152+ Best Desmond Tutu Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Desmond Mpilo Tutu OMSG CH GCStJ is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa. Inspirational Desmond Tutu quotes will get you through anything when the going gets tough and help you succeed in every aspect of life.

If you’re searching for famous activism quotes that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of thought-Provoking Kofi Annan quotes, Booker T. Washington quotes, and Toussaint Louverture quotes.

Most Famous Desmond Tutu Quotes

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. – Desmond Tutu

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. – Desmond Tutu

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. – Desmond Tutu

If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. – Desmond Tutu

I don’t want a moratorium on the death penalty. I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand why a country [USA] that’s so committed to human rights doesn’t find the death penalty an obscenity. – Desmond Tutu

We struggled against apartheid because we were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about. It is the same with homosexuality. The orientation is a given, not a matter of choice. It would be crazy for someone to choose to be gay, given the homophobia that is present. – Desmond Tutu

We are living in an historic moment. We are each called to take part in a great transformation. Our survival as a species is threatened by global warming, economic meltdown, and an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. Yet these threats offer an opportunity to awaken as an interconnected and beloved community. – Desmond Tutu

Bringing people together is what i call ‘ubuntu,’ which means ‘I am because we are.’ Far too often people think of themselves as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. – Desmond Tutu

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. – Desmond Tutu

As much as the world has an instinct for evil and is a breeding ground for genocide, holocaust, slavery, racism, war, oppression, and injustice, the world has an even greateer instinct for goodness, rebirth, mercy, beauty, truth, freedom and love. – Desmond Tutu

Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for. – Desmond Tutu

If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family. – Desmond Tutu

The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked. – Desmond Tutu

Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? – Desmond Tutu

We must act now and wake up to our moral obligations. The poor and vulnerable are members of God’s family and are the most severely affected by droughts, high temperatures, the flooding of coastal cities, and more severe and unpredictable weather events resulting from climate change. We, who should have been responsible stewards preserving our vulnerable, fragile planet home, have been wantonly wasteful through our reckless consumerism, devouring irreplaceable natural resources. – Desmond Tutu

The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons. – Desmond Tutu

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. – Desmond Tutu

Forgiveness is abandoning your right to revenge. – Desmond Tutu

True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute. – Desmond Tutu

Most of the leading figures of the Old Testament were polygamists. Abraham had several wives and concubines. If they wanted, they could say this was approved in the Bible. – Desmond Tutu

It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone. And never let anyone tell you that what you are doing is insignificant. – Desmond Tutu

Instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another. – Desmond Tutu

Universal education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity, to pave the way toward making many more nations self-sufficient and self-sustaining. – Desmond Tutu

God is not upset that Gandhi was not a Christian, because God is not a Christian! All of God’s children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God. – Desmond Tutu

I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. – Desmond Tutu

Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are. Those little bits can come together and almost overwhelm the world. Each one of us can be an oasis of peace. – Desmond Tutu

God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion. – Desmond Tutu

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won’t let ambulances reach the injured. – Desmond Tutu

It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible. – Desmond Tutu

People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change. – Desmond Tutu

We spend billions on banks when we know that a fraction of this money could save all the children in the world. – Desmond Tutu

When you go to the Holy Land and see what’s being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it’s the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa. Whether you want to say Israel practices apartheid is immaterial. They are doing things, given their history, you think,Do you remember what happened to you?Then they clobber you and say,You are anti-Semitic. – Desmond Tutu

The heart of the Christian Gospel is precisely that God is the all holy One; the all powerful One is also the One full of mercy and compassion. He is not a neutral God inhabiting some inaccessible Mount Olympus. He is a God who cares about His children and cares enormously for the weak, the poor, the naked, the downtrodden, the despised. He takes their side not because they are good, since many of them are demonstrably not so. He takes their side because He is that kind of God, and they have no one else to champion them. – Desmond Tutu

It isn’t that it’s questionable when you speak up for the right of people with different sexual orientation. People took some part of us and used it to discriminate against us. In our case, it was our ethnicity; it’s precisely the same thing for sexual orientation. People are killed because they’re gay. – Desmond Tutu

Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened. – Desmond Tutu

The abolition of the death penalty is making us a civilized society. It shows we actually do mean business when we say we have reverence for life. – Desmond Tutu

I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged. – Desmond Tutu

Sometimes you want to whisper in God’s ear,God, we know you are in charge, but why don’t you make it slightly more obvious? – Desmond Tutu

