Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Anti-Apartheid & Human Rights Activist, Dead At 90

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an anti-apartheid and human rights activist in South Africa, has sadly passed away at 90.

The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation announced the devastating news on Sunday, revealing the civil rights icon died in Cape Town. His foundation wrote:

“Tutu was a living embodiment of faith in action, speaking boldly against racism, injustice, corruption, and oppression, not just in apartheid South Africa but wherever in the world he saw wrongdoing, especially when it impacted the most vulnerable and voiceless in society. Officially ‘retiring’ from public life on his 79th birthday, Tutu continued to speak out on a range of ethical and moral issues: illegal arms deals, xenophobia, oppressed people in Palestine, respect for the rule of law, HIV/Aids, Tibet, China, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and LGBTQI+ rights. He also vociferously campaigned for gentler stewardship of the Earth, and against the coming ravages of climate change, a very real example of how human survival rests on our ubuntu-spirited ability to cooperate and work together.”

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa mourned Tutu’s death on Twitter, expressing how his sudden loss “is another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa.” He continued, praising him as “a patriot without equal”:

“A leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead. We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”

According to NBC News, Tutu was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the late 1990s and hospitalized on several occasions over the years to treat infections stemming from his cancer treatments. While no cause of death has been revealed, the outlet reports that Dr. Ramphela Mamphele spoke on behalf of the family that he “died peacefully”:

“Ultimately, at the age of 90, he died peacefully at the Oasis Frail Care Centre in Cape Town this morning.”

Tutu gained prominence through his work in fighting to dismantle racial segregation in South Africa for six decades. Following the end of apartheid in the 1990s, he became the chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Throughout his life, Tutu received high honors for his efforts in civil rights activism – including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. And although he retired from public service on his 79th birthday, he continued to speak out on ethical and moral issues such as LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change, xenophobia, and more.

Tutu is survived by his wife Nomalizo Leah Tutu and their four children.

Rest in peace, Desmond Tutu…

[Image via WENN/Avalon]