Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Anglican archbishop whose excellent humor, an inspiring message, and sincere fight for civil and human rights made him a beloved leader during the campaign in his home South Africa to remove apartheid, has died. He was 90 years old.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his sympathies to Tutu’s family and friends in a statement confirming his death on Sunday, calling him “a patriot without peer.”
“He was soft and vulnerable in his sympathy for those who had faced oppression, injustice, and brutality under apartheid, as well as oppressed and downtrodden people throughout the world,” Ramaphosa added.
Tutu has been ailing for a long time. He was diagnosed with a chronic illness in 2013, and he was brought to the hospital multiple times over the next few years. Tutu, popularly known as “the Arch,” was a leading voice in calling on the South African government to abolish apartheid, the country’s official policy of racial segregation, for more than six decades. Tutu was elected leader of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission when apartheid collapsed in the early 1990s and the long-incarcerated Nelson Mandela was elected president.
Tutu’s loss was described as “immeasurable” by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“He was bigger than life, and his life has been a benefit for so many in South Africa and throughout the world,” the charity said in a statement. “Only the depth of his thought on the creation of liberatory futures for human communities matches his contributions to battles against injustice, both locally and worldwide.” Tutu has received several awards for his civil and human rights activism from all around the world. In 2009, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former US President Barack Obama. In a statement released following Tutu’s death, Obama called him a “mentor, a friend, and a moral compass.”
“Archbishop Tutu was rooted in the battle for freedom and justice in South Africa, but he was equally concerned about injustice across the world. He never lost his sardonic sense of humor or his propensity to see compassion in his foes “Obama stated.