Good morning. Probably one of the best known Christians in the world is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who is 82 today. Alongside that of Nelson Mandela his name will forever be associated with the fight against Apartheid and the peaceful transition to the new South Africa. It made him an internationally recognised figure, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards
While widely respected, Desmond Tutu can at times be seen by some people - and certainly by some of the world’s leaders - as a controversial figure and not always an easy friend.
I know that I am not alone in needing friends who will take the risk of telling me what they honestly think. The same surely, can be said of those who are our leaders. So often we can be tempted to justify bad things in the short term on the basis that they are a price worth paying for some greater good in the future. But we all sometimes need to hear uncomfortable truths about the real impact of our actions, so our consciences can be stirred and our behaviours challenged
It seems to me that in taking on this role Desmond Tutu is squarely in the mainstream of a long line of individuals, many of them motivated by a religious conviction, who have tried to live out their faith by standing up fearlessly against what they saw as injustice.
And whether they were anti-slavery campaigners, prison reformers or social activists, they were almost invariably criticised as naive, meddlesome idealists who didn’t understand the harsh realities of life. Yet we often have good reason now to be very grateful for their courage and persistence.
It’s sometimes called speaking truth to power and it can be a hard and lonely thing to do. Those of us who may not have the courage to do it – even if we had the opportunity – can still be grateful for those who can and will.
Father, thank you for the courage and commitment of those who speak out against injustice. May we be encouraged by their bravery to follow their example. Amen