Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Before the Archbishop speaks, we have a short presentation by Jackie Parker, Deputy Director of Amnesty International. I’d like you now to welcome Jackie Parker onto the rostrum. [Applause]
Hello. I’m absolutely delighted to be here today to represent Amnesty International in this great city of Hull on the occasion of the Wilberforce Public Lecture and Hull Seven Hundred. The leadership of Kingston-upon-Hull Council, in sponsoring these lectures and supporting the cause of Human Rights, shows that Hull is proud to continue in the tradition of its famous son. William Wilberforce is usually credited, and deservedly so, as the man who led the campaign to abolish slavery in England but, in fact, his work, some 200 years ago now, was also the start of a bigger project that we’re still engaged in today.
Amnesty International, as some of you will know, was first founded in 1961 on the back of a newspaper article entitled, “The Forgotten Prisoners,” about those who had been jailed simply for expressing their beliefs or exercising their conscience. Peter Benenson, our founder, ended the article by saying, “Governments are prepared to follow only where public opinion leads. Pressure of opinion in the last century brought about the emancipation of the slaves. It is now for man to insist on the same freedom for his mind that he’d want for his body.”
We, at Amnesty International, have worked ever since to free prisoners of conscience so that the freedom of expression of women and men everywhere could live. But, increasingly, we have found ourselves working not just for those who are jailed because of what they thought or what they said but also for those abused just because of who they are. In prison for being black, press ganged into the army just because they’re children, beaten for being lesbian or gay, or dispossessed or slaughtered just for being from the wrong ethnic group.
Such persecution on account of identity is something that the people of South Africa and our honoured guest tonight know all about but, as the shadow of Apartheid recedes further into the past with South Africa’s second free elections this week, we must also recognise that freedom from the past does not come from forgetting the past. On the contrary, we have seen from places as far as Latin America to the Balkans, letting those who’ve committed human rights violations get away with what they’ve done is the surest way to endanger the future. Freedom means the end of slavery and the absence of abuse but it also means truth and justice.
Through his work with the Truth & Reconciliation Committee, few people in the world can have confronted these terrible issues more squarely than Archbishop Tutu. I am extremely honoured to share a platform with him tonight and, in addition to all the other welcomes I’m sure he has already received in Hull, I would like to extend to him the very warmest welcome from Amnesty International. Thank you.
I thank you, Jackie. Could I say now that the people of Hull are especially pleased to receive in our midst today Desmond Tutu who, of course, is a Freeman of the City. The spirit of Wilberforce lives on – and we speak tonight and we’re here tonight in the shadow of the monument of the great man – in many ways. The Council pays the Amnesty International affiliation fees for the local group. We were the first council to sign up to Jubilee 2000. We were the first city to twin with a third world community; in our case Freetown in Sierra Leone which itself has Wilberforce connections, and the three Members of Parliament on the platform tonight. By being Members of Parliament for Hull, once represented by William Wilberforce, are also Vice-Presidents of the Anti-Slavery Association, the organisation founded by Wilberforce and continues its work even to this very day.
Desmond Tutu is to give the fifth Wilberforce lecture. These started in order to concentrate and focus our attention upon human tragedy and civil rights issues in the world today. Previously, we’ve had lectures on East Timor, on Burma, Nigeria, Sierra Leone. Tonight, the Archbishop will touch on some of the matters raised by George Foulkes when he addressed us previously on the subject of world debt. As I’ve already pointed out, the Archbishop is no stranger to Hull, he’s been in our midst before, and those who’ve heard him speak in that memorable sermon in Holy Trinity will never ever forget some of his words.
Let me just recall some of them. When the Archbishop reminded us that he was an educated man, he was an Archbishop, he was feted throughout the world, but in his own country then he could not vote. He had not a vote, and he’d reached the age of 60. Things have moved on. We also remember his dramatic words when he said, “God is not neutral. God is not neutral. Got takes sides, and he takes the side of the oppressed, he takes the side of disadvantaged, he takes the side of the marginalised;” words which I know touched the hearts of many people in Hull that night. And those who were privileged to have been at the dinner afterwards will recall the Archbishop in a moment of inspiration standing up and began to sing, “We Shall Overcome,” and we all joined hands, not knowing then whether Apartheid would ever be destroyed, let alone disappear within a very short time indeed.
