Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007

Daughter of Bishop Desmond Tutu speaks to Montgomery College

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Bishop Desmond Tutu’s daughter, the Rev. Mpho Tutu delivered a simple message to the Montgomery College community Tuesday morning: Resolving conflict is achievable through forgiveness and reconciliation.

‘‘Forgiveness accomplishes a freeing of the heart,” Tutu told the crowd of more than 200 in the Theatre Arts Arena at the Rockville campus.

Tutu, daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and first black to become General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, is the assisting priest at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. She founded the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage in 2005 in Alexandria, Va.

Tulin Levitas, a philosophy professor at Montgomery College, invited Tutu to speak after attending her ‘‘Living the Ministry of Reconciliation” at the National Cathedral in October. Levitas also teaches a class called ‘‘Concepts of Forgiveness,” which she created as part of her Fulbright grant she received to study in South Africa in 2004.

‘‘I was quite inspired by what I learned there,” Levitas said.

Tutu, 39, is often asked to speak at college campuses and churches, but she said she enjoys speaking to young people because of their energy and drive.

‘‘They make me feel hopeful because they tend to be the ones who believe in the ability to change the world,” Tutu said. ‘‘All of us always have the ability to change the world.”

During Tuesday’s lecture, Tutu discussed the concept of forgiveness with emphasis on the work her father did as a civil rights activist during apartheid in South Africa. Mpho Tutu also spent time studying and teaching in South Africa.

While in South Africa, she obtained a grant from the Episcopal Evangelical Education Society to start a pastoral care ministry for rape victims. She also served for five years as director of the Bishop Desmond Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund that provides full four-year college scholarships for South African and Namibian refugees.

Tutu was ordained a priest in 2004 by her father in Christ Church in Alexandria and continued working there for three years.

She said that while black South Africans struggled under the oppression of the white minority during apartheid, conflict resolution was achieved not by retaliation, but through reconciliation.

She noted the ‘‘courageous leadership” of South African President Nelson Mandela who called for that reconciliation.

‘‘What we saw instead was the opportunity to create a society on different terms, a society on terms of true reconciliation, a society on which there was an opportunity for healing the profound wounds of the past, and that came about because of the courageous leadership,” Tutu said.

A mix of students, faculty, staff and community members attended the lecture and discussion and asked about how conflict can be resolved in other countries suffering from injustice and how reconciliation can be achieved within oneself.

‘‘I was delighted by the questions,” Tutu said after the discussion. ‘‘There were a wide range and the people were very informed, which is always nice.”

Bryce Hoover, 18, said he found Tutu’s lecture insightful.

‘‘I respect what she’s doing and how she’s using her gifts to make the world a better place, especially in South Africa,” Hoover said.

Hoover is an electrical engineering major at Montgomery College who is interested in working in Third World countries. He was also among many students in the audience who are in the Scholars Program, which requires philosophy courses. The Scholars Program is a selective two-year honors program for high school graduates who plan to transfer to a four-year college.

Bob White, a philosophy professor, said he teaches a section on South Africa every semester and has embedded Tutu’s lecture into this semester’s lessons.

‘‘My hope is that they take away the desire to work for reconciling communities and the knowledge that each of us as individuals has a role to play in building these kinds of communities,” Tutu said.