The Rainbow People of God: South Africa's Victory Over Apartheid by Desmond Tutu (Doubleday, 1994)

If there is to be reconciliation, we who are the ambassadors of Christ ... must be Christ's instrument of peace. -- Desmond Tutu

We are not animals. We are human beings who have feelings. -- Desmond Tutu

If we use methods such as [necklace murders] ... then my friends I am going to collect my family and leave a country that I love very deeply ... -- Desmond Tutu

In the post-apartheid era, following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison (see Nelson Mandela The Long Walk to Freedom), we tend to forget, that during the long dark days of apartheid, when Mandela was rotting in jail (much of it in solitary confinement), the one bright light of hope that shone out and illuminated the darkness of apartheid was the light of Desmond Tutu.

The Rainbow People of God is a collection of the speeches and sermons of Desmond Tutu. This edited collection put together by John Allen.

A minor criticism is that many of the entries are edited for length. Maybe Allen has cut at the waffle, although I have never known Desmond Tutu waffle. On the plus side, it means more can be squeezed into the book. A case of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

In this volume, we have more than a collection of letters, sermons and speeches. The Rainbow People of God documents the fall of apartheid. The fall is illustrated by a series of black and white photos.

It is easy to see why Nelson Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal and appointed his friend Desmond Tutu to head it. From the darkness days of apartheid, from a radical young priest in 1976 writing to South Africa's Prime Minister Vorster pleading for a better South Africa, a graveside sermon for the murdered Steve Biko, through the release of Mandela, through the first free elections in which all South Africans could vote, and during which the Blacks queued for hours in searing heat to cast their votes, and beyond, Desmond Tutu's was a voice that never called for anything other than truth and reconciliation. Indeed at the height of the necklace killings, black violence on black, Desmond Tutu threatened to leave South Africa, as it was not a country he recognised as his own.

Desmond Tutu, preaching in Tronso (north of the Arctic Circle), Norway (5 December 1991):

At home in South Africa I have sometimes said in big meetings where you have black and white together: “Raise your hands!” Then I've said, “Move your hands”, and I've said: “Look at your hands – different colours representing different people. You are the rainbow people of God.”

And you remember the rainbow in the Bible is the sign of peace. The rainbow is the sign of prosperity. We want peace, prosperity and justice and we can have it when all the people of God, the rainbow people of God, work together.

Also worth reading:

Desmond Tutu studied at King's College London, where in 2004, he was a Visiting Professor of Post-Conflict Societies. Was ordained in 1961, elevated to Bishop of Lesotho in 1976 and to Archbishop of South Africa in 1984. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 (one of the few deserving recipients). By the mid-1990s, he was recipient of least 50 honoury degrees from the world's leading seats of learning.

As he came to the end of his sabbatical as Visiting Professor of Post-Conflict Societies at King's, Desmond Tutu gave a very moving sermon on God welcoming all, in the Chapel of King's.

A few days after placing this on my web site, I was talking to David, rector of St Peter's, about Desmond Tutu and he asked me if I had read No Future Without Forgiveness. A couple of days later, I was in London, and bumped into the man himself, well almost. I was in Trafalgar Square and there was a big party for the tenth anniversary of freedom in South Africa, and who should be on the platform, why none other than Desmond Tutu.

A couple of weeks later, the theme at St Peter's was God. The speaker ended his discussion of God, with grace, and gave as example the moving account of the appearance of van de Broek before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and how he was shown mercy by one of his victims. Talking to the speaker afterward, he had got his account from the same source as myself - Philip Yancey's Rumours of Another World.

For Estie. And a special thanks to St Mark's, whose kind loan of The Rainbow People of God, made this review possible.
Books Worth Reading
(c) Keith Parkins 2004 -- May 2004 rev 2