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September 13, 2013

Desmond Tutu praises skeptics of Syria attacks

INDIANAPOLIS — South African anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu is praising Americans for being skeptical of a possible U.S. military attack on Syria.

The retired Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner told a Butler University lecture crowd Thursday night that he was glad to see the change in attitude following the “illegal, immoral invasion of Iraq” a decade ago, The Indianapolis Star reported.

“I salute the American people because they learned a lesson in 2003, because now a majority of the American people are saying no to a military intervention,” Tutu said. “You Americans are some of the most generous creatures God ever created. Why don’t you drop food and not bombs?”

The 81-year-old Tutu began his speech by asking the crowd of about 2,000 people for silence to recall the anniversaries of the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the Sept. 12, 1977, death of South African black student leader Steve Biko while in police custody.

Tutu was a vigorous campaigner against the system of white racist rule known as apartheid, which ended when democratic elections were held in 1994.

Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, thanked college students of a generation ago for staging demonstrations in the 1980s to get Congress — over a veto by President Ronald Reagan — to impose sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

“We would not have seen our freedom without your help,” he said.

Butler and the neighboring Christian Theological Seminary also announced Thursday the creation of The Desmond Tutu Center to promote leadership in social justice and reconciliation.

The Right Rev. Catherine Waynick, the Episcopal bishop of Indianapolis, said Tutu’s leadership through South Africa’s reconciliation process was a monumental exercise in forgiveness. She said she hoped that Tutu’s principles would translate into action in America fighting against things such as racism and economic injustice.

“It would be an amazing thing, if we could begin to tell ourselves the truth about those things,” Waynick said.

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