I say all that because the role of Archbishop Tutu has already being referred to by Jackie Parker, and I’ll just refer to that in a moment, but it would be remiss of me tonight not to thank everybody who’s made this possible. The team that’s been working here for many days, from the kindness we’ve received from the media to the work of the City Council team, and also for our sponsors, ICL. But tonight – and I’m glad the sun is shining now – we’re due to listen to a Freeman of the City of Kingston-upon-Hull, a former Archbishop of Cape Town, an advocate of reconciliation and justice, and a fighter for freedom and a defender of human rights.
We’re indeed privileged here in the city of Wilberforce to be able to listen to a man whose spirit, whose enthusiasm and whose life stands in tribute to the same spirit of that man from Hull. So I ask you now to receive His Grace, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. [Applause]
Thank you, thank you. Hello.
I can’t hear you. Hello!
How wonderful, wonderful, to be here. You are such splendid, splendid people. Congratulations on your 700th birthday, but you all look so young. [Laughter]. I have to tell you that I went to the Netherlands because they had named a school after me – now, that’s not the important part of the story. The school was celebrating its 400th anniversary, and when my wife and I arrived a little girl came up to me and said, “Were you here when the school started?” [Laughter]. I hadn’t thought I looked quite so decrepit.
All of you very, very dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, I come from South Africa which many had predicted would be overwhelmed by the most ghastly bloodbath. It did not happen. We won a spectacular victory over one of the most vicious systems the world has ever known since Nazism. Despite the direst predictions that South Africa would very soon degenerate into another example of a disaster caused by a black-led government and that our first democratic elections would almost certainly turn out to be our last, South Africa has again confounded the prophets of doom because yesterday that country went to its second democratic election and, what is more, its first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela, who has amazed the world with his remarkable magnanimity and readiness to forgive the oppressors of his people, has stepped down voluntarily.
He will almost certainly be being succeeded by Thabo Mbeki in a small transition of power that has been a rarity in the so-called Third World. [Applause]. South Africa is free, South Africa is democratic, and South Africa is striving to be non-sexist and non-racial. We were supported in our struggle against Apartheid awfulness by the international community. Our victory is your victory, and we know how passionate and strong was the support that came from the people of Hull. In the darkest days of our struggle to show your commitment, you gave me the freedom of your city to proclaim your unswerving support. How appropriate that I should be here today as the recipient of a medal that commemorates an outstanding son of Hull, whose perseverance, whose evangelical faith and fervour made him the leader of the movement to end the awful scourge on humanity; the slave trade and slavery itself.
John Wesley, in his last letter to William Wilberforce, warning him of the obloquy and vilification that awaited him for embarking on this crusade, spoke of Wilberforce’s, and I quote, “glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England and of human nature.” He encouraged him to persevere if God had raised him up for this work, for then no one would prevail against him. We celebrate his success in helping England end the obscenity of slavery. What a gloriously appropriate occasion that I should be able to express on behalf of millions of God’s children in South Africa our heartfelt thanks for your help in ending yet another scourge, another obscenity, Apartheid, which held millions of God’s children enthralled to the madness of racist oppression and injustice.
Both slavery and Apartheid fundamentally were blasphemous for they denied the intrinsic work of each individual person as being created in the image of God. They asserted slavery and Apartheid, but what invested people with value, with worth, was a biological irrelevance; skin colour and race. You know, in South Africa, there was a time when they set aside all sorts of facilities, institutions, beaches according to race. If you wanted to go to a university, it wasn’t your academic ability that was primary qualification, it was race.
So I said, just to try and show the utter ridiculousness of this, supposing instead of skin colour we were to say size of nose, and we said, “Well, now look, this university is set aside for people”, since I have a large nose we say, “This university is set aside for people with large noses only. Your first qualification to enter university is not your academic ability, it’s size of nose. Large noses only. If you have a small nose, then you have to apply to the Minister of Small Nose Affairs to get permission to attend the University for Large Noses.” Now, that clearly is a nonsense. What we were about is to remind people that every single person, whether you’re tall, whether you’re stumpy like me, whether you are substantial, whether you are hour-glass figure, whether you are clever or foolish, whether you are beautiful or not so beautiful.
