Desmond Tutu has said that God calls us to be his partners in changing a "crazy" world of extreme economic inequality. The former archbishop made the remarks in the UK, while receiving an honourary doctorate from the University of Leicester on Friday (15 July).
He told his audience to "be as idealistic as you can ever be" after graduating. He urged them to "Dream God’s dream. Dream as you go out into a world that is so unequal. Dream of a different world."
Tutu, who drew international attention with his leadership role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, was awarded the honourary degree of Doctor of Letters in recognition of his work for race relations.
Tutu said, “You know, we have an extraordinary God who is omnipotent. But this God extraordinarily, paradoxically, is also impotent."
He explained, "When someone is hungry we do not see samosas floating down from heaven. If that hungry person is to be fed, this omnipotent God waits on us to be God’s partners so that the miracle of feeding the hungry happens."
Professor Gordon Campbell, speaking about Tutu at the ceremony, drew attention to the racial and religious diversity in Leicester. He said the city had stood alongside the people of South Africa in resisting apartheid.
“It was Dr Tutu who coined the phrase ‘rainbow nation’ to denote the ethnic mix of South Africa," explained Campbell, "We in Leicester live in Britain’s rainbow city, the most diverse city in the nation; we stood with the people of South Africa during the long years of apartheid".
Campbell added, "Dr Tutu lives a life energised by Christian belief, and Leicester, in the words of our bishop, is the most believing city in England".
Tutu spoke out strongly against the current state of the world and its "obscene" inequality.
"Ours is a world where children die of preventable disease because they cannot afford very cheap vaccines," he said, "Ours is a world where many go to bed hungry when others wonder what they are going to do with their surpluses. Ours is a world - crazy. We spend billions on what we call defence budgets. Billions. Obscene amounts. We know a small fraction would enable children everywhere in the world to have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, decent homes and affordable healthcare."
He told those graduating from the University of Leicester, "We need you to dream God’s dream of a world, a different kind of world, a compassionate world, a caring world, a sharing world. God says ‘I have no-one, except you.’ God says ‘Help me, please help me to realise my dream'."