WATCH: Archbishop Desmond Tutu Condemns 'New Apartheid'

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who fought South African racial apartheid while the late Nelson Mandela was doing the same from prison, speaks passionately against homophobia, calling it the 'new apartheid.'

BY Thom Senzee

July 14 2014 6:38 PM ET

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was a seminal figure in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, said in an interview with NBC News' Ann Curry that he would rather go to hell than to a heaven reigned over by a homophobic God.

"I am absolutely, utterly and completely certain that God wouldn't be…homophobic," Tutu told Curry, reiterating a sentiment he articulated more than a year ago at a rally hosted by the United Nations Human Rights Office in Cape Town, South Africa. 

The retired Anglican archbishop also said that oppression of LGBT people is the "new apartheid." As he has in the past, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner spoke disapprovingly of the use of religion as a weapon to oppress gays. Since many antigay activists cite the Bible as justification for their views, Curry asked Tutu how he reconciled his desire for acceptance of LGBT people with the Bible.

"You don't choose your sexual orientation," the archbishop said. "The Bible is the word of God. But it is the word of God through human beings."

Asserting that he cannot rest in retirement while discrimination against LGBT people thrives in many parts of the world — not least throughout much of Africa — Tutu called for an end to the oppression of people because of their sexual orientation.

"God sits there and weeps, because God says you know what, you're all my children, you're all members of one family — my family," Tutu said during the interview. "And when are you going to learn to live amicably together?"

Although he rose to sociopolitical prominence as a vocal opponent of South Africa's apartheid, the archbishop emeritus of Cape Town has frequently spoken out in support of LGBT equality, and against draconian legislation that criminalizes LGBT people. 

As Uganda's Parliament considered — and ultimately passed — its notorious "Anti-Homosexuality Act" at the end of 2013, Tutu admonished those in Uganda who would succumb to fear and homophobia, reminding them that "God does not discriminate."  

Watch Tutu explain how God cannot be a homophobe, below: 

Tags: Religion, World

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