Archbishop Tutu’s Bermuda links highlighted after Nobel peace prize winner dies
Church leaders and human rights activists yesterday paid tribute to South African churchman Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace prize-winning anti-apartheid activist.
The retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town died last Sunday in a nursing home in the city aged 90.
Thomas Nisbett, who was an Anglican Canon in Bermuda and a campaigner against the racist apartheid system in South Africa, was sent a personal message from Archbishop Tutu when he retired in 1997.
Canon Nisbett, who met Archbishop Tutu in the Eighties, said: “I was saddened to hear that Desmond Tutu had passed.”
But he said: “Thank God for his life. He will be missed. I always felt very privileged to meet him – it was very important for me.”
Canon Nisbett, 96, retired from Devonshire Christ Church after half-a-century of service to Bermuda, which included work with several youth movements.
Archbishop Tutu sent the message to him despite being admitted to hospital in New York for treatment for cancer.
Tutu, who addressed Canon Nesbitt as “Dear friend”, wrote: “We in South Africa are deeply indebted to you for your support for our struggle against apartheid.
“Your leadership, commitment and prayers helped to lead us to victory and freedom; to a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist new South Africa.
“Our victory is your victory.”
“A fearless visionary.” said Acting Premier Diallo Rabain today in paying tribute to the legacy of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
“The international outpouring of love and admiration is simply incredible as the world remembers this humble man who led a movement founded in his Christian faith.
“He never failed to speak truth to power and his moral compass never wavered, irrespective of who wielded that power. Archbishop Tutu’s life is a powerful example of the strength and conviction needed to effect change and achieve justice.
“Bermuda joins the world in paying tribute to his life of service to others and expressing condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.”
Archbishop Tutu won the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his opposition to white minority rule and rigid segregation in South Africa.
He headed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to highlight atrocities after the apartheid system was dismantled in 1994.
Imagine Bermuda, a community activism organisation, marked Archbishop Tutu’s 80th birthday in 2011 with an appeal to the public to contribute to his favourite charities and schools.
These included South Africa’s Milnerton Primary School, Tygerburg Children’s Hospital and the Out of Africa Children’s Fund Foundation.
Glenn Fubler, of Imagine Bermuda, said: “Desmond Tutu's passing is a significant global milestone.
“His was a voice speaking truth to power during those most bleak times in South Africa when the vast majority of the people's leadership was either imprisoned or had been forced into exile.
“He leveraged his position in the Anglican Church to provide a base of resistance to apartheid and he negotiated those most challenging circumstances with a sense of humour, integrity and authenticity.”
Mr Fubler added: “Bermuda was blessed in having Tutu's mentor visit us in the midst of the anti-apartheid campaign in the mid-80s, when Bishop Trevor Huddleston – the then chairman of the British anti-apartheid movement – visited us, cementing our connections in that global campaign.
“Tutu never rested on his laurels. He kept working beyond the victory of South African democracy, attempting to keep those who gained political power honest and he collaborated globally to leverage the gravitas that he had accrued for the good of the whole human family.“
The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, said that Archbishop Tutu embodied the best of the Anglican faith and the Christian faith in general with his “mix of gentleness and humour”.
Bishop Dill said: “He was an indefatigable fighter for truth, calling out injustice wherever he saw it.
“He was able to say difficult things with grace while never resorting to violence. He exposed the truth with a hope that things could change.
“In the truth and reconciliation work he was doing in South Africa, he had an African way of dealing with conflict – less individualistic and more about the common good of the people.
“He was about bringing healing into the community and giving a voice to those who do not have a voice. He also had an infectious sense of humour.”
Bishop Dill met Archbishop Tutu’s daughter, Naomi Tutu, a priest and missioner for racial and economic equity at the Cathedral of All Souls, an Episcopal church in communion with the Anglicans, in Asheville, North Carolina. The meeting happened when she came to the island in 2019 for a service to mark Jamaine Tucker’s appointment as the parish priest at Devonshire Christ Church.
Ms Tutu, who also discussed racial reconciliation, wished Reverend Tucker well and praised Bishop Dill and the Christ Church, Devonshire, congregation for the appointment.