Desmond Tutu was born 7 October 1931, in Klerksdorp, Transvaal. He first followed the steps of his father to become a teacher, but later decided to study theology. He was ordained priest in 1960. He spent several years in the UK, before returning to Johannesburg in 1975. He was Bishop of Lesotho from 1976 to 1978, and Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches from 1978 to 1985. He emerged as one of the most prominent anti-apartheid activists, promoting non-violent protest and supporting an economic boycott of his country.
In 1976, in response to the intensification of apartheid laws, school children and students began protesting in Soweto. The uprising led to extremely violent police actions and the death of hundreds of children and students. In 1977, Steve Biko, one of the anti-apartheid leaders, was brutally killed by the police during his detention. Desmond Tutu was invited to speak at Biko's funeral.
Tutu kept on preaching non-violence and reconciliation between both sides with equal civil rights for all and a common system of education. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, and two years later he became the first black person to lead the Anglican Church in South Africa.
After the fall of apartheid initiated by F. W. de Klerk, his successor Nelson Mandela named Tutu head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Desmond Tutu has also stood for other fair causes, in and out of his country: he has repeatedly called upon the Israeli government to respect the human dignity of the Palestinian people - whether Muslim or Christian. In 2010, he announced his retirement from public life, but has continued to occasionally comment on social issues and international affairs. Desmond Tutu died in Cape Town the day after Christmas 2021, aged 90.