Cape Town — South Africa can regain its worth by spreading the spirit of compassion, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Thursday.
"You start at the beginning. You start with yourself and people in your immediate environment, the people you would easily dismiss," he said at a ceremony in Cape Town to celebrate winning the Templeton prize.
He said it was everyone's responsibility to see the divine in others, even in the man sleeping in the street.
Tutu said he had great faith in the youth being able to deliver on this aspiration.
"There is no question at all that young people know what they are looking for and almost all would say it's a spiritual thing," he said.
"I always say, what a pity they grow older and become more cynical."
Citizens had to acknowledge the change which had taken place since apartheid.
He said South Africa became the "flavour of the month" when apartheid was abolished in 1994, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up, and citizens were riding on the victory at the Rugby World Cup.
"We can't pretend we have remained at the same heights and that's why I say please, for goodness sake, recover the spirit that made us great."
When asked where exactly the country was failing, Tutu focused on violence and inequality.
"Very simply, we are aware we've become one of the most violent societies. It's not what we were, even under apartheid," he said.
Rape, murder, and the high number of road accidents, especially over the holiday season, were worrisome.
One did not have to look at statistics to see that South Africa was one of the most unequal societies in the world, and the problem was underpinned by a lack of spirituality.
"This is why we ought to be saying it is utterly blasphemous that we should still have people who live in shacks. It's not politics, it's religion."
The Templeton prize, worth US1.7 million (around R15 million), is awarded to those who have contributed to "affirming life's spiritual dimension".
Tutu did not make it clear what he would do with the money, but said: "I will not disappoint."