Bridge-Builder BB#4, Nov. 2013
‘PERCEPTIONS AND COMMUNITY: AN INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE ON THE COMMON GOOD AND UBUNTU’ A BRIDGE-BUILDER: Sonja Kruse, South Africa THINKERS: François Flahault, France | Uli Spalthoff, Germany | Mar Peter Raoul, Kenya
PRACTITIONERS: Nicole Fondeneige; François Papy, France | Helen Mayer, Africa
INTRODUCTION: Dr Moustafa Traore, France NEWS: Sonja Kruse, South Africa | Princess Ukaga, Nigeria
B-B | n°4 | 2013
B-B | n°4 | 2013
By Ms Violaine HACKER Common Good Forum
Common Good and Ubuntu: same perceptions?
This month, the ‘Bridge Builder’ brings together thinkers and practitioners in various fields to reconsider the notion of “common good,” as it pertains to politics, economics, and other spheres of human enterprise. The aim of this monthly Bulletin is to share visions of how to overcome perception problems, and thus to better understand life within different communities, including the family, society, education, the work environment and management.
Violaine HACKER Common Good Forum
Of course, there are a number of barriers which affect successful communication, including different perceptions and cultural outlooks. Our perceptions are based on our own experiences, our language, our knowledge, our background and our culture. We each have our own perceptual style which impacts how we interpret the information we send and what we receive from others. In particular, the notion of common good is often confused with terms like ‘good or common washing’ and even morality or the general interest. But the term actually refers to a deliberative process, rather than to meta-principles or a static social contract to be implemented. I would like to thank friends - notably Tom Mahon (San Francisco), Sesto Castagnoli (Switzerland) and Bill Linton (an ‘American in Paris’) for their advice on these points. I also came to understand through Dr Moustafa Traore that, despite terms having clear definition on paper, people tend to give those terms their own unique definition according to their individual perceptions and backgrounds (see his introduction on Page 3). Thus, the purpose of this monthly Bulletin is to give a voice to people all over the world in order for them to express their vision of the common good, and share stories of life within their unique communities, with a particular emphasis on the philosophy of Ubuntu that
EDITORIAL By Violaine Hacker
Common Good and Ubuntu: same perceptions? By Dr Moustafa TRAORE
A BRIDGE-BUILDER By Sonja KRUSE
THINKERS By François FLAHAUT By Uli SPALTHOFF By Mar Peter RAOUL
comes to us from Africa. This term (literally, «human-ness») has been roughly translated to «human kindness, especially in Southern Africa (South Africa and Zimbabwe). Since the transition to democracy in South Africa with the late Nelson Mandela’s presidency in 1994, the term has become known globally, through the writings of Desmond Tutu. Now we invite you to read the story of a journey of an Ubuntu Girl in South Africa serving as a bridgebuilder, as well as the thoughts of others on the notions of the common good, Ubuntu and Tikkun (“healing the world”). Also in this issue, read the story of practitioners who have been able to implement both the philosophy of the Common good and Ubuntu, in France as well as Africa.
14 PRACTITIONERS By Nicole FONDENEIGE; François PAPY By Helen SAYERS IN THE NEWS By Sonja KRUSE By Princess Ukaga of Nigeria
By Dr Moustafa TRAORE France
Dr Moustafa Traore specializes on civilizational issues. He holds an interesting experience of teaching in London both in High School and at University. He is a regular speaker in international conference and lecturer at the Sorbonne University. He is the founder of the NGO ANOpenEye.
In times of financial and social crisis, the notion and concept of Common Good seems to have regained momentum as an answer to understand globalisation and market economy from a human or rather cultural point of view. In most societies, and more precisely in the Western ones, finding alternatives to the exploitation of the mass and individuals - for the sake of a governing system or ruling dominating minority - has become the main concern of most humanitarians. It would however be a mistake to consider that answers and remedies to the inequitable distribution of what affects the well-being of individuals in society can only and solely be found in western countries. Also it is interesting to notice that despite the clear definition of the concept of ‘Common Good’ by philosophers (Aristotle or Aquinas for instance) and of the concept of ‘Commons’ by Dr Elinor Ostrom, people in general tend to give those terms their own definition and meaning. Indeed, the understanding of the term ‘Common Good’ will thus often differ according to the individual’s cultural, social identities or backgrounds … and consequently perceptions. In that respect, these discrepancies are also to be taken into consideration when analyzing and comparing the different continents. It is thus, for example, that the notion of ‘Common Good’, rather perceived as ‘Ubuntu’ in some African languages of the Bantu linguistic family, seems to have been enrooted in African cultures, values and moralities long before the acculturation provoked and imposed through the contact with the White European’s world. Yet, how the African comprehension of the notion of ‘Common Good’ illustrates and expresses itself still remains little known and scarcely explored by the eyes of the analysts, and academics that we are. What are the different comprehensions and expressions of the African notion of ‘Common Good’ or ‘Ubuntu’? Does the African Ubuntu pre-exist the more Western centered conception of the ‘Common Good’? In what sense can the African ‘Ubuntu’ in times of open globalisation and intensive market economy impact social rules? These are questions among others to which our work tries to answer.
