Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, retired as Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1996. President Nelson Mandela then named him as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the organization charged with bringing to light the crimes against humanity in South Africa under apartheid. The goal was to achieve reconciliation between those who were suffered and their oppressors. Still active as a lecturer throughout the world, Tutu was most recently a visiting scholar-in-residence at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. In this inspiring volume written with Douglas Abrams, he sums up the ideas and beliefs that have served as the foundation of his sermons, speeches, and writings. He sees it as "a cumulative expression of my life's work."
Addressing the fear, anger, insecurity, and vulnerability that many people around the world are feeling, the author proclaims that God is present in our lives and does not ignore us when we are experiencing helplessness or hopelessness. What is the source of this assurance? Tutu responds: "Many of us can acknowledge that God cares about the world but can't imagine that God would care about you or me individually. But our God marvelously, miraculously cares about each and every one of us. The Bible has this incredible image of you, of me, of all of us, each one, held as something precious, fragile in the palms of God's hands. And that you and I exist only because God is forever blowing God's breath into our being." The author also asks us to believe that for every act of evil that is emblazoned in today's headlines, there are a dozen acts of goodness that go unnoticed. But God takes note and is pleased when human beings reach out to each other in compassion, forgiveness, and generosity.
Speaking about his work as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Tutu contends that God depends on us to be carriers of justice, healing, and wholeness in a world twisted and torn by hated, divisiveness, and violence. He refers to the African ideal of ubuntu, which acknowledges that our private well being is contingent on the health and happiness of those around us. Boldly, Tutu challenges us to see our suffering neighbors and even strangers as part of our family: "Would you let your brother's or sister's family, your relatives, eke out a miserable existence in poverty?" he asks. "Would you let them go hungry? And yet every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger and three-quarters of these are children under five. If we realized that we are family, we would not let this happen to our brothers and sisters."
The author's experiences in South Africa have been a sign for him that God can achieve wonders in the most desolate and chaotic places and among the most hateful individuals and groups. Whether talking about the rainbow people of God, embracing our enemies, or letting our suffering ennoble and not embitter us, Tutu affirms the goodness of creation and humanity's co-partnership with God in the ongoing task of making a better and more just world. He encourages us to throw ourselves unstintingly into acts of transformation by setting aside our personal ambitions and serving others. Desmond Tutu's eloquent and heart-felt writing will resurrect hope in your heart.