100 Quotes by Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a prominent figure in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, embodies the power of moral leadership and nonviolent resistance. As a clergyman and advocate for justice, Tutu played a pivotal role in promoting peaceful change and reconciliation during a turbulent time in his country's history. His fearless commitment to challenging injustice and advocating for human rights earned him global recognition, culminating in his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. Tutu's message of forgiveness and unity, as evidenced in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, demonstrated the potential for healing and transformation in the aftermath of oppression.

Beyond his role in South Africa, Tutu's dedication to various social causes, including HIV/AIDS awareness and poverty alleviation, underscore his ongoing commitment to building a more compassionate and just world. Archbishop Desmond Tutu's legacy is a beacon of hope for those striving to effect positive change through the principles of empathy, love, and equality.

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Desmond Tutu Quotes


Do your little bit of good where you are. (Meaning)

Anything war can do, peace can do better. (Meaning)

No future without forgiveness. (Meaning)

I'm not an optimist. I'm a prisoner of hope. (Meaning)

We can only be human together. (Meaning)

Without forgiveness, there is no future. (Meaning)

There is no justice in killing in the name of justice. (Meaning)

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. (Meaning)

God is on the side of the oppressed. (Meaning)

Each one of us can be an oasis of peace. (Meaning)

My vote is my secret. (Meaning)

To forgive is not just to be altruistic. (Meaning)

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Dream! Dream! And then go for it! (Meaning)

We seek a restorative justice, not a retributive justice. (Meaning)

We are interconnected. (Meaning)

Forgiving is good for your health. (Meaning)

When you nurse a grudge it is not good for your health. (Meaning)

Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? (Meaning)

True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. (Quote Meaning)

We must be ready to learn from one another, not pretending that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God. (Meaning)

We need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. (Quote Meaning)

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.

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.

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. (Meaning)

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Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. (Quote Meaning)

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.

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.

You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can't be neutral.

If you want peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. (Meaning)

To remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice.

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.

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.

Africans believe in something that is difficult to render in English. We call it ubuntu, botho. 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.

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. (Quote Meaning)

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.

Don't raise your voice, improve your argument. (Meaning)

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.

If we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is WOMEN!

True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.

Bringing people together is what i call 'ubuntu,' which means 'I am because we are.' Far too often people think of themselves 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.

It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul.

God places us in the world as his fellow workers-agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, that there will be more togetherness in God's world.

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 behaviour of the military junta in Burma

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. (Quote Meaning)

Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for.

Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.

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.

Poverty - the greatest cause of human suffering on the planet - is itself exacerbated by conflict, competition for resources, injustice, even the global downturn and climate change. Diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria cannot be tackled without adequate resources. So you see everything is connected. In order to address any major cause of human suffering, we have to work together across many fronts.

Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick in someone's back.

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 greateer instinct for goodness, rebirth, mercy, beauty, truth, freedom and love.

Without forgiveness, there's no future. (Meaning)

We are living in an 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 have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth.

We must act now and wake up to our moral obligations. The poor and vulnerable are members of God's family and are the most severely affected by droughts, high temperatures, the flooding of coastal cities, and more severe and unpredictable weather events resulting from climate change. We, who should have been responsible stewards preserving our vulnerable, fragile planet home, have been wantonly wasteful through our reckless consumerism, devouring irreplaceable natural resources.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Quote Meaning)

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. (Meaning)

Forgiveness is abandoning your right to revenge.

Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action.

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. (Quote Meaning)

How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?

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.

It isn't that it's questionable when you speak up for the right of people with different sexual orientation. 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.

A person is a person through other persons. None of us comes into the world fully formed. We would not know how to think, or walk, or speak, or behave as human beings unless we learned it from other human beings. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are. A person is entitled to a stable community life, and the first of these communities is the family.

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.

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.

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.

God's love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or any religion. (Meaning)

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language... It is to say, 'My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours.'

It means a lot 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. (Quote Meaning)

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.

Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened.

Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.

Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are. Those little bits can come together and almost overwhelm the world. Each one of us can be an oasis of peace.

When you go to the Holy Land and see what's being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it's the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa. Whether you want to say Israel practices apartheid is immaterial. They are doing things, given their history, you think, "Do you remember what happened to you?" Then they clobber you and say, "You are anti-Semitic."

The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons. (Meaning)

You know when ubuntu is there, and it is obvious when it is absent. It has to do with what it means to be truly human, to know that you are bound up with others in the bundle of life.

People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.

It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible.

People often speak of God being even-handed. God is not even-handed. God is biased, in favor of the weak, of the despised.

I'm absolutely, utterly, and completely certain that God wouldn't be homophobic. I'd much rather go to hell - I really would much rather go to hell - than go to a homophobic heaven.

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)

In the Bible, we first encounter God when he sides with a bunch of slaves against a powerful Pharaoh, an act of grace freely given.

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are. (Quote Meaning)

Is Zionism racism? I would say yes. It's a policy that to me looks like it has very many parallels with racism. The effect is the same. Whether you call it that or not is in a sense irrelevant.

If we have loved well while we were alive, there is life after death here-our love will go on for generations.

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.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.

If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible. There's nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible.

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.

We spend billions on banks when we know that a fraction of this money could save all the children in the world.

I don't want a moratorium on the death penalty. I want the abolition of it. I can't understand why a country [USA] that's so committed to human rights doesn't find the death penalty an obscenity.

If you recall the happiest moments in your life, they are all from when you were doing something for somebody else.