… and finally, we invite you to send us your thoughts & perceptions on “the common good!
20 Common Good Forum http://www.commongood-forum.org Contact: email@example.com 2
B-B | n°4 | 2013
B-B | n°4 | 2013
By Mrs Sonja KRUSE
150 families. 16 cultures. Sometimes I would just knock on a door. Other times I just engaged with people on the street. It was instinctive. We are intuitive beings. I could sense when someone did not want me in their space. As the journey progressed, people started approaching me. It was as if I was becoming transparent and being replaced with the stories from the journey. People were attracted to that. An old Sotho woman from the Free State Province taught me that it is not possible to arrive somewhere with nothing. « You never come with nothing. You come with all that you are ».
The Ubuntu Girl, South Africa
Ubuntu and Social Bridges for the Next Generation
Sonja Kruse set out with a 33lt backpack, a camera and a R100, completing a year long solo trip, walking and hitch hiking around South-Africa. Over 351 days she experienced the generosity of 150 families, from 16 cultures, throughout 114 towns. She wanted to collect the goodwill stories often omitted from our newspaper headlines. She is busy publishing a book that she hopes will help us build social bridges and equip the next generation with the tools to write the stories we want for our future.
Thabi & Ubuntu
they rent. There was not a lot of space and only one double bed for the mom and her two children. That night she made a makeshift bed on the floor using layers of blankets and duvets. I thought that she was making it for me. I soon learnt that I was to sleep in the bed with her children and she slept on that homemade bed on the floor. Many nights on the journey, I had hosts sleeping on the floor next to me and on a few occasions shared a bed with my host families. Once, there were five of us in a double. In some cases people would ask their children to sleep over at their friends’ homes, so that I could have privacy.
«Thabi! I don’t care what you say! I’m doing this! » I was managing a lodge in the KZN Province of South-Africa when I decided to step into this dream that I’ve had for four years. So, I quit my job; gave my car away and was about to hit the road but not without resistance from my Zulu co-worker and friend, Thabi. She was concerned about my safety and told me that I might be killed. Or starve to death. Her final attempt to stop me from leaving was: «You’ll ruin your skin!» I told her that I will take a big hat and sunscreen. This is when I could see that she gave in and told me that it means that I’m setting off to find the spirit of Ubuntu.
People were equally generous when it came to food. In South Africa this is an important way to show hospitality. Families often prepared their favourite meal for me even if it was something I do not eat, like liver. Then you simply eat the love with which it has been prepared. In the Xhosa culture, for example, you are given food when you enter a home.
I did not know what it really meant. Politicians and marketers use this term all the time to sell themselves and their projects. Thabi explained that what it really means is that if you are hungry then I am hungry, to the extent that I will not be able to eat until you eat. It is parts of ourselves that we recognise in one another.
The understanding is that you may be there because you have no food. How beautiful is that? Though, when I returned, I actually weighed five kilograms more, than when I set off!
Hosts and Ubuntu
People, Culture and Community
When I set off, I had no idea how long the journey would last or where it will take me geographically. On my first night, a family from an Eastern Cape township took me into the double room
this question, that was surely hanging in the space between us. Eventually he turned to me. I sensed sadness, anger and frustration. «Why is it that you, a white woman, can come here into this area . . . into our area . . . and you know that you can go knocking on any door and that somebody will take you into their home? Yet, if any person from here should go knocking on a white person’s door, what would happen? They would not be welcome. Why is that?» This question lingers and is an important question for South Africans and one that we are not engaging with fully. Solly and I often phone one another and we have agreed to meet in a space of question, rather than a space where having answers are more important.
neighbourhoods and farms or visited their places of worship and places of natural beauty; or as they invited neighbours to share stories about the area with me.