Hey, the tremendous thing is each person, each single one of us, has a worth that is intrinsic. That each single one of us, even as we stand here, you’re beautiful people. Each single one of us could each have been the image of God, is there for God’s representative. You are God’s stand-in, and to treat any one such person as if they were less than this is not just evil, which it is, it’s not just painful as it frequently would be for the victims, it is veritably blasphemous because it is as equal as spitting in the face of God. So here in Hull you recognised this; you recognised it about slavery, you recognised it about Apartheid, that these were blasphemous and that each one of us, whatever our political views, would be constrained by our faith to stand against this blasphemy. You did. You did, because you know that racism, slavery, that these can’t ever be benign things.
It was racism that gave us slavery. It was racism that gave us the holocaust. It was racism that gave us the lynchings in the United States of America. It was racism that gave us the awfulness of Apartheid. It was racism that – it is racism that gives us these extraordinary things called ethnic cleansing, as happened in the Balkans. And so I come, greatly privileged, to say on behalf of millions of our people back home, hey, we came asking for help. You gave the help, and we say to us in order to destroy Apartheid, we’ve succeeded. We’ve succeeded and they come and I say thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
In America, in the United States, they will say that that was a lousy applause. That really is lousy because, of course, I know, I know the British, oh you are so shy. [Laughter]. You are so inhibited and reserved and you will not let your hair down, such as it might be. I am turning you, I am turning you into instant South Africans, all of you. And will you stand, you who are sitting here? I know you will refuse me nothing today. Please stand. I want a real humdinger. A real standing ovation for … [Applause and cheers]
That’s better. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are beautiful people. Because it is important that you know we can change things. So how frequently people speak about get impotence. Tragic, because we can, when we want to, change things. You did end Nazism. You ended slavery. You ended Apartheid. It was you, you, you, sitting there and others in other places who are assisted us and Apartheid was overthrown, and you can look on with real pride in your achievement. You look on and say, “Had we not succeeded to overthrow Apartheid, the world would not have known that a Nelson Mandela could be so magnanimous; that a Nelson Mandela could be such a wonderful icon of reconciliation. The world would not have known. It is because you’ve done what you did that the world thrills about the incredible goodness of people.
There is a lot of evil in the world, yes, there’s no doubt about that, there is a great deal of evil. But let me remind you, ten years ago when I came here, we didn’t think about being the end. And we, all of us together, and we’ve got to say it’s wonderful to be alive in a century that has produced a Mother Theresa, a Nelson Mandela. It’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, and it’s wonderful to be human when there are such wonderful people like yourself. And so you ought to be able to say, “Yes, we know we can prevail against any evil,” because it is not the last word about us human beings.
In the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, we were often overwhelmed by the capacity of human beings to be evil. We, all of us, all of us, that we could say we abducted him, we shot him in the head, we burnt his body, and as we were burning his body, because it takes so long to burn a human body we were having a barbecue on the side. We were drinking beer and we were having a jolly time, and you say, “Have we sunk so low?” Of course, yes, we have sunk so low but that’s not the last word about us.
You hear a woman say was victim of a hand grenade, attacked by one of the liberation movement, which left her badly injured. She spent a long time in ICU and had open heart surgery. You know, she comes along to the Commission and she says of an experience that left her in this condition, that when she came out of hospital, it was her children who bathed her, who clothed her, who fed her, who did the kind of things that you and I take for granted. And she said, “I can’t walk through the security checkpoint at an airport because I’ve still got shrapnel,” and she said, she said of this experience that leaves her in this condition, “It has enriched my life” she says. And then she said, “I would like to meet the perpetrator. I’d like to meet the perpetrator in a spirit of forgiveness,” which is a wonderful thing. “I’d like to forgive him.” And then she shatters you by saying that, “And I hope he forgives me.” And then you say evil, darkness, ghastliness; those are not the last things about us, human beings. The last word is about our capacity for boldness. The capacity of people who suffered grievously to be able to forgive.
