- At the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, South Africa's retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu again was the foremost centre of attention. The Nobel Peace Price laureate noted that the united church had once given a controversial support to resistance against apartheid and he reminded church leaders others are still fighting for their freedom and equality.
"A united church is no optional extra," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his impassioned speech to the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre. Rather, he said, it is "indispensable for the salvation of God's world." Mr Tutu's audience had just taken part in a plenary session on church unity.
The retired Archbishop in his address referred to the historic struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and paid tribute to the support given by the WCC, particularly through its Programme to Combat Racism. "This was controversial but was quite critical in saying our cause was just and noble and that those who, as a last resort, had opted for the armed struggle were not terrorists but freedom fighters," Mr Tutu said. "Nelson Mandela was no terrorist."
The WCC was his "mentor", and he owed it a very great deal, he said. "You, the WCC, demonstrated God's concern for unity, for harmony, for togetherness, for friendship, for peace, and you must celebrate that, you must celebrate the success you notched up in defeating apartheid, for you were inspired not by a political ideology but by biblical and theological imperatives."
However, he said, apartheid had continued so long because the church was divided, and God called it to unity, adding, "Jesus was quite serious when he said that God was our father, that we belonged all to one family, because in this family all, not some, are insiders.
"Bush, bin Laden, all belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight - all belong and are loved, are precious," Archbishop Tutu emphasised in his speech to world church leaders.
Speaking to journalists after his address, he explained that he in particular had mentioned gay and lesbian people because "I would not be able to keep quiet and see people penalised for something about which they could do nothing." Mr Tutu on earlier occasions has sidelined the historic battle against apartheid with the current battle against homophobia.
On Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe, he said that he had "admired" Mr Mugabe, who was at one time "the brightest star in the African firmament," who had brought reconciliation and reconstruction to his country after the war which ended the rule of the white minority in former Rhodesia.
"But something happened to him, because now he oversees something that is totally unacceptable. We, and all of Africa, should be prepared to say that violation of human rights is violation of human rights, whoever does it."
Of relations with Muslims, he said, "I hope that the WCC will preach that it is adherents of a faith who are good or bad, not the faith. No faith says, 'We believe in injustice or violence,'" Archbishop Tutu explained to the press.
He said of economic progress in Africa that the situation required a two-fold approach. Rich nations had to understand that an unjust economic order could not continue. However, he added, "We [Africans] have been our own worst enemies. Africa has had a succession of corrupt governments - though Mobutu and Savimbi were encouraged by the West. But we too have responsibility. Government exists for the sake of the governed."
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