Let’s face it, lawyers are often given a hard time. So it’s nice sometimes to hear that somebody has a good word to say about them. Especially when that person is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for many an icon of justice, hope and integrity.
Addressing an audience in St Paul’s Cathedral on the challenges of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, he praised those lawyers who work pro bono with legal charity Advocates for International Development to help eradicate poverty and injustice around the world. ‘You have demolished the stereotype of lawyers being money grabbing.’
‘Lawyers are fantastic,’ said Tutu, citing a list of brave people who had defended political detainees during South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime at great cost to themselves.
It is people like that, he said, who will ensure the evils of the world will not have the last word.
And we all have a role to play, because we are all part of the same world or, as the Archbishop put it, we are all part of the same family – we are interdependent and created for ‘complementarity’. ‘A person is a person through other persons,’ he said.
When part of that family is brutalised through famine, poverty, oppression or injustice, it damages us all, because ‘my humanity is caught up in your humanity’.
The ethic of family, said Tutu, is ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to their need’.
Baroness Scotland, the attorney general, introducing the archbishop and encouraging lawyers to play their part in making the world a better place, recalled the words of Gandhi: ‘Each of us must be the change we wish to see in the world.’
Quite a challenge to us all.