I want you to go away from here knowing that we are made for goodness. We are made for beauty. We are made for laughter. We are made for joy. We’re made for goodness. We’re made for compassion, for gentleness, for sharing. I want to finish because I want to make an appeal to you and, again, I suspect that you are not likely to refuse me. It is to ask for your enthusiastic endorsement for a campaign in line with your great traditions of supporting movements of liberation and freedom. Today, most of the third world is held in bondage and slavery as awful in its devastating consequences as that against William Wilberforce campaigned so assiduously and so successfully. Most of this so-called third world is groaning under the burden of the most crippling and debilitating international debt.
Now, I could give you statistics such as in Ethiopia, a hundred thousand children die annually from easily preventable disease while the government of that country spends four times on debt repayment what it spends on healthcare. Now, those are statistics, you can dismiss them. How about personalising them? How about personalising them? How about if you look at your little darling. These beautiful kids around here. Look at your little darling; maybe your granddaughter. Imagine your granddaughter, your grandson, your son, your daughter, fading away before your very eyes and there is nothing you can do because your child or your grandchild has not been able to get fairly straightforward inoculations, say against measles. And you can do nothing about it because you’re feeling yourself debilitated for you have not had enough to eat. Maybe, maybe you had nothing to eat for the whole day. Nothing.
We’re not talking fairytales. We’re not talking statistics. We’re talking about people of flesh and blood like you. Maybe we should be saying more correctly flesh and bones and pot bellies. I don’t need to produce a tear-jerker. In Mozambique, one out of four children dies before aged five. The government of that country pays four times on debt servicing, the repayment on the principle and on the interest. Four times on that what is spent on healthcare. In Africa there is a net outflow. Now, that is bizarre. That is bizarre, apart from being bizarre it’s immoral. That the poor have to produce money that goes to the rich. That’s a nonsense. [Applause].
They say in Africa in 1996, for every one dollar that was received in aid they had to spend one dollar with one cent on debt repayment. You know the scenario. They are shackled to poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger, death. Resources that ought to be spent on building roads, building clinics, providing people with clean water, making healthcare affordable and accessible, all the things that make for social and economic viability are diverted disastrously. So what am I asking you, having brought you – well actually, you’ve been there. I don’t have to – you are the converted but I’m doing this for the sake of the world that is not converted out there.
We are asking, as I asked in 1993, for goodness sake, for God’s sake, can’t we follow the Jubilee Principle? The Jubilee Principle is the one that is found in Leviticus, Chapter 25, which says every fifty years debts are cancelled, those who are enslaved are set free and any mortgage property is returned to the original owners to give people the chance of a new beginning. And I said then, “Now that Apartheid is ended, the next moral issue for the world is this international debt.” And I ask you, people of Hull, my city, and I’ll maybe say so tomorrow, [Applause] when I speak to what will then be my university, the University of Hull. I will say, “Dear fellow members of this great university, please be enthusiastic supporters of Jubilee 2000 because there they are saying let’s scrap the debt as we enter this new millennium. Give people in poor countries the opportunity of making a new beginning.”
Now, just to show that maybe we’re not too starry-eyed, I said in Opsala in 1993, “Let there be a moratorium on debt repayments for six months, and let the money so saved be used for the benefit of the people directly in projects that can be monitored as benefiting the people.” That’s the first condition. The second condition, that there should be real efforts at democratisation in that particular country. Third, human rights must clearly be being respected and upheld in those countries. Those are things that can in fact be monitored and tested out. And fourth, most of these countries spend obscene amounts on their armies, which are useless, most of them, useless for defending the people. They are past-masters at oppressing the people they ought to be defending. [Applause].
And so the fourth condition would be that they should be working at a campaign for demilitarisation. If these conditions are met, I said, let the debt be scrapped. It is in line with what Jubilee 2000 is saying because, you see, the mood has changed. Your Chancellor of the Exchequer is suggesting a programme that is very radical in the view of the G7 or G8, and the IMF and the World Bank have tried with their highly indebted poor countries initiative. It’s not good enough. Really, it isn’t good enough what they’ve suggested because they still go towards their structural adjustment programme, which hits at the most vulnerable; at the poor, at the hungry, at the weak, and our Lord would not agree to that. Because our Lord said, “In as much as you do it to the least of these, you are doing it to me.” And, I have to say, I have tried very hard to extract all the good that I could see in structural adjustment programmes and so on, I haven’t. I think they’re obnoxious. I think, and I’ve told the IMF and the World Bank before that I think their structural adjustment programmes are immoral. [Applause]. So I finish by asking fellow citizens of Hull, do you agree to support Jubilee 2000?
