Desmond Tutu a 'man with a faith as deep as it was abiding' — Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday described Archbishop Emeritus DesmondTutu as a man of great moral stature, exceptional qualities and service to humanity.
“Our departed father was a crusader in the struggle for freedom, for justice, for equality and for peace, not just in SA, the country of his birth, but around the world as well,” Ramaphosa said at Tutu's funeral at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town .
Tutu died on December 26 at the age 90.
Ramaphosa said it was fitting that Tutu's parents had named him Mpilo, which means life.
“In his life, he enriched the lives of all he met and all those who got to know him.”
He said some of the photographs taken of Tutu spoke not only to the strength of his convictions but to how deeply he felt the anguish and the suffering inflicted on others by injustice and intolerance.
“There are the many images we have of him speaking to crowds, his arms stretched out as though embracing them, or looking serenely up to the heavens.
“He was a man with a faith as deep as it was abiding.”
For Tutu, Ramaphosa said, opposing injustice, standing up for the oppressed, defying unjust laws, was God’s work.
“Destiny had anointed him a champion of the immortal cause of justice.
“He took to heart and lived the words of the Book of Proverbs chapter 31, verses 8 to 9:
“Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.
“Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Tutu was not content to decry apartheid at conferences, benefit concerts or international forums, said the president.
Tutu was with the homeless, the helpless, the persecuted, the sick, and the destitute in the streets, in shelters, and in homes.
“He embraced all who had ever felt the cold wind of exclusion and they in turn embraced him.”
Tutu sought to emulate Jesus Christ, who embraced all those who society looked down upon and rejected.
“Throughout his life, he became involved in causes both at home and abroad that went to the very heart of the quest for social justice.
“Through the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, he was involved in the treatment and care of people living with HIV and Aids, in the provision of healthcare services to adolescents, and the empowerment of young women,” Ramaphosa said.
He said Tutu advocated for LGBTQI+ rights and decried all forms of violence and discrimination against the community.
“Speaking of hate crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ community in a powerful video message marking 20 years since the World Conference on Human Rights he said: 'I oppose such injustice with the same passion that I opposed apartheid'.”
Ramaphosa noted that one of the causes that was dear to Tutu was campaigning with Princess Mabel van Oranje against child marriage.
“I have learned how he travelled to villages in Ethiopia, India and Zambia to understand the circumstances under which young girls were being forced into marriage,” Ramaphosa said.
He described Tutu as a moral compass of democracy.
“Even after the advent of democracy, he did not hesitate to draw attention, often harshly, to our shortcomings as leaders of the democratic state.
“He saw our country as a ‘rainbow nation’, emerging from the shadow of apartheid, united in its diversity, with freedom and equal rights for all.”
Tutu, Ramaphosa said, bequeathed to the world many things — the importance of having the courage of one’s convictions, solidarity with the oppressed, delivering on the promises made by the constitution, and many others.
“But it was with this term, rainbow nation, that he bequeathed our new nation the greatest gift of all: hope and forgiveness.
“Hope and forgiveness for a better tomorrow, hope for a country free of tyranny and hope for a society where all the people of SA irrespective of their religious affiliation, gender, race and origin could live side by side in harmony.”
He said the most fitting tribute to be paid to Tutu was to take up the cause of social justice for which he tirelessly campaigned.
“Archbishop Tutu has left a formidable legacy and we are enormously diminished by his passing.
“His life straddled an epoch in our country’s history that has now come to an end.”