>Desmond Tutu and the tradition of “ubuntu” reminds us that there is no such thing as a solitary individual. There is no translation of “ubuntu” into our own European language because “individualism” is so embedded in our culture. Bill Clinton describes “ubuntu” as “mystical”, which I take to mean as “elusive”. Ubuntu’s principle is “I am because you are“. “A person is a person through other persons. I need you to be “you” so that I can be “me”. I want “you” to be all you can be because that is the only way I can be all I can be.” If I dehumanise “you”, I will be “myself” dehumanised. What an intriguing insight from African culture. Clinton responds to Desmond Tutu’s insight by saying that “life is too short to waste time winning fleeting victories at other people’s expense, and we now have to find ways to triumph together.”

Yesterday I was called to help out in Christ the King, Birkenhead, and saw firsthand how a congregation is trying to be all that they can be so that the people of that inner city parish can be all that they can be. Yesterday, Shay was baptised. His life depends on those around him being all that they can be. He becomes a person through those other persons. Gornik writes that this sense of community is often forgotten: “It is this common life – how people care for one another, generate new patterns of relationship, and take seriously the call to serve their neighbours – that sets the church part, even more than its buildings, its programmes, its pastor or its preaching. The significance of the common life is often neglected in traditional and even contemporary discussions with the church – which great detriment. When people know they are deeply loved, cared for, accepted, and wanted by a community, they are transformed by the experience.” (To Live in Peace. 2002. p74)

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