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Ubuntu- Legacy of Desmond Tutu

By: Dr. Paul Hwang – Director of All Forum

The day after Christmas, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the Anglican Church, who devoted his life to ending apartheid in South Africa breathed his last. Archbishop Tutu, along with Nelson Mandela, is widely known to have led the South African white regime’s struggle to abolish the apartheid system implemented against many black people from 1948 to 1991. For this achievement, he became more famous when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Although the direct cause of his death was not revealed, the recurrence of cancer diagnosed in the late 1990s and the recent frequent access to the hospital, and the old age of 90 years old are considered the reasons.

How can I remember him and say something about him to you? Let’s follow a brief timelines in relation to the topic of this writing. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that he is a human rights activist who has fought against “racism” throughout his life. Born in the Johannesburg slums, he worked as a school teacher and started a family, and was only ordained as an Anglican priest in 1960 when he turned 29. From 1978 to 1985, he served as secretary-general of the South African Church Council and entered the campaign against black discrimination in earnest. It became the centerpiece of promoting the brutality of the police against black people, preaching peace, and leading the democratization of South Africa and the struggle for black freedom. In 1986, he became the first African-American to become an archbishop in Cape Town.

In April 1994, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, came to power and went on to politics. From the large salaries received by Mandela’s government ministers to the corruption of former President Jacob Zuma’s government in 2018, he continued to play the role of a “moral conscience” that caused direct criticism.

Archbishop Tutu, who served as chairman of South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation Committee,” was also actively evaluated for pioneering the path of racial reconciliation with the slogan “No future without forgiveness.” Later, he also published a book titled this slogan. In this writing commemorating him, I reflect on what the basic idea was behind in this cry of “No future without forgiveness.” This is what I would like to think about and share with readers of this newsletter published by ALL Forum. Of course, it must have been the Christian faith that inspired him and gave him the power to overcome all kinds of adversity throughout his life as an Anglican priest and human rights activist, but I would like to remember the spirit of Ubuntu, a traditional South African idea he advocated with Mandela.

According to Tutu, Ubuntu has so many meanings that it is difficult to define in aword as the ideological root of his peace movement. Given a person who is “generous, hospitable, friendly, caring and compassionate” you could say that the one is true and sincere to Ubuntu. Or you could say “I am human because I belong, I participate, I share.” Among various definitions and interpretations of it, however, I prefer Tutu’s own paraphrase: “I am because we (you) are!” The strong and insightful words could definitely encourage people to care for others regardless race, sex, age and nationality. It must apply not only to peoples in Africa but those in Asia also. I have often used the sentence in my lectures for online courses on Catholic social teachings by ALL Forum for Asian young Catholics. The talks in last year was the case.

In Fratelli Tutti , Pope Francis mentions “Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people.” (no.182) Pope Francis’ focus on brotherhood and social fraternity emphasizes the urgency of Ubuntu or ‘interconnectedness’ in reality. Yes, it is necessarily related to another his thoughts in point: “Everything is interconnected” which appears three time in Laudato Si as they are.

This idea comes to be culminated in the idea of “We (humans) are (a part of) nature” (LS, no.139). If we take it seriously we could get out of such a die-hard dualistic world views which divides into the two: humans or nature, heaven or hell (earth), men or women, good or bad, and clergy or laity…etc. Nearly all of theologians and church people too have been so heavily indoctrinated by the “subject-object” dualistic thinking that many of them read the No.139 and don’t even notice how revolutionary it is. If we do, it will lead us to setting up a whole different relationship with other humans, nature, and all things in universe. Therefore, it is important for us to “change” such world views and put it into practice in many movements led by Fath-based organizations (FBOs) especially ecological movement. Remembering Tutu and his Ubuntu, that should be one thing at least we should be willing to learn from for the better world.

