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An Interview with Desmond Tutu

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Tutu reflects and sees opportunities
By Christopher Rowland, Globe Staff

Desmond Tutu began a recent interview with a prayer, asking God's blessing on his people so that ''they shall renew the face of the earth.'' It wasn't just divine insurance against being misquoted.The retired archbishop, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his activism against apartheid, has grieved over the violence in the Middle East. He condemns Palestinian suicide bombings but has called on Israel to make the first move for peace by ending its incursion into Palestinian areas. Tutu is spending spring in Cambridge as a visiting professor at the Episcopal Divinity School.

Q. As a man of faith, what legitimate means would you grant Israel to protect itself against suicide bombers?
A. Look for the root causes of why people do what they're doing. You would not be able to recruit too many [terrorists], especially women.The root cause is the situation of the Palestinian Arabs. If our Jewish sisters and brothers say it's not really the case that they are unjustly treated, you say, would you exchange places with them? They said the same kinds of things in South Africa - blacks are not living so badly. The Israelis' desire for sovereignty and territorial integrity is legitimate.

Q. One they could legitimately use some degree of force to protect?
A. Every country has the right to do that. But I'm saying if you have injustice - and I come from a Biblical point of view, using the Jewish Scriptures - if you use power unjustly, then you are in fact opposing God. I long for Israel to be secure. But it's clear it won't happen unless there is an independent Palestinian state, unless you stop Jewish settlements in the occupied areas. One would long for our Jewish brothers and sisters to remember their history. It's very difficult to believe that people who have had their kind of history, that they could do what they're doing to the Palestinians. The Arabs were really stupid to have refused to have recognized Israel at the beginning and to have said their aim was to destroy Israel, and the reaction of the Israelis was understandable to all this hostility and hatred.What is not understandable is what they have done to another people, and I will not keep quiet about that sort of injustice. It's not that you are pro-Palestinian, you are pro-justice.

Q. The United States dominates the world, some say, as no power has since ancient Rome. Does this country exercise that power morally?
A. There's been an improvement. This country supported the contras in Nicaragua; this country was responsible for the assassination of Allende in Chile; this country supported Marcos in the Philippines, Savimbi in Angola, Mobutu in the Congo.They didn't care what the human rights records of those people were asLong as they claimed to be on the right side in the Cold War. For a very long time, you didn't use your power to advance human rights. You spoke about American interests, and as it were, to hell with everybody else.While there has been some improvement, it has been overshadowed by a succumbing very often to a unilateral stance. The world says, let's have a ban on land mines. The United States says no. They say, what about global warming? You have Kyoto; again, the United States says, stop the world and we'll jump off. The world says, we ought to have an international criminal court, which would have been the best venue for trying the people responsible for September the 11th. And most countries of the world have approved, and the United States says, not on your Nellie.

Q. Has our response to Sept. 11 been moral?
A. I was so happy for the fortnight or so after September the 11th at an extraordinary restraint the United States seemed to be showing about the kind of response it was going to make. It seemed like the United States is seeking to involve the international community. But those hopes were false hopes, because almost immediatelyafterwards the reaction was the military strikes, and there were people in the administration who were talking about bombing Afghanistan into the Stone Age. One of the things that made September the 11th so reprehensible was the fact that they targeted innocent civilians. That made it even more horrendous. The United States bombs Afghanistan, and many of the casualties turn out to be civilians. The United States missed an opportunity of involving the international community. There would have been, obviously, some form of not maybe military but police action - let's try and find the alleged culprits.

Q. When you pray daily, what do you pray for?
A. Goodness, compassion, gentleness, a happy world for everyone where we recognize that we are one family, and that some parts of the family may be well to do, and other parts of the family not so well to do, but we seek to redress those imbalances. And I think that that is God's dream.

Q. You were familiar with the pastoral responsibilities of an archbishop. Cardinal Law - should he resign?
A. I don't have enough details about the situation, and I feel very,very deeply for him and his flock, for those who were victims of abuse. But here is a window of opportunity for the Catholic Church to look at celibacy in relation to the ordained ministry, authority, the role of women in the church. It is a deeply saddening thing, and shouldn't make other Christians gloat. Because of our one baptism, we belong in one church. It ultimately is areflection on all of us.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 4/20/2002.C Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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