Reclaiming Ubuntu

Archbishop Tutu DancesLast Thursday, I had the honor and privilege to attend Archbishop Tutu’s Templeton Prize thanksgiving service at St. George the Martyr Cathedral. It was a beautiful and joyful service dotted with amazing music by the Cape Town Opera Voice of the Nation Ensemble. I think all of our hearts leapt when Archbishop Tutu started dancing with the ensemble.

 The archbishop accepted the award on behalf of the people of South Africa, saying it was the people’s award. Then he gave one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard. Speaking from the heart and walking in front of the nave of the church, Archbishop Tutu recounted parts of “the struggle” (South Africans who fought against apartheid refer to their fight as “the struggle”) as he came to the heart of his speech, imploring, “What has happened to us? What has happened to us? What has happened to us? . . . God is weeping.” Speaking of the transition to democracy, the archbishop continued, God was proud of us. He was going to show us off as a people who could live together in harmony despite our cultural differences and as a people who would share with one another what they had. “But what has happened to us?” the archbishop asked, referring to the high level of violence in South Africa, especially violence against women, and referring to South Africa’s dubious distinction of being the number one country in the world with the widest gap between rich and poor.

 As Archbishop Tutu walked in front of the nave, crying out from the heart, “What has happened to us?” I no longer saw him as the renown public figure and global icon of peace. I saw him as a beloved grandfather asking his children and grandchildren, all of us in the service and in South Africa, “What has happened to us as a family?”

The archbishop ended his speech by challenging all of us to reclaim the spirit of ubuntu, which to me can ultimately be summed up with Jesus’ two great commandments: Love the Lord God with all of your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we did this, we would be living out ubuntu.

Archbishop Tutu’s words have challenged me in a profound way, and I am more determined than ever to try to live a life of ubuntu, both here in South Africa and in the States when I return home. Want you join me by accepting the archbishop’s challenge to reclaim (or claim for the first time) the spirit of ubuntu?

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3 thoughts on “Reclaiming Ubuntu

  1. Cynthia B. Paschal

    Beautiful. Indeed, we must always ask ourselves, “What has happened to us?” and also, “What have we allowed to happen?” With our answers, we plan our course of action.

  2. Trevor Slade

    When ++Desmond was Bishop of Johannesburg, circa 1985, I was exploring a vocation to the Ordained Ministry. I met with him at St. Benedict’s Retreat Centre. He was laying on his bed, relaxing, with me sitting on a chair and he spoke to me as he would to his son. Trevor, what you have to realise is that your ministry is one of loving SERVICE to ALL of God’s children. To struggle for justice in our land and to stand up for those who suffer. In doing that you will cry many tears but they must be tears that stream from a loving and caring heart. He never used the word Ubuntu but that is exactly what he meant. I have always tried to do what I was told to do by this very wonderful man. May God bless your ministry Nicole as you live in God’s reality of Ubuntu.

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