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My Dream to Save the World: Bishop Tutu

Desmond Tutu | 15.01.2006 15:18 | Anti-racism | World

Bishop Tutu's dream could be lifegiving for us. The vision of equality leveling the power of the machos and raising the modest could recreate our overly materialist culture where the center cannot hold.


“I dream that no one will be poor any more. I know this sounds naïve but a billion citizens of the earth must manage with a dollar a day. How can a whole family survive that way?”

by Desmund Tutu

[This article published in: DIE ZEIT, January 2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Desmund Tutu is a South African archbishop and liberation theologian.]

I have a dream and I believe God also dreams this dream. We all dream it because each of us a child of God. It is the dream of the great worldwide family to which we all belong. I admit this sounds rather plain and sentimental. Still it is very radical in reality. What does one world and one global family mean? It means there are no outsiders. Everyone belongs to this family, blacks and whites, rich and poor, wise and less wise, beautiful and not so beautiful, unhurt and disabled, women and men, gays, lesbians and heteros, everyone without exception.

I dream that even Osama bin laden and George Bush are members of our family and also the Israeli premier Sharon and the Palestinian president Abbas. Do you see now how radical is this dream?

My dream raises hard questions. If we all really belong to this family, if we are all brothers and sisters, how can we spend billions on weapons, instruments of death? How can we do this knowing that a fragment of these billions would provide clean drinking water, adequate food, housing worthy of human beings, a good education and proper health care to our starving sisters and brothers everywhere on earth?

A billion of earth’s citizens must manage with a dollar a day! This is absurd! How can one survive from one dollar? How can a whole family be fed? Why do we brag so much about how poverty could be overcome? Why don’t we simply act? Don’t we know that the global gulf between poor and rich has fatal consequences? This gulf makes our world into a dangerous place. Wars break out because people are desperate. They are desperate because they are hungry, sick and poor. I dream of a world without war. I know this sounds rather naïve. But I don’t stop dreaming of this world, a world of sharing, not of competition, a world where the strongest does not always win, a world where what we saw in the New Orleans flood catastrophe is not repeated. That was everything but a family. Many people suffered. Some had to die because they were poor and perhaps because they were black.

New Orleans showed how far we are from this one family. Still I continue to dream. I am really not a starry-eyed optimist but I have hope. Why? Because in the end we all inhabit the same moral universe. Isn’t that marvelous?

Think about this: Who are the people we admire most? They aren’t the strong, aggressive, ruthless contemporaries, the machos. They are modest persons like nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Mahatma Gandhi.

We sense they are good. We all have a kind of antennae to receive their goodness. On the other hand, the evil arouses our anger: when someone abuses a child, when someone uses violence against the weaker or when someone sins as a racist. Still the evil is abnormal. At the end, the good will triumph. Look only at history, at the seemingly almighty men, Nero, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Idi Amin, the inventors of apartheid. They thought: We are running the show. Remember, all of them failed without exception; they all bit the dust.

Let us reflect on the atrocities of history, the holocaust, the so-called ethnic cleansings in Bosnia, the genocide in Ruanda. Or consider what they did here in South Africa under apartheid. They didn’t want to exterminate us; still they killed many people. They treated people like garbage and at the end undermined their own humanliness. Why did these cruelties occur? They happened because we try again and again to draw lines between us, between Jews and Germans, between catholic and protestant Northern Irish and between white and black South Africans. However God says: No! Don’t do that! I dream that we tear down all barriers. My humanity rests on your humanity and vice versa. We call this Ubuntu in our culture. It means: a person only becomes a person through persons.

The Bible teaches this right at the beginning. You know the story when God created Adam and Adam lived in the garden and had a fantastic time with all the animals. However the good man was not perfectly happy. So God said: it is not good that a man be alone. He proposed: Adam, you should have a soft cuddly fellow creature. Adam said: I can’t argue. God caused him to fall asleep. Then everyone knows the story, God created this fantastic being out of Adam’s rib. When Adam awoke, he shouted: Wwwwow! Now I have what the doctor ordered!

This story teaches: we depend on one another. We are bound in a finely woven net. We are a family. Everything we forget this, we encounter a host of problems. That is my great dream, the dream of the world family.

A very small dream also occurs to me, that we clobber Germany when you come to South Africa for the 2010 world championship in football.

Desmond Tutu
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