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Practical Theologist Reflects on Life of Late South African Archbishop

© AP PhotoIn this Monday May 6, 2019. file photo Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu exits his home in Cape Town, South Africa. As South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu turns 90, recent racist graffiti on a portrait of the Nobel winner highlights the continuing relevance of his work for equality. Often hailed as the conscience of South Africa, Tutu was a key campaigner against South Africa’s previous brutal system of oppression against the Black majority.
In this Monday May 6, 2019. file photo Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu exits his home in Cape Town, South Africa. As South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu turns 90, recent racist graffiti on a portrait of the Nobel winner highlights the continuing relevance of his work for equality. Often hailed as the conscience of South Africa, Tutu was a key campaigner against South Africa’s previous brutal system of oppression against the Black majority.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
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Associate Professor of Practical Theology at the University of South Africa Gift Baloyi told Sputnik on Wednesday that for the late Archbishop Mpilo Desmond Tutu, theology was not a profession in which he could advance an egocentric agenda but, a vocation in which one can become the voice of the voiceless in pursuit of justice and dignity.
The academic said this was evident in the type of theology Tutu lived and professed throughout his life.

"Without any doubt, Tutu’s influence on many people’s social, academic and church life has been phenomenal".

© REUTERS / MIKE HUTCHINGSrchbishop Desmond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling an arch in his honour outside St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017.
rchbishop Desmond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling an arch in his honour outside St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
rchbishop Desmond Tutu laughs as crowds gather to celebrate his birthday by unveiling an arch in his honour outside St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, October 7, 2017.

"These became fundamental ideologies which he lived for throughout his life. This gave him the courage to confront political bullies who sought to silence the truth even from within his own Anglican church. Even though he was accused of bringing politics into the pulpit, to a point of him being described as 'political predikant' (an Afrikaans word meaning priest or minister of religion), he remained an unstoppable thorn or pain to the political bullies and their unjust systems against the black people", Baloyi added.

Baloyi told Sputnik that the apartheid-era system in South Africa pushed Tutu to a point at which he endeavoured to establish theological truth. He said the late archbishop used religion and biblical scriptures as a way of remedying the injustices suffered by people of colour during that period.

"Tutu's methods for dealing with issues of human oppression was to return to the scripture in search for a liberative approach with the people and for the people. He placed the Bible at the centre of theologisation and black people's struggles. For Tutu, the question of what it means to be human was an important one, particularly, where human dignity seemed to have been removed by existential conditions. In the context of South Africa and many other African countries, corruption has established itself as an institution where ransacking resources that are meant to alleviate poverty is worsening. In such context, how can human dignity be defined or understood in a situation where hunger, unemployment, poor health and lack of basic services exist? In all these challenges, the existence of poverty diminishes the rights to dignity to the core", said the practical theology scholar.

Baloyi told Sputnik that as the archbishop goes on to rest, he had many questions aimed at the extent of belief and today's church practices. He said that as a young South African black theologian inspired by Tutu’s work, he ponders the extent of the relevance of the theology taught and lived today.

“The degree to which this theology is meaningful and impactful in relations to the challenges that people face on the ground. Whether this theology is ideologically in sync with the realities of the masses of people on the ground. But whatever the responses are, a church that fails to address social issues, cannot be a relevant and true church of God in society. The church must lead with its moral voice in the process of liberating its people from any condition that seeks to dehumanise them. For as long as the experiences of people involve pain and suffering, Desmond Tutu’s theology remains relevant in the context of South Africa”, Baloyi told Sputnik.

© REUTERS / MIKE HUTCHINGSMembers of the public pause after placing flowers in memory of Archbishop Desmond Tutu outside St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, December 26, 2021.
Members of the public pause after placing flowers in memory of Archbishop Desmond Tutu outside St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, December 26, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.12.2021
Members of the public pause after placing flowers in memory of Archbishop Desmond Tutu outside St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, December 26, 2021.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986 and then archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996, in both cases being the first black African to hold the position.
Tutu died on 26 December. He had been ill with cancer for many years. Although Tutu’s wish was not to be afforded an official state funeral, President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared that he will be given a Category 1 special official state funeral on Saturday.

"The Special Official Funeral will take place in St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on New Year’s Day, Saturday, 1 January 2022. Desmond Tutu was the first black cleric to be elected as the Bishop of Johannesburg before being inaugurated in 1986 as the first black cleric to become Archbishop of Cape Town. He also served as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) and as Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In recognition of the late Archbishop Emeritus’ distinguished life and invaluable contribution to the nation, President Ramaphosa has designated the late leader’s funeral as a Special Official Funeral – Category 1", the statement read.

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