Deeper into God: Spirituality for the Struggle

Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town and winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize when this article appeared, was interviewed at his home in Bishopscourt outside Cape Town.

Jim Wallis: We would very much like to hear your perspective on what people speak of as the new era for the church in South Africa, the new level in the struggle against apartheid as the church moves to the front lines.

Desmond Tutu:
In many ways the church--perhaps less spectacularly in the past--has been involved in this struggle for some time. Church people have been responsible for bringing the Namibian issue [South Africa's illegal occupation of neighboring Namibia] before the United Nations. And they have brought the plight of squatters very much to the fore.

For instance, the church was involved over the issue of forced population removals, particularly in Mogopa, one of the villages that the government "moved." The South African Council of Churches, with a number of church leaders, was there. We went and stood with the people to try to support them at a time when they were under threat.

Perhaps the government had not yet learned how to be thoroughly repressive so that the church did not need, in many ways, to be quite so spectacular. There were other avenues available for people, avenues that were more explicitly political.

What is different, perhaps, now is that the government has progressively eliminated most of the other organizations which legitimately could have been around to articulate the people's concern. And their repression has intensified. They have chosen the military option.

I don't think those who are calling the shots in the government are really interested in negotiating any longer. They believe that they've got the military strength and the political strength to deal with any obstructive elements. And they have more or less neutralized most of the opposition.

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