Archbishop-emeritus Tutu’s statement in support of “Free Marwan Barghouti” campaign

Archbishop Emeritus Tutu’s message on the occasion of the global call to free Palestinian political prisoners

I am proud to associate myself with the global campaign for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and other Palestinian political prisoners.

I congratulate Mr Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner in South Africa, for personally leading this initiative. He is a man of steely principle and compassion for whom the struggle for non-racialism, human rights and justice will not end as long as there is unfairness in the world.

I can think of no better place than Robben Island for the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation to launch this global call for justice in Palestine and Israel. It was on Robben Island that Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Robert Sobukwe, Ahmed Kathrada and so many other South African prisoners of conscience were incarcerated. Their freedom, when it eventually dawned, symbolised all of our freedom.

As South Africans, we feel very proud to be able put our experience of the power of solidarity into action for the benefit of others, under the leadership of Mr Kathrada.

South Africa could not have achieved its democracy without the contribution of friends around the world. Indeed, when the world linked arms in solidarity with our struggle for freedom we became an irresistable force. We learned that when people unite behind a righteous cause there is nothing that can stop them.

Of course, when the world demanded Nelson Mandela’s freedom, it was also demanding the freedom of all his imprisoned colleagues. And it was demanding justice and democracy in South Africa. 

As it was in South Africa, so it is in Palestine. When we call for Marwan Barghouti’s freedom, we are calling for the freedom of all political prisoners and resolution of all injustice in Palestine and Israel. I would particularly like to welcome Mrs Fadwa Barghouti’s presence in the campaign. It reminds us of the brave role Winnie Mandela played in keeping the memory of Mr Mandela and the struggle alive.

In South Africa there is a relatively small word with a big meaning – ubuntu. It describes our inter-connectedness, our dependence on one another. We are all sisters and brothers in God’s family. All of us: Black, white, pink, green, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim, American, Palestinian, Israeli…

Our humanity, our well-being, our security, our prosperity, our love is bound up with yours.

I add my voice to those of Mr Kathrada’s and Mrs Baghouti’s – and all the others around the world – who are calling on Israel to step back from the precipice of division and prejudice, and free political prisoners. Their liberation will also liberate you. 

Genuine dialogue between genuine leaders is the only recipe to achieve lasting peace in Palestine and Israel, lasting peace from which the entire human family will benefit.

God bless you!


+ Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

27 October 2013



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