Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of South Africa’s most beloved and well-known human rights activists. He has become an inspiration for many. Desmond Tutu quotes are powerful, thought-provoking, and expressive.
Archbishop Tutu is also a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984). He is one of a short list of Nobel Prize winners from South Africa.
Our bishop was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, (now the Northwest province.) He is also the first Black Anglican Archbishop of both Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Here are the most well known, eloquent Desmond Tutu quotes:
A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished when others are tortured or oppressed.
Africans believe in something that is difficult to render in English. We call it ubuntu. It means the essence of being human. You know when it is there and when it is absent. It speaks about humaneness, gentleness, hospitality, putting yourself out on behalf of others, being vulnerable. It embraces compassion and toughness. It recognizes that my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
As much as the world has an instinct for evil and is a breeding ground for genocide, holocaust, slavery, racism, war, oppression, and injustice, the world has an even greater instinct for goodness, rebirth, mercy, beauty, truth, freedom and love.
Children learn about the nature of the world from their family. They learn about power and about justice, about peace, and about compassion within the family.
Whether we oppress or liberate our children in our relationships with them will determine whether they grow up to oppress and be oppressed or to liberate and be liberated.
Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
Dream of a world where poverty is history, dream of a world where we don’t spend those obscene billions on arms, knowing full well that a tiny fraction of those budgets of death would ensure that children everywhere had clean water to drink, could afford the cheap inoculations against preventable diseases, would have good schools, adequate healthcare and decent homes.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.
Forgiveness is abandoning your right to revenge.
Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for.
God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion.
He’s a tremendous breath of fresh air. The things he [Pope Francis] has done in a short period of time: the fact that he does not live in a huge papal mansion and just dropped by in the dining room where ordinary people have meals. You think of his background, where he didn’t use limousines in South America, that he used public transport. I’m so, so thrilled that he is there at this crucial moment in the history of our world.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
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 rights.
I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.
I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid.
I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.
If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.
If we have loved well while we were alive, there is life after death here-our love will go on for generations.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
If you recall the happiest moments in your life, they are all from when you were doing something for somebody else.
If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
Instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another.
It isn’t that it’s questionable when you speak up for the right of people with different sexual orientations. People took some part of us and used it to discriminate against us. In our case, it was our ethnicity; it’s precisely the same thing for sexual orientation. People are killed because they’re gay.
It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant.
My father always used to say, Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity especially on the situation in Gaza shames us all. It is almost like the behavior of the military junta in Burma.
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other.
People often speak of God being even-handed. God is not even-handed. God is biased, in favor of the weak, of the despised.
Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread or stick in someone’s back.
The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons.
The heart of the Christian Gospel is precise that God is the all-holy One; the all-powerful One is also the One full of mercy and compassion. He is not a neutral God inhabiting some inaccessible Mount Olympus. He is a God who cares about His children and cares enormously for the weak, the poor, the naked, the downtrodden, the despised. He takes their side not because they are good since many of them are demonstrably not so. He takes their side because He is that kind of God, and they have no one else to champion them.
There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.
There’s no way in which you can ever win a war against terror. As long as there are conditions in many parts of the world that make people desperate: poverty, disease, ignorance, etc. I hope that we will discover soon, that we can survive, only together. We can prosper only together. And I think people are beginning to realize this, that you can’t have pockets of prosperity in one part of the world and huge deserts of poverty and deprivation and think you can have a stable, secure world.
To forgive is to abandon your right to pay back the predator in his own coin, but it is the loss that Liberates.
To remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice.
True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin, or any other identity attribute.
Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human…. you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.
Universal education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity, to pave the way toward making many more nations self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
We are all connected. What unites us is our common humanity. I don’t want to oversimplify things – but the suffering of a mother who has lost her child is not dependent on her nationality, ethnicity or religion. White, black, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim or Jew – pain is pain – joy is joy.
We are each made for goodness, love, and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.
We are living in a historic moment. We are each called to take part in a great transformation. Our survival as a species is threatened by global warming, economic meltdown, and an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. Yet these threats offer an opportunity to awaken as an interconnected and beloved community.
We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.
We can carry the burden of hurt throughout our lives. We can make the hurt that we have experienced the defining aspect of our stories of ourselves. That means that somebody else gets to say who we are, somebody else gets to decide how we feel, and somebody else gets to decide how we see the world. Forgiveness not only frees us from the burden of someone else’s opinion of us, but it allows us the opportunity to really write a story of ourselves that we can love, enjoy, relish, and live into.
We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities, foundations, corporations, individuals and cultural institutions… to move their money out of the problem (fossil fuels) and into the solutions (renewable energy).
We have a planet that is at risk, where resources don’t have a permanent life. We are going to have to make the decision: are we going to survive or are we waiting for our extinction? One day we will wake up and find people are fighting not for oil but water.
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.
Without memory, there is no healing. Without forgiveness, there is no future.
You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can’t be neutral.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
You have to understand that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material. There are certain parts that you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn’t accept.