Goodness is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death. Victory is ours through Him who loved us. – Desmond Tutu

People often speak of God being even-handed. God is not even-handed. God is biased, in favor of the weak, of the despised. – Desmond Tutu

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. No more can it be dismissed as science fiction; we are already feeling the effects. – Desmond Tutu

If we are going to see real development in the world then our best investment is WOMEN! – Desmond Tutu

Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning. – Desmond Tutu

Isn’t it sad, that in a time when we face so many devastating problems – poverty, HIV/AIDS, war and conflict – that in our Communion we should be investing so much time and energy on disagreement about sexual orientation? [The Communion, which] used to be known for embodying the attribute of comprehensiveness, of inclusiveness, where we were meant to accommodate all and diverse views, saying we may differ in our theology but we belong together as sisters and brothers [now seems] hell-bent on excommunicating one another. God must look on and God must weep. – Desmond Tutu

In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love Him but how much He loves us. And God loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t. – Desmond Tutu

God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion. – Desmond Tutu

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human…. you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life. – Desmond Tutu

My message to the international community is that our silence and complicity especially on the situation in Gaza shames us all. It is almost like the behaviour of the military junta in Burma – Desmond Tutu

Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action. – Desmond Tutu

Poverty – the greatest cause of human suffering on the planet – is itself exacerbated by conflict, competition for resources, injustice, even the global downturn and climate change. Diseases like AIDS, TB and malaria cannot be tackled without adequate resources. So you see everything is connected. In order to address any major cause of human suffering, we have to work together across many fronts. – Desmond Tutu

Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. – Desmond Tutu

There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in. – Desmond Tutu

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. – Desmond Tutu

We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family. – Desmond Tutu

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. – Desmond Tutu

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. – Desmond Tutu

I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. – Desmond Tutu

My father always used to say,Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument. – Desmond Tutu

To treat anyone as if they were less than human, less than a brother or a sister, no matter what they have done, is to contravene the very laws of our humanity. – Desmond Tutu

You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can’t be neutral. – Desmond Tutu

We are all connected. What unites us is our common humanity. I don’t want to oversimplify things – but the suffering of a mother who has lost her child is not dependent on her nationality, ethnicity or religion. White, black, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim or Jew – pain is pain – joy is joy. – Desmond Tutu

Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other. – Desmond Tutu

To remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice. – Desmond Tutu

There’s no way in which you can ever win a war against terror. As long as there are conditions in many parts of the world that make people desperate: poverty, disease, ignorance, etc. I hope that we will discover soon, that we can survive, only together. We can prosper only together. And I think people are beginning to realize this, that you can’t have pockets of prosperity in one part of the world and huge deserts of poverty and deprivation and think you can have a stable, secure world. – Desmond Tutu

Africans believe in something that is difficult to render in English. We call it ubuntu, botho. It means the essence of being human. You know when it is there and when it is absent. It speaks about humaneness, gentleness, hospitality, putting yourself out on behalf of others, being vulnerable. It embraces compassion and toughness. It recognizes that my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. – Desmond Tutu

It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul. – Desmond Tutu

Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread, or stick in someone’s back. – Desmond Tutu

I’m absolutely, utterly, and completely certain that God wouldn’t be homophobic. I’d much rather go to hell – I really would much rather go to hell – than go to a homophobic heaven. – Desmond Tutu

Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity – or because of their sexual orientation. – Desmond Tutu

We are each made for goodness, love and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths. – Desmond Tutu

Without memory, there is no healing. Without forgiveness, there is no future. – Desmond Tutu

We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. – Desmond Tutu

Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dank because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart. – Desmond Tutu

I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t. – Desmond Tutu

You stand out in the crowd only because you have these many, many carrying you on their shoulders. – Desmond Tutu

In its history, Europe has committed so many massacres and horrors that it should bow its own head in shame. – Desmond Tutu

But God can only smile because only God can know what is coming next. – Desmond Tutu

Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden. – Desmond Tutu

We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low. – Desmond Tutu

The minute you got the Nobel Peace Prize, things that I said yesterday, with nobody paying too much attention, I say the same things after I got it – oh! It was quite crucial for people, and it helped our morale because apartheid did look invincible. – Desmond Tutu

