Archbishop Tutu Returns Triumphant, Calls for Reinvestment in South Africa

Episcopal News Service. June 15, 1994 [94113]

Michael Barwell, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio

In his first U.S. tour following the successful elections ending apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for massive reinvestment in the South African economy.

"I bring you greetings from your sisters and brothers in South Africa, people who have lived through a nightmare," Tutu said to 2,500 people gathered June 12 in the University of Dayton Arena for an ecumenical service of thanksgiving and reconciliation.

Throughout his four-day, three-city tour of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, the diminutive archbishop thanked people for their prayers and for supporting sanctions, which he credited with ending the racial policies that had oppressed South Africa's majority black population for nearly 300 years.

Quipping that he is no longer "Mr. Sanctions" but is now "Mr. Reinvestment," Tutu also met with 50 business and investment portfolio leaders in Cincinnati to seek reinvestment in South Africa's economy.

"When I was here four years ago," Tutu said referring to his 1990 visit to Cincinnati, "I asked you to divest in South Africa to force the issue. I promised then I would return to ask you to reinvest when we had achieved freedom. So here I am!"

Although no specific promises of reinvestment were achieved, everywhere he spoke -- in Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati -- he urged the United States to help South Africa get on its feet. "We have a wonderful potential and an existing infrastructure which-works," he said. "We have banks in the international economy. Our trains run on schedule. We are inheriting an existing structure which is ready to go."

Powerful spiritual message

Tutu also spoke powerfully of the work of God in ending apartheid and of the healing which is taking place. "We are seeing happening, before our very eyes, an incredible thing, where people who have been hurt are able to forgive. People who have had a guilt, finding that guilt lifted," he said.

"A healing happens in that kind of a community -- which used to be the world's pariah -- and now is being welcomed with open arms everywhere. That must give hope to every situation."

Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid, said the changes occurring in South Africa cannot be explained apart from faith. "We have succeeded -- we have achieved our goal -- and we have got this extraordinary thing which is taking place in our country -- in many ways, inexplicable," he said. "But for those who are believers, obviously, in the end it is not inexplicable. It is the intervention of a wonderful God," Tutu said.

Fight against racism here, too

In both Dayton and Cincinnati, Tutu directly addressed racial tensions that have surfaced within the past two years.

Ecumenical efforts have been focused on Dayton -- which is racially divided by the Great Miami River -- and Cincinnati -- which was the focus of national attention last year when the president of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team made racial remarks about players. Both cities also have been the site of demonstrations by the Ku Klux Klan.

Despite these problems, Tutu said, "You shouldn't knock yourselves too much, because there are very good things that have happened." But, he added, it appears in the United States "there are many hidden things that conspire to keep black people generally out of the mainstream, especially in the economic sphere.

"You then get self-fulfilling prophecies," Tutu said. "If most times you've been living in a ghetto, you don't need to be anybody too smart to say the chances of people coming out of that situation ending up in your jails is fargreater."

In Cincinnati, he addressed 225 leaders of a citywide Summit on Racism, started by Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr. following the Reds' and Ku Klux Klan controversies last year. During the past 18 months, 10 task forces and dozens of community leaders have started efforts to deal with Cincinnati's current racial tensions and economic inequities.

"We of the Judeo-Christian faith have no option," Tutu said. "It is a religious obligation to oppose racism. If you do not, you disobey God. We are made for family. We are made for interdependence. We are manacled to each other -- whether we like it or not," Tutu said.

To applause and a standing ovation, Tutu added, "All of the people of South Africa learned a great lesson. And it is one we said time and again when we were fighting for freedom: None of us will be free until we all can be free. Black and white together."