Tutu accepts award with anti-war plea

Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu, world-renowned as a living icon of non-violence, evoked a standing ovation Wednesday from an interfaith crowd of about 1,200 in Gesu Church as he concluded an award acceptance speech with an appeal for the United States not to wage war on Iraq.

"God smiles through tears to see the many who oppose this war," said the 71-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa. "This is a great, great country, a generous country, a compassionate country, a country that helped Nelson Mandela come out of prison, a country which helped make South Africa free. . . .

"This is one of your traditions. Why would you want to tarnish it with a war most of the world opposes? Help to wipe the tears from God's eyes. God says, 'Yes, you and you and you can make a difference. You can help to realize my dream that my children, my children, you are a family.'"

Tutu was in Milwaukee to receive Marquette University's highest honor, the Pere Marquette Discovery Award. Named after the Jesuit missionary and explorer, the award is given to "individuals who achieve an extraordinary breakthrough which may be considered a discovery in some form of human knowledge or which adds to the advancement of the human person," according to the program booklet.

It has been given only three other times: in 1969, to the Apollo 11 astronauts; in 1979, to Father Karl Rahner, a German Jesuit theologian; and in 1981, to Mother Teresa for her missionary work with the poor in India.

Tutu, who weaved humility and humor into his vision that every human being is uniquely called by God to play a role in unifying humanity into a "rainbow" family, let his voice trail off softly with his final words about wiping the tears from God's eyes.

The crowd momentarily sat in silence as he abruptly left the lectern. Seconds later, it became clear that Tutu had ended his speech not with a roar of power, but as he has lived his life - with gentle, loving encouragement.

As the crowd rose, it was not possible to discern how much of the applause was out of respect for Tutu as the man who helped conquer the violence of apartheid with forgiveness, and how much was in support of his stance on Iraq.

Earlier, Tutu had said a war against Iraq would be immoral in God's view because it would not meet the requirements of a just war.

He dealt with Iraq near the end of his talk, emphasizing that a war would claim many innocent civilians' lives. But many of his earlier comments laid a foundation for his conclusions, especially his views that forgiveness and redemption are always possible.

Religious leaders from the Milwaukee area's Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities were seated in the sanctuary with Tutu.

In presenting the award to Tutu, Father Robert Wild, Marquette University's president, praised the Anglican archbishop as a man who "continues to play a defining role in the great human struggles of our time."

"In this nation, in our world as a whole, we face at present massive challenges and difficulties: the imminent threat of war; continuing, seemingly endless violence and counter violence fueled by ethnic, racial or religious hatreds; the growing use of terrorism as a weapon of choice; a prolonged economic downturn that is affecting almost every corner of the Earth," Wild said.

". . . Even so, as we gather in solidarity here, I cannot help but be moved to a deeper sense of hope and optimism about our destiny as a human community. I say that because there is certainly something energizing about having in our midst a giant of a human being like Archbishop Tutu. He is a man who exudes hope. Indeed, he personifies hope."

Earlier in the day, in a more informal setting, Tutu sat with a group of 20 high school and college students and discussed myriad topics from what "ingredients" make a great leader to the fundamentals of religion.

The students - all Desmond Tutu Emerging Leaders Award winners - peppered Tutu with a variety of questions for a no-holds-barred discussion.

Some wanted to know in post-apartheid South Africa, now that non-whites have political freedom, when would they achieve economic clout.

"If I knew that solution, I would be quite well-to-do," said Tutu, whose response elicited laughter.

"It has to do with global issues," Tutu told Marquette senior Herbert Sampson IV. "We have to change the world. Until we care about the effects of our sisters and brothers who are sick and hungry, you will constantly be concerned about terrorism. We are never going to win the war on terrorism with some of the conditions we have today."