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University of Groningen honours Desmond Tutu with honorary doctorate

07 July 2012

The University of Groningen will present South African spiritual leader Desmond Tutu with an honorary doctorate on 24 September 2012. The Archbishop will receive the honorary doctorate on the recommendation of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies owing to his exceptional performance as Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and for his substantial services to society in the field of health.

‘The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is strongly influenced by Tutu’s ideas about restorative justice,’ said honorary supervisor Prof. Geurt Henk van Kooten, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. ‘That idea, based on the principle that “truth liberates – even without prison sentences”, originates from an impressive combination of Christian theologicical ideas and traditional Afrikaans humanist philosophy, Ubuntu. It is fascinating how Tutu has managed to interweave religion with culture. The idea of religion as a binding factor ties in seamlessly with the research subjects of our Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain and the University of Groningen’s focus area of sustainable society. Rather than being a cause of a conflict, religion can also contribute to resolving conflicts and to the sustainability of society.’

Nobel Laureate

Desmond Tutu was the first black Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Cape Town. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts in the fight against apartheid. Later, Tutu received a lot of praise for his chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which promoted the peaceful reconciliation of different population groups after the fall of the apartheid regime. In 2006, he received the human rights prize, Light of Truth Award, and in August 2009 he was distinguished by the American president, Barack Obama, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In September, Tutu will tour Europe at the invitation of Prof. Harold Robles, founder and president of the Medical Knowledge Institute (MKI). The MKI, of which Tutu is a patron, endeavours to improve the living standards of the population in southern Africa. It does this in cooperation with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. Both organizations mainly focus on basic information and education in the field of health and hygiene.


Tutu is also the Chairman of The Elders, an independent group of world leaders that dedicates itself to world peace and human rights. His inspiring and reconciling leadership resulted in two honours students of the University of Groningen taking the initiative of suggesting an honorary doctorate for Tutu. Earlier this year, the students organized a conference on market forces in healthcare within the framework of the Master’s Honours Programme ‘Leadership: making a difference’ where they met Harold Robles of MKI.

Note for the press

More information on the honorary doctorate: University of Groningen Communication Department, Tel. +31 (0)50-363 4444, e-mail
For information on MKI and/or on the visit of Desmond Tutu to the Netherlands: Patrick de Leede, Tel. +31 (0)6 21 54 6995, e-mail:
Further news regarding the award of the honorary doctorate on Monday 24 September 2012 and the opportunity of attending the ceremony will follow in September.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.28 p.m.
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