Well-wishers pay homage to ‘the people’s bishop’
Late anti-apartheid stalwart Archbishop Desmond Tutu commemorated for his message of peace, unity
In many ways, the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu represents the end of an era that was marked by strident advocacy for human rights, freedom, and a commitment to justice.
That was the assessment of well-wishers who attended Sunday’s commemorative service for Tutu at the Kingston Parish Church.
Reflecting on the life of the late anti-apartheid stalwart, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, in a Gleaner interview, stated: “I think it would be very hard to find a life more significant than Desmond Tutu, not only for South Africa, but for the world. Even his image today conjures a sense of his grace, the peace that he emitted in a world of today’s geopolitical challenges, it is even more relevant.”
Tutu,who died in Cape Town on Sunday, December 26, 2021, at the age of 90, was a Nobel Prize winner who was known for his ability to shape consensus among various groups of people. A decade after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, then South African President and fellow anti-apartheid stalwart Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was tasked with investigating the abuses carried out during the apartheid regime.
Johnson-Smith shared that his example is even more relevant today in a world shaped by conflict. She added, “I find that his message of unity, of peace, of peaceful protest, those are all quite relevant today, including the peaceful resolution of disputes.”
Some critical lessons that she believes Jamaicans should appreciate include standing up for one’s rights, peacefully resolving disputes, respecting each other and recognising the importance of unity to nation building.
For state minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Alando Terrelonge, Tutu’s life was defined by his humility. During his remembrance to the late archbishop, he stated, “To us here in Jamaica, Archbishop Tutu was the people’s bishop. Untarnished by his achievements, he remained humble even as he lived a good life. He was a man on a mission to change his country, South Africa.”
This mission was supported by successive Jamaican administrations across the political aisle. A major pillar of Jamaica’s foreign policy has been its vehement opposition to apartheid. For one, Jamaica was among the first nations to introduce a trade embargo against South Africa in July 1959. By 1986, the Government’s opposition to the regime culminated with its boycott of the July 1986 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.
This was done in order to register for the Jamaican Government to express its frustration with the refusal of the United Kingdom to impose sanctions on South Africa. Tutu and his family were subsequently invited to Jamaica in August 1986 of the same year. Here, he received an honorary Order of Jamaica in recognition of his activism.