Desmond Tutu urges Spanish authorities to engage in Catalan self-determination debate "like adults"
The South-African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has travelled to Barcelona to receive the XXVI Premi Internacional Catalunya, the highest tribute the Catalan Government accords following an independent jury's decision. The award recognises people who have made significant contributions to Humankind. Addressing journalists on Tuesday morning, ahead of the evening award ceremony in Barcelona, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke of the Spanish authorities' necessity of an open dialogue about Catalan independence. Tutu was surprised that such a vote could take place in Scotland but not in Catalonia. He stated that Spain's denial of the strong support for self-rule only exacerbates the problem. At the press conference, the Archbishop also touched upon the subject of King Juan Carlos' abdication, saying he believed a monarchy could be a force for good when "it helps draw people together", although he also underlined that all human beings are equal.
Barcelona (ACN).- The South-African Archbishop Desmond Tutu is visiting Barcelona to receive the XXVI Premi Internacional Catalunya, the highest tribute the Catalan Government accords each year following an independent jury's decision. The award recognises people who have made significant contributions to Humankind. Addressing journalists on Tuesday morning ahead of the evening award ceremony at the Generalitat Palace, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate spoke of the Spanish authorities' need to engage in an open dialogue about Catalan independence. Tutu was surprised that a self-determination vote could take place in Scotland but not in Catalonia. He stated that Spain's denial of the strong support for self-rule does not make the issue disappear and it only exacerbates "anti-feeling" . Tutu said he was praying for understanding between both Spain and Catalonia, and that "you behave as adults, not as scrappy teenagers." "Sensible people would say 'Of course, let us discuss this and find out how strong the support is for self-rule or independence'", he added. Cape Town's former Archbishop also touched upon the subject of King Juan Carlos' abdication, saying he believed a monarchy could be a force for good when "it helps draw people together", although he also underlined that all human beings are equal.
"Denying the support for independence does not make it disappear"
Desmond Tutu gave a press conference on Tuesday morning, at the Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of the Catalan Government. Later, he met with the Catalan President Artur Mas. When journalists asked him for his views about the issue of Catalonia's independence , Tutu – himself a strong supporter of the right of self-determination – called for greater dialogue between the Spanish authorities and the Catalan Government. The Archbishop opined: "I think sensible people would say, ´Of course, let us discuss this and find out how strong the support is for self-rule or independence.´ Because denying it, pretending the support is not there, does not make it disappear!" Tutu argued that such denial only intensifies the clamour for independence, "because if you deny it… it becomes something people want to fight about, and that exacerbates anti-feeling."
Tutu made comparisons with Scotland, which will be holding its own referendum for independence this coming September. "They are preparing a referendum because there are some Scots who do not want to be part of the United Kingdom," he recalled. There should be negotiation between "sensible people", according to Tutu, to respect the will of the majority. The South African Archbishop made clear he thought "adults" can discuss any issue, urging Spanish union advocates and independence supporters to "behave as adults, and not as scrappy teenagers".
Tutu also pointed out that the desire of Catalonia's self-government "is not new" and dates back centuries. He described how since the foundation of the Generalitat Palace in the fifteenth century, it has been dedicated to running the Catalan self-government institutions. Thus, the Nobel Peace Laureate rejected the idea that the separatist sentiment is limited to the economic situation and stressed the desirability that Catalans can freely choose what they want to be. "This is not something that arose yesterday," he underlined.
On the King´s abdication and the debate about the future of the monarchy
The Archbishop was inevitably called upon to comment on the news of the week and one of Spain's top stories of the year: the abdication of King Juan Carlos I. Tutu suggested that the King, as a 76 year old man, had made the right decision in giving his son a chance to reign but the Archbishop refrained from commenting more specifically on his resignation. Asked whether he thought a monarchy was an institution that had any place in the 21st century, Tutu responded: "Why not? It depends. Where people have a sense that the monarch helps to draw people together, or plays a significant role in the unity of society, then yes." However, he also underlined that all human beings are equal.
Tutu said that, like Martin Luther King, he also has a dream: "One day we will realize that all belong to the same family, the humanity." The Nobel Peace Prize 1984 laureate stressed that "we are all Africans," referring to scientific findings that demonstrate that humans originally came from this continent. "And what does the Bible say? The Bible says we all have one set of parents, Adam and Eve. God is saying, ´wake up – wake up to the fact you belong together.´"
Desmond Tutu´s "vigorous and constant struggle"
Established in 1989 by the Catalan Government, the Premi Internacional Catalunya (Catalunya International Award) is designed to honour individuals making a decisive contribution with their creative work to the development of cultural, scientific and human values around the world. Past laureates have included the activist and campaigner Malala Yusafzai, former Brazil President, Lula da Silva, former US President Jimmy Carter, Myanmar's democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Catalan bishop Pere Casaldáliga, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, British writer Doris Lessing, European Commission’s President Jacques Delors, Indian economist Amartya Sen, Russian musician Mstislav Rostropovich and British philosopher Karl Popper, among others.
The jury recognized Tutu's "vigorous and constant struggle for social justice and for bettering the conditions of the oppressed, with exceptional integrity, courage and ability." The philosopher and President of the jury, Xavier Rubert de Ventós, praised the figure of Tutu as champion of equality and social rights in his clear opposition to South-African Apartheid regime.