VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- South Africa's outspoken Bishop Desmond Tutu thanked western churches Saturday for their opposition to apartheid, but criticized them for faltering in their support of black African liberation struggles.
'I have always been puzzled,' he said at the Sixth Asembly of the World Council of Churches, 'by why the church in the West has been supportive of the underground struggles in Europe (during World War II) but as soon as you deal with black liberation, you ... wake up all of a sudden pacifist.'
Tutu, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, also called for a conference of 'all acknowledged leaders' in South Africa to peacefully resolve the country's crisis. But Tutu said the white government would have to be committed to the dismantling of apartheid -- racial separation between whites and all other people -- for the conference to work.
Tutu reiterated his belief in a peaceful struggle to end the racial policies that have kept the black majority in South Africa poor and powerless.
'I don't think at the present time the only solution would be a military solution,' he told a news conference.
Tutu, considered a major black leader in South Africa, arrived in Vancouver Friday after the Johannesburg government finally gave him permission to travel.
In a 45-minute news conference Saturday, Tutu praised the World Council for its support of the black liberation struggle in South Africa, especially for the prayers of 'millions around the world' and for its repeated statements that apartheid is 'inconsistent with the Gospel.'
'The spiritual element is quite crucial,' he said.
Like South African theologian Allen Boesak, head of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, who spoke to the Assembly in its early sessions, Tutu criticized those in the west who reject black liberation struggles because they involve violence.
'The South African situation is violent now,' he said. 'Apartheid is the primary violence.'
He said that as a Christian 'I remain always optimistic.I believe in grace ... that God can change people. But as an ordinary human being, I must say that I am less and less sanguine.'
Tutu said he saw some 'ferment' in the white Dutch Reformed Church. 'They are no longer as blatant as they once were in claiming Scripture supported' apartheid.
Tutu also said the Namibian struggle for independence from South Africa ' is the most important item on our liberation agenda.'
The Anglican bishop, who has often been a subject of South African government attacks and whose interfaith South African Council of Churches is still under government investigation, also said:
-He does not favor total disinvestment by U.S.corporations doing business in South Africa but the corporations should use more economic muscle than they do to oppose and dismantle apartheid.
-The so-called Sullivan principles, created by the Rev. Leon Sullivan of Philadelphia to guide U.S. employers in South Africa, are detrimental because they make 'apartheid more acceptable and more comfortable.'
-The leadership of the black churches in the United States 'has been very quiescent' on the issue of South Africa.
Tutu refused to comment on the future economic system he believed should shape South Africa, saying, 'as you know, I'm not a politician.'
But he said 'for myself ... I find capitalism quite abhorrent. I for myself am a socialist' in the sense that it seeks to create 'a society that is caring.'