On the journey there were times when I felt lonely, tired and vulnerable. When I felt like a women, rather than a human; when I felt like a white person, rather than a person. In those moments, often, my phone would BEEP BEEP loudly with a message from one of the host families asking about my welfare. Asking: Where in our country are you? Have you eaten something today? Are you warm enough? When are you coming back to us? Yes, messages of goodwill from one of my extended families. These messaged did not stop when the journey on the road ended. The journey is only beginning.
In a country with elven official languages, one would think that there would have been a language barrier. But, so much of our communication is non-verbal. Also, in South Africa, many households have three generations living under one roof and so there was generally some Afrikaans or English spoken, which are the langauges i speak (together with very basic isiZulu). Some villages would take it upon themselves to choose a host family for me, upon my arrival. And often they would choose either the wealthiest family or a family who had a better command of the English language. Ubuntu means community and decisions are made together. In a few instances after my arrival at a family’s home, an elder of the village would arrive and the host would make us tea. The elder would then proceed to welcome me to the village and assure me of my safety and also: «You are staying with a good family. They will take care of your needs and will call me if there is something they can’t provide».
Ubuntu «A traveller through our country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu but Ubuntu has various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to improve?» ~ Nelson Mandela
‘Our’ area, for question more than answers We are one another’s biggest resources and teachers. I was walking in a Pedi trustland area on a hot day. My feet were slowing me down, so when I saw the red car approaching, I stuck out my hand and hitched. The driver stopped next to me and asked me what I was doing there. He listened and spoke, in Pedi, I presumed with the woman in the back seat. She had a toddler with her. He offered me a lift to their home, about five kilometres away. This is how I met Solly and his wife Catherine. As we drove on I sensed that something was weighing on his mind. I sat quietly next to him and waited until he had formulated
I returned with a sense of connectedness – a sense of extended family and with a desire to enable the community around me to improve. This together with the knowledge that I am not the story, but the custodian of the story, is governing all the decisions about how we share this sacred story. I have written a manuscript, which has been edited and is in the final stages of graphic design. It is going to be a full-colour ‘explosive’ book, because that is what South Africa is!
People take a lot of pride in their culture, community and surroundings and shared this with me as we walked around their
B-B | n°4 | 2013
B-B | n°4 | 2013
For a political philosophy of the common
the good that I can feel, but on the other hand, other people are necessary to feel the pleasure of a conversation with them. Consequently, the common good can be defined as the system which supports the co-existence of people. Considering that each of us can become a ‘person’ within a social life and culture, citizens should be provided a sustainable common world.
Common good versus morality
institutions and authorities that organize society, and secondly, the personal, relational and social life of its members. The social life is an end in itself, while institutions and authorities are not and should not be a means to serve it. Also the philosophy of the common good should not limit freedoms because it promotes the contrary - the importance of each member in the community and everyone as a person. In totalitarian or dictatorial regimes, this order is reversed: the unit of political power enslaves the individual and social life for its own purposes.
Nonetheless broadcasting a moral discourse, or seeking good feelings are not enough. The question of the common good also involves a process of thinking as well as of taking political action. Obviously a balance of power, effective institutions, and adequate economic and social organization are necessary conditions essential to the welfare of people.
By Mr François FLAHAUT, Head of Research, Philosophy, CNRS, France
Market economy and other spheres of social life The danger today is not totalitarianism, but rather the domination of the market economy doctrine as totally distinguished from the other spheres of the social life. More precisely, the concentration of economic and financial power in the hands of a minority can favor the search for short-term profit and not a long-term vision. While liberal philosophy give each citizen the freedom to decide for himself what his good is, in fact, they continue to make them focus on consumption as the supreme good. One of the major problems humanity is facing now is to maintain, establish or re-establish a balance between political power for the common good, and the power of money for a select few. Such a balance between these two powers should contribute to the common good of the society, rather than only to the financial gain of a very few.
Human rights doctrine
Even though the notions of common good and of general interest are considered by many to be equivalent, the two terms in fact refer to different understandings of the human condition, as well as to very different visions of society.
For instance a newborn will only get a place as a human being in a socialized context of coexistence. He will need to be with other people to coexist, and the institutions will guarantee his existence prior as a person. The first kind of experience the baby can experience is the mutual attachment which binds him to adults able to take care of him. This first wellbeing moment may be called «common experience» because each partner enjoys the relationship of the property which depends on the condition that others are also experiencing.
