Explained: From his struggle against apartheid to promoting LGBT rights, Desmond Tutu's contributions to South Africa can't be forgotten

Explained: From his struggle against apartheid to promoting LGBT rights, Desmond Tutu's contributions to South Africa can't be forgotten

Explained: From his struggle against apartheid to promoting LGBT rights, Desmond Tutu's contributions to South Africa can't be forgotten

Desmond Tutu, South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon, an uncompromising foe of apartheid and a modern-day activist for racial justice and LGBT rights, died Sunday at 90. South Africans, world leaders and people around the globe mourned the death of the man viewed as the country's moral conscience.

As the world mourns for the man, who had largely faded from public life in recent years, here’s a look at his many contributions — above all his fight against injustices of all colours.

Apartheid fight

Archbishop Tutu was one of the driving forces behind the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

A contemporary of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, he was one of the driving forces behind the movement to end the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government against the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1991.

As an activist, he stressed non-violent protest and foreign economic pressure to bring about universal suffrage.

Please read: Desmond Tutu: Looking back at a life committed to equality and truth

Tutu wasn't afraid of calling it as it was.

In an address in the '80s, he had accused Western nations of hypocrisy for condemning armed liberation groups in southern Africa while they had praised similar organisations operating in Europe during the Second World War.

Tutu travelled the world, talking of the need for apartheid to end in South Africa.

In March 1981, he embarked on a five-week tour of Europe and North America, meeting politicians including the UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, and addressing the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid.

Tutu remained actively involved in acts of civil disobedience against the government.

In August 1989 he helped to organise an "Ecumenical Defiance Service" at St George's Cathedral, and shortly after joined protests at segregated beaches outside Cape Town.

People take photos at a statue of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. AP

Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

When Nelson Mandela was elected as the nation’s first Black president in 1994, he appointed Tutu chairperson of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission — to investigate crimes committed by both whites and blacks during the apartheid era.

The TRC was described as the “climax of Tutu’s career” and lauded across the world as a pioneering effort to heal deep historical wounds.

In the TRC, Tutu advocated "restorative justice," something which he considered characteristic of traditional African jurisprudence.

The first hearing took place in April 1996. The hearings were publicly televised and had a considerable impact on South African society. He had very little control over the committee responsible for granting amnesty, instead chairing the committee which heard accounts of human rights abuses perpetrated by both anti-apartheid and apartheid figures. He presented the five-volume TRC report to Mandela in a public ceremony in Pretoria in October 1998. Ultimately, Tutu was pleased with the TRC's achievement, believing that it would aid long-term reconciliation, although recognised its shortcomings.

Flowers are placed alongside a photo of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the St George's Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa. AP

LGBT activist

Tutu, or as he was popularly known as 'The Arch' was a true proponent of equality. He campaigned internationally for human rights, especially LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

"I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this," he had said in 2013, launching a campaign for LGBT rights in Cape Town.

Tutu said he was as passionate about this campaign (for LGBT rights) as he ever was about apartheid.

He was one of the most prominent religious leaders to advocate LGBT rights. Tutu's very public stance for LGBT rights put him at odds with many in South Africa and across the continent as well as within the Anglican church.

Tutu also spoke out on the need to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in June 2003 stating that "Apartheid tried to destroy our people and apartheid failed. If we don't act against HIV-AIDS, it may succeed, for it is already decimating our population.

Tutu was happiest when active on behalf of others, his friends say. As he had told the BBC’s Sue Lawley when appearing on Desert Island Discs in 1994, "I love to be loved."

It's true. He will be loved and the world can never forget his contributions.

With inputs from agencies

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