Lots of people will be posting this Desmond Tutu quote today, but it’s probably worth contextualising that this came from a man who opposed capitalism, was keenly aware of the climate emergency and opposed apartheid in Israel as well as South Africa. This was a man who said he wouldn’t want to go to a homophobic heaven and criticised his own government for not giving a visa to the Dalai Lama.

With the benefit of hindsight, many people say they would have opposed apartheid in South Africa, whilst being unwilling to acknowledge the radicalism it took to overcome it. Desmond Tutu is a man who held fast to his principles when it wasn’t fashionable to do so. He will be fondly remembered, but in the 70s and 80s he made some dangerous enemies by speaking truth to power. As an atheist myself, Desmond Tutu is a powerful example of why the left cannot and shouldn’t write off the compassion and humanity that can be displayed by religious figures.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

– Desmond Tutu, 1984, Oslo