Birthday wishes from around the world as Tutu turns 90
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Cape Town - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu nodded his head to the sound of music that filled St George's Cathedral in celebration of his 90th birthday.
In a rare public appearance since he retired from public life in 2010, members of the public joined Tutu in a Eucharist service organised by the Anglican church.
Seated with his wife, Leah, and his three children, Mpho, Thandeka and Trevor and some of his grandchildren, Tutu listened attentively to the event's proceedings, nodding occasionally in response.
Tributes poured in from across the world in honour of the cleric who led the church's struggle against apartheid in the 80s and early 90s.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message read: “You continue to remind us that fellowship, solidarity, charity and compassion for the vulnerable are values common to us all, and we should strive to live by them each day. We are further reminded that taking up the struggle for equality and social justice is not the responsibility of only the government, civil society organisations or the clergy, but of us all."
The United States also paid tribute to the Nobel Peace laureate with a message from US President Joe Biden. "America salutes your life's work promoting racial reconciliation, freedom and democracy. You are an inspiration to so many American citizens".
Fellow activist, Rev Allan Boesak set the tone of the celebrations.
"When you suggested a 2 % tax on the wealthy to redress the exploitation of black people, a young man responded by saying this old man must die, but for people like that young man today is a day of unfulfilled desires. But for us this is a great day," said Boesak.
He said said Tutu understood that he would walk a "different path" during apartheid and was the voice of conscience to the church.
"Wake up, you said to the church, see the oppression of our people. You reminded us that there was a struggle going on, we cannot be neutral, “ said Boesak
He added that plans to silence Tutu "failed" and his life continued to "speak" to South Africans.
"I see South Africa as the most unequal country in the world, corruption everywhere, hunger, gender based violence which has become a pandemic, many young people who have become lost; we wait for justice but there is none, you too, have seen it all," Boesak said .
However, he added that the fight against injustice would not be in vain.
After the service Tutu retured home where he would spend the rest of his special day with his children, grandchildren and close family.
Later in the evening Tutu will also watch a premiere of the film Mission Joy: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, in which he and the Dalai Lama discuss how to find joy amid personal suffering.
The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation also hosted the annual Peace Lecture on Thursday, titled, Speaking Truth to Power: No Future without Justice.
Speakers who were expected to participate included humanitarian Graca Machel, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the Dalai Lama.