Riot victims invited to show with Desmond Tutu

Pic: Joshua Wanyama

Human rights defender Desmond Tutu will speak in Croydon about how to resolve tensions and divisions in the UK.

The international peace campaigner and former Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, will host a “national conversation” at the Park Lane venue.

Local people, organisations and schools will be involved in what the Tutu Foundation said would be a huge “participatory” discussion.

Maurice Reeves,whose furniture shop was burned down during the riots last year, has been invited to appear with Tutu.

It is part of the Tutu Foundation’s mission to spread the South African philosophy of Ubuntu in “areas of social tension across the UK.”

The group aims to support emerging local leaders, promote inclusion and give leadership coaching to community groups.

Colleen Harris, the Foundation’s media advisor, said: “It’s about creating dialogue between older people and younger people, people from different groups, and different backgrounds, to try and promote better understanding between us all.”

Tutu is likely to address the causes and effects of the riots which tore through Croydon in August last year.

Harris said Croydon had seen “a certain amount of tension” but had been “very hospitable” towards the organisers.

She said: “When there are moments of conflict or moments of crisis, it’s easy to turn to legislation or other more aggressive forms of action rather than looking to negotiate, learn how to deal with conflict, and to try and reach some kind of conclusion.”

The show will also include Tutu’s daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu, and involve “words, dance and music” –  although the Foundation confirmed that Tutu, now 80, does not plan to dance himself.

Then again, Harris said: “Who knows?”

Tutu was instrumental in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which sought to unravel the tortured history of the divided state.

Ubuntu is a philosophy focusing not on individuals as independent actors but on their relationships with each other and their dependence on mutual recognition of humanity.

Tutu said: “We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours.”

The Archbishop emeritus announced he would retire from public life at the age of 79, but seems to have found that a hard resolution to keep and will be returning to the UK for the event.

Harris said: “As with all great people, they can’t resist the opportunity to speak out – and we need them to speak out.”

He has visited Fairfield once before, being interviewed by Sir Trevor McDonald in August 2010.

See the Fairfield Halls website for bookings.


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