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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, June 26, 2007
    Weak and razor sharp
     
    Archbishop Tutu beat illness to speak at the Metropolitan Cathedral this evening. I was there among the grey and good to greet him (actually our pew was relatively youthful, none over fifty, and I don't think any of us are under too many illusions about our relative goodness). Clearly not the man, physically, that he once was, Tutu had cancelled his appointments this morning and his lecture tonight felt short. But the spark was there still, if only in brief gleeful moments.

    More importantly the heart of the man was still on clear display. His theme was 'Ours is a Moral Universe' which once it sinks in seems a ridiculous statement, in the face of ... well, pretty much everything going on in the world today. But Tutu insisted that each of us have antenna which are trained onto goodness - hence the universal popularity of figures such as Mother Teresa and the Dali Lama (he said, studiously neglecting to include his own name, though our various lengthy applauses this evening might have told him where he stands in our estimation).

    I guess it's that hopeful view of humanity's heart which has enabled him to believe in the seemingly ridiculous projects which he has led to acclaim over the years, not least the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which seems to me to have demonstrated more effectively than anything else in my lifetime, on a world stage, the relevance, validity and effectiveness of nonviolent conflict resolution.

    So Desmond didn't talk for long, and though I couldn't contain my disappointment that I'd not seen him at his best, it was comforting to share with friends the thought that "at least we've seen him, at least we've been here to stand and give him our applause." Coming home afterwards though that didn't feel like enough. Because though it was more feebly stated tonight, when you stop to listen to it closely again, Tutu's message remains razor sharp, and demands a response.

    Tutu was here to officially open Liverpool Hope University's Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies and I guess I'm left thinking that if tonight comes to mean anything in the long term it must mean the people of this city and its academe working hard to ensure that that Centre shines, becomes a powerhouse for influential thinking and a foundation for vital action in the cause of peace.

    I guess I'm left thinking that if tonight comes to mean anything for me personally it may be that for the first time ever I properly grasp the power in one of Tutu's best-known (thus most easily disregarded) quotations: "Good 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 loves us." A frail old man has caused me to wonder whether I ever really believed in those words, and to hope that maybe one day I really will.