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value. – Desmond Tutu

How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns? – Desmond Tutu

As human beings we have the most extraordinary capacity for evil. We can perpetrate some of the most horrendous atrocities. – Desmond Tutu

I don’t think I’ve ever felt that same kind of peace, the kind of serenity that I felt after acknowledging that maybe I was going to die of this TB. – Desmond Tutu

Europe became rich because it exploited Africa; and the Africans know that. – Desmond Tutu

When we see the face of a child, we think of the future. We think of their dreams about what they might become, and what they might accomplish. – Desmond Tutu

In the Bible, we first encounter God when he sides with a bunch of slaves against a powerful Pharaoh, an act of grace freely given. – Desmond Tutu

Oh, 1994, April 27. There won’t be a day like that ever again. I mean, the sky was blue, with a blueness that had never been there before. – Desmond Tutu

Niger is not an isolated island of desperation. It lies within a sea of problems across Africa – particularly the ‘forgotten emergencies’ in poor countries or regions with little strategic or material appeal. – Desmond Tutu

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime. – Desmond Tutu

You must show the world that you abhor fighting. – Desmond Tutu

When you think of the sort of things that happen when a genocide happens, it’s again not people who are intrinsically evil. – Desmond Tutu

Peace comes when you talk to the guy you most hate. And that’s where the courage of a leader comes, because when you sit down with your enemy, you as a leader must already have very considerable confidence from your own constituency. – Desmond Tutu

Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies. – Desmond Tutu

I certainly know that I would not be able to survive if it were not for the fact that I am being upheld by the prayers of so many people. – Desmond Tutu

God is patient with us to become the God’s children he wants us to be but you really can see him weeping. – Desmond Tutu

For goodness sake, will they hear, will white people hear what we are trying to say? Please, all we are asking you to do is to recognize that we are humans, too. – Desmond Tutu

In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied many of them fundamental human rights. – Desmond Tutu

We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. – Desmond Tutu

Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity. – Desmond Tutu

The universe can take quite a while to deliver. – Desmond Tutu

Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice. – Desmond Tutu

For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. – Desmond Tutu

The God who existed before any religion counts on you to make the oneness of the human family known and celebrated. – Desmond Tutu

Before Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was an angry, relatively young man. He founded the ANC’s military wing. When he was released, he surprised everyone because he was talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and not about revenge. – Desmond Tutu

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are. – Desmond Tutu

In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies. – Desmond Tutu

Many people would be surprised that, in fact, I’m quite shy. – Desmond Tutu

We would like to see you departing peacefully. – Desmond Tutu

I am a leader by default, only because nature does not allow a vacuum. – Desmond Tutu

It’s a blessing that South Africa has a man like Nelson Mandela. – Desmond Tutu

All the United States, it is a society that is split like to the bottom, that had very poor people in the country that is one of the wealthiest countries. – Desmond Tutu

Those who invest in South Africa should not think they are doing us a favor; they are here for what they get out of our cheap and abundant labor, and they should know that they are buttressing one of the most vicious systems. – Desmond Tutu

I mean in the South African case, many of those who were part of death squads would have been respectable members of their white community, people who went to church on Sunday, every Sunday. – Desmond Tutu

In the land of my birth I cannot vote, whereas a young person of eighteen can vote. And why? Because he or she possesses that wonderful biological attribute – a white skin. – Desmond Tutu

In many ways, when you’re a Nobel peace laureate, you have an obligation to humankind, to society. – Desmond Tutu

When a pile of cups is tottering on the edge of the table and you warn that they will crash to the ground, in South Africa you are blamed when that happens. – Desmond Tutu

I’ve never doubted that apartheid – because it was of itself fundamentally, intrinsically evil – was going to bite the dust eventually. – Desmond Tutu

What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled? – Desmond Tutu

A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons. – Desmond Tutu

I think that most of us would prefer to be popular than unpopular. – Desmond Tutu

Full houses at the Assembly Rooms. To keep Michele sweet. That’s basically it. – Desmond Tutu

I said yes, and Tutu said, ‘He’s not very articulate,’ which he isn’t. He said, ‘Is he the most loved man in the world?’ I said yes. ‘Who is the most loved woman?’ Mother Teresa was still alive at the time, so I said her. He replied, ‘Yes, and what are these people? These people are good. And why do we love them? Because they warm us. They warm us.’ – Desmond Tutu

Most poor people I know are proud and really want not a handout but a hand up. They do have an inherent pride and dignity, and we should treat them as those who have fallen on bad days. – Desmond Tutu