Fratelli Tutti’s View on the World Today and Reflection

Fratelli Tutti’s View on the World Today and Reflection

By Dr. Paul Hwang, Director of ALL Forum

Let’s briefly introduce chapters 1 and 2 of the encyclical from the perspective of ‘See-JudgeAct’, the empirical methodology that has become the traditional methodology of Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) since Vatican II especially
the document Gaudium et Spes. As shown in the reality analysis of “The Joy of the Gospel” or Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ view on the reality of world today seems reflected from the title “Dark Clouds over a Closed World.” The Pope points out one by one how the world is closed and what the dark clouds in the closedworld mean.

First, there are movements for peace and friendship, but more extreme and aggressive nationalism, religious fanaticism, and new forms of selfishness are spreading. Globalization has brought all peoples in the world much closer, but not like the relation of brother and sisters. Cultural colonization is taking place, with individual interests prioritized and community life weakened, and as a result, only consumerism and individualism are emphasized. In many countries, economic polarization has become a tool of politics, lacking sound discussions or plans for everyone to improve people’s lives and develop common good. In a world where “throw-away culture” is prevalent, not only food and goods but also humans are often treated as such. Poor and disabled people, human foetuses, and the elderly are considered “no longer necessary.” The reality that the elderly are dying in indifference and isolation under the Covid-19 situation, and increase in racism, makes us ask back the ultimate purpose of economic growth and human development.

Today, human rights and human dignity are not respected equally in many countries. Many forms of injustice persist due to economic systems that do not hesitate to exploit, abandon, and kill humans. And women do not enjoy the same rights as men, and human trafficking or modern slavery is practiced in many parts of the world. The joint declaration of Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in 2019, which became a basic spirit for “All Brothers” or Fratelli Tutti, clarifies this point. “In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity.” (“Human Fraternity”)

We save the whole human race by saving one person, which is also emphasized in All Brothers. “True, a worldwide tragedy like the Covid-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved
together.” (no. 32)

Modern digital culture takes off, monitors, and anonymizes people’s lives. Digital media gives the illusion of communication, but it can prevent the development of real interpersonal relationships by losing contact with specific reality. However, the Pope emphasizes that “True wisdom demands an encounter with reality.” (no. 47). We can find the truth in the conversation we have together, and it requires patience. Information without wisdom prevents you from realizing the core of the problem or the meaning of life. The process of building brotherhood is only possible when
you are free to meet. This open attitude in Asian situations leads to the wisdom of acknowledging and accepting religious and cultural diversity and pluralism. Such attitude is also shown in the joint declaration: “In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as
the code of conduct” (Human Fraternity)

In Chapter 2, Pope Francis continues the aforementioned problems with the theme of “Who is my neighbour” in the “Good Samaritan” (Lk 10:25-37) among the parables of Jesus in the gospel. In Jesus’ time, the Jews ignored and hated Samaritans, saying they lived in areas where pagan rituals were practiced, considering them as filthy and repulsive beings. Jesus completely reverses the conventional idea in the parable, stressing that it was not the priest or the Levine, but the
ignored Samaritan who helped the abandoned Jews. The Samaritans went beyond cultural and historical barriers and became borderless neighbours to the wounded Jews. There are many parts in the Bible that ask people who are far from related to their neighbours or even strangers to embrace them. The Old Testament texts (Ex 22:20 and 23:9; Lev 19:33-34; Num 24:21-22) remind us of the memories of the Jews once living as strangers in Egypt. Even in the New Testament, it appears several times (1 Jn 2:10-11; 3:14; 4:20), including the phrase “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal 5:14).

In this context, we can better understand the importance of the Good Samaritan parable. This story asks us to rediscover our calling to build new social bonds as citizens of each country and around the world. We are created to pursue love and cannot be indifferent to pain. We will meet a suffering person anytime soon, so “Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritan or indifferent bystanders.” (no. 69) Such a Good Samaritan story is constantly being present in our daily lives. We can say that the core of faith is to participate in creating a just society that cares for the suffering. Therefore, in the final document of the Second World Bishop’s Synod, Justice in the World(1971) it is clear: “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (no.6)