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Desmond Tutu quotes

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Desmond Tutu is a known social rights activist, mainly known by his own engagement in the Apartheit time. Here are his famous quotes that you can use in debates and other speaches.



“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

“We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.”

“My father always used to say, “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.” Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right.”

“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.”

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

“We learn from history that we don’t learn from history!”

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”

“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick in someone’s back.”

“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.”

“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”

“Dear Child of God, I am sorry to say that suffering is not optional.”

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”

“We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

“Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter — you are just there in front of the fire. You don’t have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you.”

“Though wrong gratifies in the moment, good yields its gifts over a lifetime.”

“A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

“We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.”

“Out of the cacophony of random suffering and chaos that can mark human life, the life artist sees or creates a symphony of meaning and order. A life of wholeness does not depend on what we experience. Wholeness depends on how we experience our lives.”

“There is nothing more difficult than waking someone who is only pretending to be asleep.”

“If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible. There’s nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible.”

“A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.”

“Ubuntu […] speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say […] “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”

[…] A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”

“It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul.”

“We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God.”

“It always comes back to our insecurities, as we say, “Oh, I’m not as good as you.” So instead of accepting that perhaps I am not as good as someone else in some ways and being comfortable with who I am as I am, I spend all my time denigrating you, trying to cut you down to my self-perceived size. The sad problem is that we see ourselves as being quite terribly small. Instead of spending my time being envious, I need to celebrate your and my different gifts, even if mine are perhaps less spectacular than yours.”

“Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other.”

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.”

“To be neutral in a situation of injustice is to have chosen sides already. It is to support the status quo.”

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.”

“But suffering from a life-threatening disease also helped me have a different attitude and perspective. It has given a new intensity to life, for I realize how much I used to take for granted-the love and devotion of my wife, the laughter and playfulness of my grandchildren, the glory of a splendid sunset, the dedication of my colleagues. The disease has helped me acknowledge my own mortality, with deep thanksgiving for the extraordinary things that have happened in my life, not least in recent times. What a spectacular vindication it has been, in the struggle against apartheid, to live to see freedom come, to have been involved in finding the truth and reconciling the differences of those who are the future of our nation.”

“It may be a procession of faithful failures that enriches the soil of godly success. Faithful actions are not religious acts. They are not even necessary actions undertaken by people of faith. Faithful actions, whether they are marked by success or they end in failure, are actions that are compelled by goodness.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”

“God is not a diversion.”

“To forgive is not just to be altruistic.”

“… freedom translates into having a supply of clean water, having electricity on tap; being able to live in a decent home and have a good job; to be able to send your children to school and to have accessible healthcare. I mean what’s the point of having made this transition if the quality of life … is not enhanced and improved? If not, the vote is useless.”

“My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity especially on the situation in Gaza shames us all. It is almost like the behaviour of the military junta in Burma”

“A person is a person because s/he recognizes others as persons.”

“We shall be free only together, black and white. We shall survive only together, black and white. We can be human only together, black and white.”

“True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute.”

“When God grabs you by the scruff of the neck then although theoretically you have a freedom to say ‘no’, in another sense, actually, you can’t say no because it’s like Jeremiah. ‘God, you have cheated me. You called me to be a prophet against the people that I love, and all that I proclaim is words of doom and judgement.’ And yet if I say “I will shut up”, I can’t.”