Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has dedicated the receipt of India's highest international honour, the Gandhi Peace Prize, to "the people of South Africa, to the freedom of Darfur and to Aung Sans Suu Kyi", the Burmese leader held under house arrest - writes Anto Akkara from Thrissur, India, for Ecumenical News International(ENI).
The honour was conferred on the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who is the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, at a 31 January 2007 ceremony by Indian President Abdul Kalam in the presence of other government leaders.
The Indian government said it chose Archbishop Tutu for the award for his "invaluable contribution towards social and political transformation through dialogue and tolerance". It said Tutu "has been a tireless and staunch exponent of Mahatma Gandhi's methodology of non-violent action".
Tutu caught the Indian leadership unaware by strongly advocating independence for Tibet soon after receiving the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Press Trust of India reported, noting that India has delicate relations with China which insists Tibet is an integral part of it.
"We thank you for giving refuge to one of the greatest human beings, the Dalai Lama [the Tibetan spiritual leader], and pray that you help bring about freedom of his Tibet," said Archbishop Tutu after getting his prize.
The Gandhi award carries a cash prize of 10 million rupees (227,000 US dollars) and was instituted in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, known as a "prophet of non-violence".
Gandhi led a non-violent Indian freedom struggle against British colonial rulers and also fought racial segregation in South Africa, where he worked as a lawyer at the beginning of the 20th century.
"After participating in the intensive fight against the prevalence of apartheid system for decades, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been forging equality in South Africa through dialogue and tolerance as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi," said President Kalam in his tribute to Tutu.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "Today, in conferring the Gandhi Peace Prize, we are only adding our own voice to the global recognition of Bishop Tutu's Gandhism."
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]