I would hope that wherever I was I would be me. I have been influenced by some wonderful people who showed me that there is an integral relationship between faith and life at home. Evil is evil, repression is repression anywhere. And if it is not consistent with what one believes is God’s will, then I would hope that one would be able to witness it, and there are wonderful people who do so in very great risks to themselves. – Desmond Tutu

I think it is a good exercise to ask oneself,How would I have wanted to be treated? – Desmond Tutu

I suppose being the kind of creatures we [people] are, we like to censor the past, and are selective, or want to be selective about the things that we remember. If you want to destroy people, destroy their memory, destroy their history. – Desmond Tutu

In order to turn around and do something better, we must first escape the vicious circle of self-righteousness and denial. And that calls for the humility to say I’m sorry. Please forgive me. – Desmond Tutu

Catharsis returns us to the purpose for which were originally intended – to be called by God to do good – and thus ultimately returns us to ourselves. – Desmond Tutu

Human beings can be awful, but they can also be tremendous. – Desmond Tutu

One of the things we might want to learn when considering the failings of others is not to gloat because someone else has tripped up. – Desmond Tutu

People sometimes strive after and think they will find deep satisfaction for their psyches in wealth, sex or drugs, but then find that ultimately these things do not satisfy human longings. – Desmond Tutu

Catharsis is about cleansing and healing at one and the same time – healing memories and attitudes, healing the spirit and the heart. – Desmond Tutu

I have absolutely no objection to performance and success as long as they don’t become false idols and threaten to rule our lives. – Desmond Tutu

Life is funny and we are really funny, especially when we get to be hoity toity; we can be so ridiculous. Life is fun. – Desmond Tutu

I certainly don’t think we [The Elders organization] are oracles but I would hope that over our lifetimes we have accumulated some useful experience and perhaps even a modicum of wisdom! We don’t have all the answers. – Desmond Tutu

Race should not be used to claim privileges and rights for one group, exclusively, which are denied other different groups. Then that is an illegitimate use of race. – Desmond Tutu

Only if we face up to our past can we regain our credibility. If we pretend that our trust is greater than it is, we will be like someone who tries to patch over a crack. – Desmond Tutu

You tend to think that your time is either the best or the worst, and then when you have a sense of history, you’ll realize actually, no, there were times things were quite gusty in the world. I mean, just think, nowadays most people will say they support the advancement of women, woman has been equal, the fact that we’re so aware of the gustiness, in a sense, also speaks about the heightening of our own sensitivity. – Desmond Tutu

Each of us has a God-shaped space within us. Only God can fill that space. But we run ourselves ragged trying to find things other than God to fill it with. – Desmond Tutu

We can arrive at better solutions to any problem or pain together, than we can by ourselves. The beauty of the modern age is that you are able to source answers, and sometimes the genius is in the combination of ideas and energy that does not reside in only one person. – Desmond Tutu

The acknowledgement that this person is English, white, or French, or German, this is Portuguese, this is Rwandan, this is Senegalese, this is a black South Africans is a glorious thing. To speak of those positively, to say that they have characteristics, each one of them, that the others almost always do not have, and that there is a complementarily about it. – Desmond Tutu

Some people are able to use Bible as a means of opposing injustice, whereas others are able to find justification. – Desmond Tutu

Dream of a world where children can laugh and play and not be blown up by a mine they thought was a toy. – Desmond Tutu

An abusive relationship should be easy to identify though often one of the most difficult to end. – Desmond Tutu

We must return to the fundamentals; the fundamentals being that you count. That is where you start from. That you count; you matter for God. That is a fantastic realization, and one that very few of us actually get to accept. – Desmond Tutu

The leaders that the world admires seem almost all to be people who haven’t had things quite so smooth or easy in their lives. – Desmond Tutu

Our Christian faith is actually very subversive of the conventional notion of success – the notion that what invests a person with worth is something extrinsic. – Desmond Tutu

Trust is one of the fundamentals of human existence. We need to be able to trust one another. A man who can no longer trust anyone will become sick. – Desmond Tutu

Human beings have a vested interest in being trustworthy. – Desmond Tutu

Once lost, trust can only be regained if we are as good as our word. – Desmond Tutu

I am a Nobel Peace laureate and my business should be to try to bring stability, not to be a red rag to bulls. – Desmond Tutu

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