WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, has been awarded the 2013 Templeton Prize for his life-long work in advancing spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness which has helped to liberate people around the world.
Tutu rose to world prominence with his stalwart – and successful – opposition to South Africa’s apartheid regime. He combines the theological concept that all human beings are shaped in the image of God, known in Latin as Imago Dei, with the traditional African belief of Ubuntu, which holds that only through others do people achieve humanity which, he says, creates “a delicate network of interdependence.”
His broad calls to common humanity began in the 1970s, when Tutu used positions within the church to focus global attention on the apartheid policies of South Africa’s ruling minority. After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and subsequent election as president in the country’s first multi-ethnic democratic elections, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission employing a revolutionary and relentless policy of confession, forgiveness and resolution that helped shepherd his nation from institutionalized racial repression toward an egalitarian democracy.
His deep faith and commitment to prayer and worship provides the foundation for his message of love and forgiveness. He has created that message through extensive contemplation of such profound “Big Questions” as “Do we live in a moral universe?” and “What is humanity’s duty to reflect and live God’s purposes?”
Such inquiries reflect the deep interests of the late Sir John Templeton, founder of the Templeton Prize, in fostering and recognizing spiritual progress, the purpose of the award since it was first given in 1973 to Mother Teresa.
The Templeton Prize office of the John Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, made the announcement this morning online on the prize website at www.templetonprize.org, via email to journalists, and on Twitter at #TempletonPrize.
A celebration will be held on Thursday, April 11 in Cape Town at St. George’s Cathedral, the site that became known as “the people’s cathedral” for its role in the fight against apartheid when he served there as archbishop from 1986 to 1996. A press briefing at 11:00 AM at the Taj Cape Town Hotel will precede the celebration.
Tutu will receive the prize at a public ceremony at the Guildhall in London on Tuesday, May 21. Video highlights of both ceremonies will be available on the prize website a few hours following each event.
The prize, valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.3 million) – the world’s largest annual monetary award for the past 40 years – honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
“By embracing such universal concepts of the image of God within each person, Desmond Tutu also demonstrates how the innate humanity within each of us is intrinsically tied to the humanity between all peoples,” said Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. in a video statement released on www.templetonprize.org. Dr. Templeton, the president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, noted: “Desmond Tutu calls upon all of us to recognize that each and every human being is unique in all of history and, in doing so, to embrace our own vast potential to be agents for spiritual progress and positive change. Not only does he teach this idea, he lives it.”
“To borrow Sir John Templeton’s words, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a true ‘entrepreneur of the spirit,’ said Steven D. Gish, Professor of History at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, in his letter of recommendation to the prize judges. “With his unfailing faith in ‘God’s dream,’ he embodies the best instincts of us all.”
“When you are in a crowd and you stand out from the crowd it’s usually because you are being carried on the shoulders of others,” Tutu said in response to receiving the prize in a video on the prize website. “I want to acknowledge all the wonderful people who accepted me as their leader at home and so to accept this prize, as it were, in a representative capacity.”
In another brief video on www.templetonprize.org, Tutu elaborates on the concept of free will. “We inhabit a universe… where kindness matters, compassion matters, caring matters, sharing,” he says. “This is a moral universe and right and wrong matter. And mercifully, gloriously, right will prevail.”
“Drawing on deep wells of prayer, Archbishop Desmond has a gift for expressing profound truths with great simplicity,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the current Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. “He gave us in South Africa a vision of hope for abundant new life for everyone, transformed through God’s promises – a vision with which he continues to challenge the whole world today. I am delighted at this award, and I am sure all Anglicans in Southern Africa will join me in congratulating him upon it.”
Tutu abandoned a teaching career in 1957 in response to apartheid regime laws that severely limited education and, thus, career opportunities for the majority non-white population. He entered the Anglican ministry in 1958 and received a Master of Theology degree from King’s College, London, in 1966. Over the next 30 years, he became a key player in the campaign to abolish apartheid, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, using his pulpit to bring worldwide attention to the crusade for justice and racial conciliation in South Africa.
A pinnacle moment in that effort came on September 13, 1989, when Tutu, despite no official mandate from the church, led a Cape Town protest against apartheid that drew an estimated 30,000 participants. Within days, massive peace marches broke out in Johannesburg, Durban and across South Africa, often with Anglican bishops at the helm. The demonstrations ushered in rapid changes, including the freeing of Mandela and other imprisoned activists, and the eventual complete dismantling of the apartheid system.
In the 1990s Tutu became a principal mediator in South Africa’s transition to democracy. After retiring as archbishop in 1996, he chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the body charged with investigating human rights violations during apartheid, where he advocated for and
implemented a three-stage model of “restorative justice” that aimed to trade justice for truth with those testifying. Grounded in the inherent humanity expressed in the African tradition of Ubuntu, the commission called for confession, forgiveness and, where possible, restitution.
In 2007 Tutu helped form The Elders, an independent group of former global leaders including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who work for peace and human rights in trouble spots around the world.
His extensive writings include No Future without Forgiveness, and most recently, God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations.
Even after his official retirement from public life in 2010, Tutu continues to speak to audiences across the globe. He engages with numerous organizations including the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and The Elders, and remains committed to creating a society guided by what he believes are the essential human values of love, hope, tolerance and courage.
Tutu and his wife, Leah, live in Cape Town, South Africa.