Nobel Peace Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu addressed a packed gathering of clergy, dignitaries, tourists, families and activists during a short service of prayer at St Martin'-in-the-Field, in London, last night.
In a wide ranging sermon he praised the work of St Martin's, condemned the recent violent actions of South Africans against Zimbabwean refugees and called for the resignation of President Robert Mugabe.
Prior to delivering the sermon, Dr Tutu blessed three statues, carved in Zimbabwean jacaranda wood, that depict Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus and an angel. He called for them to be used as a focus for personal prayer that inspires people to remember God's love for the people of Zimbabwe and the world.
During a very personal sermon, the archbishop examined the idea of hope for peace. He covered the struggles for reconciliation and justice in Northern Ireland and South Africa. Dr Tutu suggested those attending use these case-studies as inspirational examples in acting for peace, because "there is no way injustice and oppression will ever have the last word".
He focussed especially upon the situation in Zimbabwe. Commenting on the twenty year premiership of Robert Mugabe, the archbishop said it was "a dream turned into the most horrendous nightmare".
He called for the UN to send a peacekeeping force to Zimbabwe to prevent violence in the country, in particular during the upcoming electoral run-off for the position of president.
But even within Zimbabwe there is room for hope, said Dr Tutu. He talked of the "relatively peaceful" transition to democracy in South Africa and urged those attending the service to see it as a source of hope for the situations in Burma, Zimbabwe and Tibet.
But Archbishop Tutu's central message was presented with a veiled warning. He asked for forgiveness, as a South African, for the actions of his fellow countrymen and women recently, when they reacted with violence to refugees from Zimbabwe.
He used the stories of exodus within the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to illustrate a contrast between the actions in South Africa now and the actions of neighbouring countries when South Africans were themselves fleeing apartheid.
Reflecting upon the work of St Martins, famous for its extensive history of social outreach among the homeless of the West End, the Archbishop commented: "When Jesus looks down on St Martin's-in-the-Field he looks on with a smile on his face".
The service ended with a blessing from Dr Tutu in Xhosa and English.