Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died Sunday morning in Cape Town at age 90, was a man of strong faith and conviction, but also of words.
He did not hesitate to use humour and anger to express his values and outrage.
Here are some of his most famous quotes:
– “Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.” (New York Times, October 19, 1984)
– “For goodness sake, will they hear, will white people hear what we are trying to say? Please, all we are asking you to do is to recognise that we are humans, too. When you scratch us, we bleed. When you tickle us, we laugh.” (Statement urging sanctions against South Africa, 1985)
– “Your President is the pits as far as blacks are concerned. He sits there like the great, big white chief of old can tell us black people that we don’t know what is good for us. The white man knows.” (Interview with US press, reacting to Ronald Reagan’s vetoing of economic sanctions apartheid government, 1986)
– “At home in South Africa I have sometimes said in big meetings where you have black and white together: ‘Raise your hands!’ Then I’ve said, ‘Move your hands,’ and I’ve said, ‘Look at your hands — different colours representing different people. You are the rainbow people of God’.” (His book “The Rainbow People of God”, 1994)
– “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. 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. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid.” (Speech at a UN’s gay rights campaign, 2013).
– “I give great thanks to God that he has created a Dalai Lama. Do you really think, as some have argued, that God will be saying: ‘You know, that guy, the Dalai Lama, is not bad. What a pity he’s not a Christian’? I don’t think that is the case, because, you see, God is not a Christian.” (Speech at Dalai Lama’s birthday, June 2, 2006)
– “He has, I mean, mutated into something that is quite unbelievable. He has really turned into a kind of Frankenstein for his people.” (commenting about Robert Mugabe to Australia’s ABC TV)
– “One day I was in San Francisco, minding my own business, as I always do, when a lady came up gushing. Oh, she was so warm and she was greeting me and she said, ‘Hello, Archbishop Mandela!’ Sort of getting two for the price of one.” (Speech at University of Michigan, 2008)
– “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” (Announcing retirement from public life, July 22, 2010)
– “Our government… says it will not support Tibetans who are being oppressed viciously by the Chinese… I am warning you, I am warning you, that we will pray as we prayed for the downfall of the apartheid government, we will pray for the downfall of a government that misrepresents us.” (On South Africa refusing the Dalai Lama a visa, 2011)
– “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government.” (After South Africa again denied the Dalai Lama a visa, 2014).
– “Did he have weaknesses? Of course he did, among them his steadfast loyalty to his organisation and to some of his colleagues who ultimately let him down. He retained in his cabinet under-performing, frankly incompetent ministers. But I believe he was saintly because he inspired others powerfully.” (At Mandela’s death, 2013)
– “Once a Zambian and a South African, it is said, were talking. The Zambian then boasted about their minister of naval affairs. The South African asked, ‘But you have no navy, no access to the sea. How then can you have a minister of naval affairs?’ The Zambian retorted, ‘Well, in South Africa you have a Minister of Justice, don’t you?’” (Nobel lecture, 1984)
– “I have prepared for my death and have made it clear that I do not wish to be kept alive at all costs. I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.” (Op-ed in The Washington Post, 2016)