Yes! [Applause and cheers].
Now, I want to ask you, I want to ask you, I want you to say no to bondage and … [unclear] okay? When I say one, two, you guys, you want to stand? Come, stand. You’ve been sitting too long. Stand, stand, stand. How about having your hands up, up in the air and you go that way, you go that way. You say, “No, to bondage.”
No, to bondage.
No, to bondage.
Yes, to freedom.
Yes, to freedom.
No, to bondage.
No, to bondage.
Yes, to freedom.
Yes, to freedom.
No, to international debt.
No, to international debt.
Yes, to Jubilee 2000.
Yes, to Jubilee 2000.
No, no, to international debt.
No, no, to international debt.
Yes, to Jubilee 2000.
Yes, to Jubilee 2000. [Applause and cheers].
Right, what about that? Thank you very much, Archbishop. I now call upon the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State for the Environment & Transport of the regions, Member of Parliament for East Hull and the Vice-President of the Anti-Slavery Society, John Prescott, to give a vote of thanks. Deputy Prime Minister.
My Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress, members of Parliament, distinguished guests, Your Grace Archbishop Desmond Tutu, it is really wonderful to be with you tonight, isn’t it? Now, get up and say, yes.
No. I think he’s just won! [Laughter]. No wonder they had a landslide victory in South Africa yesterday. [Applause]. Here was a man talking from his heart but borne out of experience and conviction, that we recognise is what brought the change in South Africa. It’s a great honour for me to give this vote of thanks to a great man dedicated to a great cause, to establishment of human rights and the abolition of that evil system of Apartheid. He said to us today that wasn’t it wonderful to live in a century where, in fact, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela, but isn’t it we should have added Archbishop Desmond Tutu also? [Applause and cheers].
I will now refer to him as I think his personality shows he would like, to Desmond because he is a citizen of Hull, a Freeman of Hull and we’re proud to have you as a citizen of Hull. [Applause]. All of this great city, a city with great tradition and great history, salutes you, Nelson Mandela and all those in that struggle that ended that pernicious Apartheid system. Our admiration for your courage, commitment knows no bounds, but hearing you tonight reminds us that people who have been oppressed for so long, subjected to such indignity, can still come forward and govern with generosity and a desire for reconciliation. That is something we have had also, and the world admires it. It’s a great triumph for democracy that such people are able to show, despite such oppression, that you can have democracy and to confound all those prophets of doom who suggested blood would follow in South Africa.
And yesterday a landslide victory, a second landslide democratic victory for the ANC and we offer our congratulations to them. It’s, therefore, a particular pleasure to say this today at the time of the election, we have watched on our television the people exercising their democratic right in South Africa for which they have waited so long; for Desmond to be the age of 60 before he had the right to vote. Now, here in this country, the time we’re now having our Euro elections, that people don’t want to bother to vote. Remember, democracy is about voting. Remember, democracy is about participation, and remember the … in South Africa who fought hard for that right to vote. So we offer our congratulations at the second great landslide victory for the ANC. Please convey our congratulations to all involved in that. [Applause].
Now, when you said those words, Desmond, you said many things that stirred our hearts, but when you said South Africa free, South Africa democratic and then had the generosity to share your pleasure with us to say we all played a part in helping to bring down that regime, we thank you for your generosity in offering such thanks. [Applause].
I shall be particular proud in ten days’ time to represent this country, my government, at the inauguration of the new President, Thabo Mbeki, in ten days’ time, and when I am there in offering the congratulations of my country, my government, I will also be doing it on behalf of the citizens of Hull and I shall be thinking of this event today. [Applause].
