Statement from the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, on 9 February 2015

Humanity has appeared tragically intent on destroying itself since terrorists struck with hijacked aircraft at the heart of America, in September 2001.

The extreme nature of the 9/11 attacks might have given us pause for thought and led to some deep earthly reflection on our vulnerability as people – and our inter-dependence.

But before the world had a moment to consider the global socio-political and economic environment that gave rise to the ghastly attack, and how best to fix the fault-lines, the United States and its allies responded with extreme force, invading Iraq and Afghanistan – and setting up a detention centre in Cuba that has become symbolic of immorality and human rights abuse.

Rather than focus on prioritising resolution of the conflict in the Holy Land, which plays such a vital role in hardening attitudes between followers of different faiths, the violence has been left to fester, the divisions to intensify. The extreme violence that Israel unleashed against Gaza last year may have temporarily stopped Hamas’ rockets – but also served to further entrench hatred.

New groups claiming to work in the name of God have emerged to terrorise Africa and the Middle-East, and strike fear around the world. They vie for attention by committing increasingly monstrous acts. And the powerful nations respond the only way they seem to know, with more bombs and drones and killing.

The recent immolation of Jordanian pilot Moaz Kasasbeh represented a new low in human behaviour, and the execution by Jordan of prisoners in response should also be deplored.

Violence begets violence. The world is crying out for dialogue, not angry responses, not war.

The people of the world need leaders with the breadth of vision to recognise the humanity of all, not only those who look like them or hold similar cultural beliefs.

It doesn’t matter where we come from or what we call God, we are ultimately sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, the only human family, God’s family – all of us – and this finite earth we share is the only one there is.

Only through speaking and listening and respecting each other can we create a better, fairer and more compassionate world. The secure world that the overwhelming majority of us want, that values all people, that recognises their inter-connectedness – that understands that my welfare is your welfare and my success is bound up in yours.

This is the greatest challenge of our time.


Issued for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation by Oryx Media.