The abolition of the death penalty is making us a civilized society. It shows we actually do mean business when we say we have reverence for life.

Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.

Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity - or because of their sexual orientation.

To forgive is to abandon your right to pay back the predator in his own coin, but it is the loss that Liberates.

I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.

The pressure to succeed has a lot to do with why people overstep the line. It is a peculiar weakness of western culture where we have made a fetish of success.

You have to understand that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material. There are certain parts which 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.

I can't control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.

We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow. For there will be no tomorrow.

To treat anyone as if they were less than human, less than a brother or a sister, no matter what they have done, is to contravene the very laws of our humanity.

It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.

Forgiveness is something that we are often asked to grant and very few of us ever have the roadmap of how to get from the pain that we have experienced to being able to forgive someone.

Arrogance really comes from insecurity, and in the end our feeling that we are bigger than others is really the flip side of our feeling that we are smaller than others.

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.

Gaza is going to test who believes in the worth of human beings.

In its history, Europe has committed so many massacres and horrors that it should bow its own head in shame.

Climate change: Never before in history have human beings been called on to act collectively in defence of the Earth

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.

Love your enemy; it will ruin his reputation.

We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.

We need other human beings in order to be human.

For both the offender and the victim, the pain is there, often unacknowledged and that is when it can cause harm through festering. When I ignore a physical wound, it does not go away. No, it festers and goes bad.

Love is universal. You don't have to tell somebody that loving is better than hating. You don't have to believe in God to know that stealing is bad. All of God's children and their different faiths help to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. And certainly Christians don't have a corner on God. All of us belong to God.

When will we learn, when will the people of the world get up and say, Enough is enough. God created us for fellowship. God created us so that we should form the human family, existing together because we were made for one another. We are not made for an exclusive self-sufficiency but for interdependence, and we break the law of our being at our peril.

When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others. (Meaning)

When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.

A jealous person is doubly unhappy-over what he has, which is judged inferior, and over which he has not, which is judged superior. Such a person is doubly removed from knowing the true blessing of creation.

I'm so thankful a significant majority of Americans are saying no to military intervention. We've got to find a solution that will in the end be one that makes Syria a better country, a better people. We can be human only together.

As long as we fail to face up to the past and deal with it accordingly, the future will smack of corruption.

Most people would say "Ah, Mahatma Gandhi, what a wonderful man, Mother Teresa, maybe Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama." And when you look at those people it's not the macho, aggressive, successful people, we may envy them, their bank balances and kind of thing, yes and for being successful. But we do not revere them.

It may seem daunting, but I am a prisoner of hope. We are more connected than ever before, we have more knowledge, and there are solutions if we work together. Today's technology is a great asset in encouraging global cooperation and understanding.

I've often been a little concerned by people who say they are color-blind, people who claim, in some ways, not to be aware of race, and I hope that those who will be looking for a vision of the future will be a little more honest, and say race actually does matter.

The God who existed before any religion counts on you to make the oneness of the human family known and celebrated.

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.

Men and boys, we show our manhood through the way we treat our women. Our wives, our sisters, our mothers.

We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.

God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew.

No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it

Every praying person, every person who has an encounter with God, must have a passionate concern for his or her brother and sister, his or her neighbor. To treat any of these as if he were less than the child of God is to deny the validity of one's spiritual existence.

Ubuntu tells us that we can create a more peaceful world by striving for goodness in each moment, wherever we are.

Sometimes you want to whisper in God's ear, "God, we know you are in charge, but why don't you make it slightly more obvious?"

Without forgiveness there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations.

Peace without justice is an impossibility.

You stand out in the crowd only because you have these many, many carrying you on their shoulders.

If we are to say that religion cannot be concerned with politics then we are really saying that there is a substantial part of human life in which God's writ does not run. If it is not God's, then whose is it? Who is in charge if not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness. We clean the wound - our own and others' - and it can finally heal.

There are people who go to bed hungry, and that is unconscionable.

We must embrace our differences, even celebrate our diversity. We must glory in the fact that God created each of us as unique human beings. God created us different, but God did not create us for separation. God created us different that we might recognize our need for one another. We must reverence our uniqueness, reverence everything that makes us what we are: our language, our culture, our religious tradition.

In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love Him but how much He loves us. And God loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.

We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.

Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion.

If we succeed in empowering girls, we'll succeed in everything else.

Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes. (Quote Meaning)

A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others

Instead of growing old gracefully, at home with my family - reading and writing and praying and thinking - too much of my time has been spent at airports and in hotels.

It is for real that injustice and oppression will not have the last word. There was a time when Hitler looked like he was going to vanquish all of Europe, and where is he now?

Love is much more demanding than law.

I certainly know that I would not be able to survive if it were not for the fact that I am being upheld by the prayers of so many people.

I wish I could shut up, but I can't, and I won't.

In God's family, there are no outsiders, no enemies.

Each of us is precious to God because each of us has their name written on the palms of God's hands. And God says there are no outsiders - black, white, yellow, short, tall, young, old, rich, poor, gay, lesbian, straight - everyone. All belong. And God says, I have only you to help me realize my dream. Help me.

One day we'll wake up and discover we are family.

There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by ordinary human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.

Suffering is part and parcel of the human condition, but suffering can either embitter or ennoble us. It can ennoble us and become a spirituality of transformation when we find meaning in it.

We are made by God, we are made like God, we are made for God.

― Desmond Tutu Quotes

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Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

 
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