Archbishop Desmond Tutu Honorary Freedom speech

"My Lord Mayor I should like to express my huge appreciation and gratitude for the kind words to me my wife and my family spoken by the Chamberlain on behalf of the City and Corporation of London. We are most honoured by the generous and warm hospitality of the City of London for the second time this year as has already been mention.

Indeed, it was only in May this year that I was privileged to be in the City of London, at Guildhall, to receive the Templeton Prize. It is always a pleasure for Leah and me to be in London. For that is where we first came as a family in 1962 as I had been appointed as curator of St Albans Church in Golders Green. There we were warmly welcomed into the Christian arms of many wonderful people including a very young Sarah Muggeridge, now Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketors in City of London and a founder Trustee of the Tutu Foundation UK. It is Sarah who brought me here today and it is wonderful to be among so many of our friends that I have seen in the audience.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I had been brought up in a tradition of love for Great Britain and its democratic institutions. But at the time of coming to London in the 1960’s my wife and I were not free people in our own country. We relished the freedom and respect that London offered me and my family. I have often recounted how we particularly liked asking for directions from your wonderful British bobbies, even when we knew where we were going. What a pleasure to be addressed politely as sir and my wife as madam.

In London I studied for my Bachelor’s degree in Theology and gained Master’s at Kings College. I visited my Alma Mater again last week and was delighted to see that splendid institution thriving under the continuing stewardships of it’s Principal Sir Rick Trainor and it’s Dean, The Rev. Professor Richard Burridge. It’s also good for the ego to see my face large and prominent in one of the windows of the building at Aldwich where there is a Student’s bar in the College called Tutu’s.

Prior to my return to South Africa we moved from North London to a ministry in leafy Surrey at St Mary’s Church, Bletchingley and we made many more friends there, some of whom are with us today.

My peace and reconciliation work has been mentioned. The Tutu Foundation UK was launched six years ago as a continuation of this. The Foundation’s mission is to transform lives and communities here in the UK by building peace, respect, understanding and connections between people of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. The South African concept of Ubuntu, also mentioned, shows how we can be fully human, only when we value and appreciate one another, recognising that what we have in common is far greater than the differences between us.

Individuals in communities are best placed to identify the issues of tension and conflict within them and find their own practical solutions. To this end, the Tutu Foundation provides a safe space for community members to engage constructively with each other and encourages collective action to build bridges across the divides. I’m glad to pay a warm tribute to it’s trustees and staff, present and past.

What an honour to be granted Honorary Freedom of this great City. Much of my life, like that of my dear friend Nelson Mandela, has been in pursuit of freedom in South Africa and elsewhere. I note that one of the traditional associations with the Freedom of the City of London is that of the privilege of driving sheep over London Bridge. In a sense I have perhaps been acting with others such as Trevor Huddleston and many others, all my life as a shepherd with a difficult flock, needing to be driven in the right direction.

My Lord Mayor may I once again thank you for the honour you and the City of London have bestowed on me before I return this afternoon with my family to Cape Town. I leave as a citizen of this principal commercial global capital with happy memories, of this occasion and a deep sense of gratitude.

Thank you all.”