Bishop Desmond M. Tutu, a black Anglican clergyman who has become the moral spokesman for the struggle against racial oppression in South Africa, was named to receive the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize yesterday.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee openly acknowledged in announcing the award in Oslo that the choice of the elfin, deeply compassionate crusader for human rights was intended to bring pressure on the white-minority government of South Africa to abandon its discriminatory policies of apartheid.
"This year's award should be seen as renewed recognition of the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid," the committee said in making Tutu the 65th Nobel peace laureate and the second black South African to win the prize.
The late Albert J. Luthuli, president of the African National Congress, was awarded the prize in 1960 as the Afrikaner government moved to stifle a wave of black nationalism by force. The ANC and other black political organizations were banned and eventually turned to guerrilla warfare against the white government.
Tutu, 53, has played a leading role in forging the moral authority of both the church and of non-violent black political movements into a significant new force of dissent. But in remarks yesterday in a hastily called news conference in New York, where he is on a three-month study sabbatical, Tutu warned that time is running out on the approach that won him the Nobel.
"It is up to the international community to exert pressure on the South African government . . . especially economic pressure, to go to the conference table" with the African majority, news agencies quoted Tutu as having said. "This is our very last chance for change because if that doesn't happen . . . it seems the blood bath will be inevitable."
The South African government, which is elected by the country's 20 percent white minority, refused all comment. The South African Broadcasting Corp. carried only brief notice of the announcement, at the end of its evening news programs.
Joyous celebrations broke out in Johannesburg at the South African Council of Churches, where Tutu is secretary general, and in the black township of Soweto, where Tutu ministers in a small red brick church to a community that has seen periodic uprisings against inferior education and denial of political and economic rights. In the past month, more than 80 blacks and one white child have died in rioting.
While it is far from certain that the award will have the effect intended on the government, it clearly buoyed African and mixed-race religious and political leaders who stressed in comments last night that it will be seen "as an award to every black South African who is striving to liberate this country from the racist policies of apartheid," as Zulu Chief Gatsha Buthelezi, a rival of Tutu's, put it.
Tutu "more than anyone else has been able to articulate the grievances and aspirations of black South Africans," Allan Boesak, a young preacher of the mixed-race community whom South Africans call Coloreds and one of Tutu's closest associates, told Washington Post special correspondent Allister Sparks in South Africa.
Tutu's profound Christian faith, which makes it hard for outsiders to dismiss him as a radical revolutionary, has helped the bishop present the black South African case to western audiences, "which find it hard to listen to the African National Congress. He represents respectability," Boesak said.
In New York, where he was informed of the award by a Norwegian diplomat, Tutu appeared to refer to the 1983 peace prize to Polish trade union leader Lech Walesa by calling this year's action "a tremendous political statement that has been made -- that those who oppose apartheid are seen in the same light as those who oppose communism."
Tutu said he would fly to South Africa this week and preach a sermon in his church on Sunday. In his comments at the General Theological Seminary in New York, where he is studying, the bishop echoed the theme that the award was not a personal honor but one intended to symbolize the struggle of all races in South Africa to overcome apartheid.
"It acknowledges all those who have been involved in the liberation struggle for a new society in South Africa, a society where human beings matter because they are human beings," Tutu said, adding that he would place the $192,000 prize money that accompanies the award into a family trust to support scholarships for disavantaged black youths.
Tutu predicted that the South African government would allow him to travel to Oslo to accept the prize on Dec. 10. "They may be a lot of things, but I do not think they are that stupid," he said.
But the government has withdrawn his passport in the past, once because of remarks he made while on a trip in the United States in 1981, when he voiced support for economic sanctions against South Africa and told Reagan administration officials that blacks were distressed by signs that they were friendlier toward Pretoria than was the Carter administration.
Speaking on behalf of the five-member committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament to select the Nobel laureate, Egil Aarvik, told reporters in Oslo that the award was intended to influence developments in South Africa.
"We have given this prize on our premises, and to the extent that such a prize has any influence, it will cause reflections among politicians," Aarvik was quoted by The Associated Press, which noted that his public remarks broke with long-standing tradition.
The Nobel prizes were established in the will of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite.
Special correspondent Sparks reported from Johannesburg:
Admired by many black South Africans, Bishop Tutu is to many white South Africans "a political priest who will now gain greater support for his bitter and extreme views," as a progovernment newspaper put it in an editorial after the announcement had been made.
For the past 10 years Tutu has been able to express from the relative protection afforded by his bishop's mitre and his growing status abroad the sort of views held by the outlawed black nationalist parties and their imprisoned or exiled leaders.
By Tutu's own account, he is not so much a political leader as a bearer of Christian witness to what he regards as the evils of South Africa's segregationist system. More radical, younger blacks term him a man with a mission but not a strategy. But colleagues in the struggle against apartheid agreed here tonight that the award would pitch Tutu into a political leadership role, which might prove the most taxing challenge he has yet faced.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in the gold mining town of Klerksdorp, west of Johannesburg. His second name means "life" in his mother's Sisotho language and was given to him because he was a delicate baby who was not expected to survive. "That was my first commitment to faith," Tutu has said.
Ironically, this turbulent priest who so disturbs the white government arrived where he is because of the apartheid system. The church was his third choice of career. He wanted first to be a doctor and was actually accepted by a medical school, but his parents could not afford the fees. So he became a teacher and worked contentedly in several mission schools until he was 25 and married.
Then in 1957 the government took over the mission schools and introduced a system of state-run "Bantu (black) education" that most blacks regarded as calculatedly inferior. Along with many other black teachers, Tutu quit. Only then did he consider the ministry as a career.
The seed of idealism had been sown at an earlier stage, however. Tutu recalls that his mother was a dominant influence in his childhood: a simple but compassionate soul with little education who worked as a washerwoman and cook.
His father, a teacher, was strict and quick with the strap. His mother was always the one to intervene. "She was always taking the side of underdogs in all kinds of situations," Tutu said. "I suppose I either inherited or copied that."
After he was ordained, Tutu went to King's College, London, and later spent three years in England. When he returned to South Africa, it was as a man who had freed himself from the emotional and intellectual shackles of second-class citizenship.
He rose rapidly in the Anglican church, becoming Dean of Johannesburg and then Bishop of Lesotho, the little independent enclave in the heart of South Africa from which his mother's forebears came.
In 1978 Tutu became general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. That made him the putative spokesman for the country's 13-million Christians, excluding members of three government-supporting Dutch Reformed Churches, which withdrew from the council when Tutu took over.
The church council has been his platform for the six years that he has been secretary. Many whites in his own church see him as a troublemaker, but to the blacks he is a champion and a hero