God’s will.

“His vivid vision and fearless appearance”, which made him “a symbol of unity for all African freedom fighters”, won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, according to the Norwegian Nobel Institute.

Despite his short stature, Tutu was a South African political hero, known for his hard work, provocative laughter and anti-apartheid fraud. In one instance, he told his followers: “Be kind to the white man, he needs to come to know you better.”

“It was Martin Luther King of South Africa – a Christian religious leader who worked tirelessly for the cause of racial equality and equality,” Tutu historian Steven Gish told Al Jazeera. “He never hated his oppressors and always believed in negotiation and appealing to the moral conscience of the people.”

He was elected archbishop of Cape Town in 1986 and continued to fight against white supremacy, embracing President FW de Klerk’s efforts to liberate him when he took office in 1989, such as the release of Mandela and the lifting of the anti-ANC ban.

In February 1990, Tutu led Mandela, his old friend, to the porch at Cape Town City Hall opposite the square where the ANC leader spoke for the first time in public after 27 years of political imprisonment.

“He was one of the true heroes of our time – a wonderful, dedicated and humorous preacher,” John Campbell, a former US ambassador and author of Morning South Africa, told Al Jazeera.

“He was a poor man who, for good cause, left the politics he created when South Africa was transformed into a democracy.”

Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu took part in a public Christian conference in Soweto on May 8, 1994. [File: Desmond Boylan/Reuters]

In November 1995, then-president Mandela called on Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and to gather evidence on racist charges and advise whether those who have confessed their sins should be pardoned.

At the end of the investigation, he accused many former white leaders in South Africa of lying to the commission. According to Tutu, his goal was to “restore” rather than “restore” justice and his goal was to “unite” under the South African principle of Ubuntu.

Similarly, Tutu was accused of being too lenient with Black freedom fighters who fought against apartheid and violence, such as Winnie Mandela, and for not doing enough to punish whites who ruled most of the Blacks for many years.

Democracy in South Africa was not the end of the “Arch”, as it is commonly known. A father of four, who married Leah in 1955, blamed ANC leaders in Pretoria for boarding a lucky “train” while others suffered from poverty.

He called Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe a “photographer” who turned his country into a “basketball court” and criticized South Africa for being too soft on him. In 2011, he also criticized his country for traveling to China for failing to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama.

Tutu made a real difference in world affairs. He was instrumental in trying to end the political violence in Kenya after the 2007 elections, when he established a power-sharing agreement between rival leaders Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.

In 2007, he joined the newly formed senior government officials, The Elders, along with former United States President Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and others. That same year, he led the group on its first tour of Darfur in Sudan.

The following year, he traveled to the divisive Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where Cypriot leaders of Turkey and Greek Cypriot began talks. There, he encouraged people from all the camps to help with the communication process.

He confused the feathers of Israel by comparing the treatment of the Palestinians with the apartheid of South Africa. He asked former US President George W Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to admit that they had made a mistake in their “sex” war in Iraq.

He also looked inward to criticize the church he had served for many years. In the midst of controversy over the appointment of immoral bishops to the Anglican Church, he denounced the “obsession” with homosexuality that hindered the clergy’s fight against poverty.

According to Clive Conway, chairman of the Tutu Foundation UK, the Ubuntu principles that are in line with Tutu’s wisdom proved its value when applied to “disadvantaged communities everywhere”.

“Arch was brave, honest and legitimate. We have all learned from his peaceful interventions that not only fought apartheid but also in Gaza, Sierra Leone and beyond,” Conway told Al Jazeera.

“For us, it is a gathering of terrorist members and police officers from London or leaders of the Protestant militia in Belfast together at one table to understand their interdependence as their fellow human beings changed their lives.”

Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990’s and in recent years has been hospitalized several times to treat a disease related to his cancer treatment.

He had celebrated his 90th birthday on October 7 this year with frequent public appearances, attending a special Thanksgiving ceremony at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tutu’s death on Sunday was “another sad occasion for the farewell of a generation of well-known South Africans who have left us a free South Africa”.

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