My second reason connects today’s celebration, why I am particularly pleased to be giving the vote of thanks. As you know, Desmond, you were at the church today and the service for our 700th anniversary of the charter given to us by Edward I. You know, the relationship between the people of Hull and monarchy’s not always been even over history, and I was reminded of that today when I sat in that church and saw our monarch in one pew and remembered that, in our history, that church used to be used not only for the wonderful poetry of Andrew Marvell but also for the storing of the alms. I don’t know but that’s what it was in history. And the King came to this city not many yards away, King Charles, and they denied him entry. Why? Because Parliament was in conflict with monarchy and the people of Hull started with democracy and that established in this country after a civil war, and a King that lost his head, a different time in the history of this town. We established the modern principles of democracy, and that is what we celebrate today, that of democracy whether in Britain or, indeed, in South Africa.
Likewise, some years later to which you have referred, Desmond, another citizen of Hull, William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament for Hull for which we Members of Parliament are extremely privileged to follow in his footsteps, fought indeed over 40 years, and I think that was the time period it took you to get rid of Apartheid as well in that struggle. A similar time to end slavery, that first version of Apartheid, and that highlights the importance of the democratic struggle and the democracy of human rights.
And, indeed, that struggle continues today, and you have referred to its new form. The new form of colonialism, a new form of economic colonialism which appeals as Desmond did to us, everyone, every day, today; that it is our obligation to recognise what is happening in the third world, as wealth grows that the rich countries get richer the poor get poorer, and we cannot stand aside and see that happen when it’s millions of people who die simply because they don’t have the food or the resources or have to use more money to pay interest on debts and loans followed by previous administrations. That’s the great moral challenge for us, as Desmond has said. We can’t move away from that.
That is the challenge of some importance, and I was pleased that Desmond mentioned Gordon Brown and, indeed, my own government which have started the argument with the rich countries to say that you’ve got to cut and reduce and drop, if necessary, the debt, that you must make a start. His proposal to reduce by £50 billion the debt is a step forward. The establishment of a Millennium Trust Fund to begin to assist and provide the resources to meet the needs of the people that Desmond talked about is another start. And even the controversy of calling on the IMF to sell its gold to use those resources to meet the higher priority of the needs of people and not the needs of capital is the greater moral answer to that problem. [Applause]. Of course there are many problems. Of course it will be a long road, it was for Apartheid, but do bear in mind there are people suffering and dying at the moment because we are not finding a solution to that problem. So that is one aspect of that issue of economic colonialism.
And let me tell you one aspect of it. It is one thing to get democracy. It’s another one to establish human rights and, as Desmond said, they’re essential that they’re brought together. But I’ll tell you the greatest threats to democracy and, indeed, human rights, it’s hunger and misery, the denial of education, the denial of health, the denial that democracy means anything but the simple sham of a democratic system that can’t meet the needs of its people. So the second stage, as Desmond says to us, when he called on us to support Jubilee 2000 was to say the struggle continues and democracy itself is sustained by economic prosperity and the sharing of happiness by people of receiving education and the sharing in that prosperity.
The second aspect I’ve found as a Minister is that of the environment. There’s a great deal of talk about the environment and its rights. We are poisoning the world, and the rich nations particularly, by exhaust gas emissions. We are getting the problems of climate change, but we then turn to the third countries and say, “You can’t grow as fast, you cannot go through the process of industrialisation because you will poison the world.” They have to go the process of industrialisation, it’s an essential requirement to sustain democracy and human rights in these countries. It is for the rich countries to give way and to take those chances and give opportunities to those who have not had that opportunity. It is a new form of economic colonialism, if we don’t recognise we have to make the steps first. We have to make the choice. We have to join Desmond’s moral crusade. That’s the big challenge for us as we enter the next millennium.
So, it is with great pleasure and great pride that I have the opportunity to say thank you to you, Desmond, for ending what has been a wonderful day for this city, for connecting and reminding us that the greatest thing in life for all our people is the guarantee of democracy, some food to eat and the chance to develop your own potential and opportunity. That’s what the third world wants, that’s what we need to give, and it’s been wonderful to hear the experience of Desmond today and give us that assurance, and to share in this victory and call on us to do more to help them in other countries. That’s the obligation. Hull has never been short in meeting that, so thank you for coming to us tonight, Desmond. [Applause].
Thank you. [Applause].