To be a rabble-rouser for peace may seem to be a contradiction in terms. And yet it is the perfect description for Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and spiritual father of a democractic South Africa. Tutu understood that justice-a genuine regard for human rights-is the only real foundation for peace. Tutu has led one of the great lives of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and to read his story in full is to be reminded of the power of one inspired man to change history.
To be a rabble-rouser for peace may seem to be a contradiction in terms. And yet it is the perfect description for Desmond Tutu, Nobel laureate and spiritual father of a democratic South Africa. Tutu understood that justice -- a genuine regard for human rights -- is the only real foundation for peace. And so he stirred up trouble, courageously engaging in heated face-to-face confrontations with South Africa's leaders; he stirred up trouble in the streets, leading peaceful demonstrations amid the barely controlled fury of police battalions; he stirred up trouble on the world stage, seeking international disinvestment in the apartheid economy.
Tutu has led one of the great lives of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and to read his story in full is to be reminded of the power of one inspired man to change history. In this authorized biography, written by John Allen, a distinguished journalist and longtime associate of Tutu, we are witnesses to courage, stirring oratory, and a demonstration of the power of faith to transform the seemingly intransigent.
We know in retrospect that the apartheid resistance movement was successful and that South Africa, though not without its problems, today faces an infinitely brighter future than it might if it had not been for the efforts of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and other leaders.
But no such outcome was ever a certainty. Through the author's personal experiences, total access to the Tutu family and their papers, and considerable research, including the use of new archival material, Allen tells the story of a barefoot schoolboy from a deprived black township who became an international symbol of the democratic spirit and of religious faith.
Allen personally observed how Tutu, at genuine risk to his own safety, repeatedly intervened between armed soldiers and stone-throwing students to keep the peace, how he faced constant death threats and angrily stood up to the leaders of the cruel apartheid system. Using his own faith as a cudgel, Tutu asked those officials to confront their own Christian background and made them reconcile their actions with their own professions of belief.
Often through the sheer power of moral example and with a lyrical command of the English language, Tutu was able to appeal to the conscience of the world and to the emotions of an angry crowd in the streets. And then, when the battle for South African rights was finally won, it was Tutu who insisted on finding a path to forgive the former oppressors by strongly backing and serving on the unprecedented Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Today, the archbishop continues to appeal to the world's conscience by opposing the continuance of war and the inadequacy of the international response to the AIDS/HIV crisis sweeping Africa. He has led a life of commitment, one that continues to matter.
John Allen has movingly captured the flavor and details of that life and marshaled them into a commanding story, one that sheds light on the struggles and triumphs of our times.
John Allen is a South African journalist who served as director of communications for that country's groundbreaking Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and for Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York. He is a former president of the South African Society of Journalists and has received awards in South Africa for defense of press freedom and in the United States for excellence in religious journalism.
"This book gives remarkable insights into how Tutu's spiritual worldview and discipline molded him into the preeminent religious leader in South Africa's struggle against racism and a passionate advocate of human rights internationally." -- Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and Nobel Peace Laureate
"In the cover photo of Rabble-Rouser for Peace, Desmond Tutu appears to be carrying a Bible. Of course. His passion and courage follow in the truth-telling tradition of the prophets, and his insistence on peace and forgiveness brings the teachings of Jesus to bear on some of the thorniest problems of modern life. For those of us who might become weary of fighting injustice and intolerance, there is the example of this lion of a man with a tender heart, who has demonstrated what a difference one person can make." -- Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Senior Minister, The Riverside Church, New York City
"This is the story of a slight, sickly black boy, living at the margins of South African society, who grew up to be a towering figure of moral power, religious significance, and political impact -- one of the very few great human beings of our age. There is no one on earth who will not profit from reading this story, told with such precision, sympathy, and mounting dramatic tension by John Allen. But don't bother to pick it up unless you are willing to be transformed into a better person than you are at the present moment." -- Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization and The Gifts of the Jews
"This is a riveting book. John Allen has given us a profound portrait of one of the few great human beings of our age and of the country he did so much to save. He shows Archbishop Tutu in all his courage, his uproarious humor, his passion. And he discloses much that happened behind the scenes in the struggle that finally brought a peaceful revolution to South Africa." -- Anthony Lewis, former columnist, The New York Times, and author of Gideon's Trumpet
"[W]ritten with the vividness of a novel...Allen...doesn't tell Tutu's story with the piousness of a press flack; just the opposite...[He] brings a figure of sometimes saintly proportions to human scale, revealing Tutu's hard-nosed, pragmatic, and wily sides."
-- Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
"One might have expected a tame, worshipful "authorized" biography of Tutu, but this one really captures the full man. It will probably remain definitive."
-- The Christian Century
"Rabble Rouser for Peace connects the publicly political Tutu to the privately spiritual one, showing the seamless flow from one to the other...[Allen's] reporting is impeccable."
-- The Baltimore Sun
"I am suffering from acute withdrawal symptoms. Never before has reading a book had this effect on me. This life of Desmond Tutu, which I could hardly put down, is not only the work of a sensitive and perceptive journalist but of a person so intuitive, so inside his subject, that this could almost be an autobiography -- almost, but not quite, for John Allen who has long worked closely with Desmond Tutu can also stand back and look at the man he admires with a critical eye. Authorised this portrait may be, but it is not hagiography."
-- Paul Oestreicher, The Friend, UK Quaker journal
"Allen's wonderfully humanising biography offers plenty of cheerful anecdote and serious insight...Where [it] has an edge over previous and, most probably, future efforts to capture Tutu's life is that he tells us, with the intimacy only a trusted friend could glean, what was going on inside Tutu's head: his misgivings, his fears, his disappointments, his ambitions as he wrestled the apartheid beast."
-- John Carlin, The Observer
"The definitive study of the life of one of South Africa's great heroes...A full, rich account of Tutu's life..."
-- Organizers of South Africa's Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction (for which Rabble-Rouser for Peace was short-listed).
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