Dalai Lama: Desmond Tutu 'very precious in this troubled world'

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seated next to his wife Leah Tutu, at the St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Saturday on his 86th birthday. (Aletta Harrison, News24)
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, seated next to his wife Leah Tutu, at the St. George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Saturday on his 86th birthday. (Aletta Harrison, News24)

Cape Town – Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu should live "at least [a] few years" more, the Dalai Lama said in celebration of Tutu's 86th birthday on Saturday.  

"You really impact millions of people's minds…The only remedy you see [for a] problem is compassion, forgiveness, love, tolerance ... [and] you always ... teach these values and you yourself practice these things", the Dalai Lama said.

"Your life is very precious in this troubled world, [people] like you we really need."

A video of the Dalai Lama's address was played at Tutu's birthday celebrations at the St George's Cathedral in the Cape Town CBD where an Arch was revealed in honour of Tutu's life and work. 

Smiling brightly

Tutu smiled brightly throughout the Dalai Lama's address, clasping his hands and giggling as the Dalai Lama told him he should enjoy some wine on his birthday. 

"I can smell it from here," the Dalai Lama said jokingly. 

He said due to a "feeling of tiredness" he had to cancel a trip to Botswana, but believed he would see Tutu in the near future when he felt better. 

"Until our meeting, please take care of your health and physical condition… and take more rest."

WATCH: Arch Desmond Tutu speaks at his 86th birthday

In 2011, Tutu had invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to South Africa to attend his 80th birthday celebrations. However, after delays in issuing him with a visa, the Dalai Lama cancelled his trip. 

Spokesperson for the International Relations and Co-operation Ministry Clayson Monyela said at the time that South Africa had not been under any external pressure not to allow the spiritual leader into the country and insisted that normal procedures were followed.

This was despite beliefs by some that South African authorities feared jeopardising ties with their key trade partner China.

Well wishes

Several high placed dignitaries attended the gathering at the cathedral, while U2 front man and philanthropist Bono and the Norwegian Nobel Committee chairperson Berit Reiss-Andersen sent congratulatory messages via videos. 

City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, who commissioned the Design Indaba to create the the Arch for Arch monument in honour of Tutu's legacy, said he remained "a leading light advocating for peace, equality and reconciliation".

She hoped that the monument would remind South Africans of their duty to protect the Constitution.

Upholding the Constitution

"The Arch for Arch representing the 14 chapters of our Constitution must be a constant reminder to all of us about where we come from and to uphold the values contained in our Constitution."

De Lille said over time, the Constitution had become more democratic than some of those individuals who had helped draft it.

She was among those who helped to draft it, adding that at the time all the powers were given to the president of the country, because "we had Tata Madiba in mind".

It was not expected that so soon after democracy was attained, that the moral fabric of leadership would no longer be the same, De Lille said. 


Tutu surprised the audience

In an unexpected move, Tutu surprised the audience by insisting to thank the audience for coming.

He walked to the podium, climbing a flight of stairs, with the assistance of the Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane. 

"I just want you to know how deeply [my wife and I] have been moved."

Tutu recalled when the Cathedral was a sanctuary and in reference to the Cape Town peace march of 1989, he said about 30 000 gathered there and "the walls of 'unfreedom' toppled".

"It's amazing, I mean now [to] come in here and see all you beautiful people."

A jubilant Tutu thanked representatives of other faith groups attending the gathering. "[This is] not just a Christian thing; it was all of us together," he said.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are who we are because of you."

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