The term ‘public interest’ often seems to be the most commonly used concept in the modern state, and is aligned with the dominant view of the market economy as the alpha and omega of human societies. This point of view presupposes that humans created society for utilitarian purposes, such as economy and security. In that sense, individuals would exist prior to society, and their existence as human beings would represent a natural property of their bodies. Thus, the social life of humans should only concern their existence and wealth, not necessarily their well-being.
Definition of the common good In that respect, the common good is the essential living of all human existence throughout life. At all ages and in all cultures, we are sensitive to the social environment in which we live.
A reversal of perspective Over the last decades of the twentieth century, a reversal of perspective has come into being, and is now fully accepted in the scientific community. Indeed the remarkable progress in primatology, in paleoanthropology and developmental psychology have led to the same conclusion : the raison d’être of human nature is the so-called ‘social state’. Aristotle, Thomas d’Aquinas, and most non-Western cultures are right: the social life does not only exist for utilitarian purposes, or according to basic interests, but also for the common good. This means that social life is not only based on our assets, but also on our well-being.
The concept of ‘experienced’ common good meets both criteria specific to that economy called public goods or common property. Economics defines a public good as a ‘non-rival good’ (consumption of the good by anyone who does not reduce the amount available to others), and non-exclusive (free access), for example: public lighting, the light and heat of the sun, radio, Internet. Thus, the essence of the ‘experienced’ common good lies on top of these criteria as a third one. The presence of other people does not diminish
A renewed conception of the common good appears as the necessary complement of the human rights doctrine. Human rights are individual rights and they strive to provide a remedy against the abuse of power by other individuals. Thus they do not say what the purpose of the human is beyond his or her utilitarian social function. They do not say what binds members of society together. According to the liberal societies, it is generally accepted that the state must guarantee individual rights with human rights, but it does not prescribe a conception of the ‘good life’. Individuals are the best judges of what is good for themselves. The government obviously does not have to say what people should or should not like. However, in addition to social injustice, stands degradation of tangible or intangible properties, because they are relational goods able to nourish both the existence of each, , and his or her links with others.. It is therefore desirable that governments and citizens, at their respective levels, are concerned about what improves or degrades, the quality of the relations and social life of individuals.
Common Good, the Commons and intermediaries Eventually the common good is concretely realized through public goods or more precisely the Commons. However, the role of the latter in human societies is largely underestimated in our social life. Indeed tradable property remains predominent and monopolizes desires. On top of numerous and diverse material commons (sewers, roads, drinking water) co-exist intangible one (confidence, knowledge, long-term vision) through all intermediaries : institutions, governments, law, forms of sociability (including intergenerational), health, internet, knowledge, arts and other cultural property. The sustainability of the common good also depends on the natural commons: the planet remains our irreplaceable environment.
Common Good and Totalitarianism This question may raise to another one : could enforcing the common good lead to totalitarianism ? No, quite the contrary. It is essential, in fact, to distinguish between, on the one hand,
B-B | n°4 | 2013
The Spirit of Ubuntu and the Common Good
By Mr Uli SPALTHOFF Human Dignity & Humiliation Studies, Germany
The philosophy of Ubuntu, underlying many African indigenous knowledge systems, enjoys growing popularity in the northern hemisphere. As Yusufu Turaki summarized its essence, “People are not individuals, living in a state of independence, but part of a community, living in relationships and interdependence.” Thus, Ubuntu contrasts Adam Smith and his followers, who emphasized the individual and its egoism as driver of economics.
Lessons from Socio-Economic Discussion in South Africa
dignity for all? (3) What is imagined locally and globally to develop the current system to overcome its limitations?
The concept of Ubuntu One of my recurring topics of interest is equal economic dignity. That’s why I attended a HumanDHS conference in spring 2013 at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, hoping to learn how Ubuntu’s underlying philosophy can be understood as a loose Ubuntu is informing the current socio-economic discussion in equivalent to our western concept of ‘humanness’. However, it South Africa. In which way might Ubuntu provide a guideline for places more emphasis on the social connectedness than on the economic concepts overcoming the well-known shortcomings individual personality of people, compared to our tradition. It also of our current systems? Ubuntu philosophy primarily relates to informs the rules for educating children so that they develop into personal and community development emphasizing spirituality. mature members of their social group. Ubuntu became popuIt relates to economy as it attaches great ethical value to sharing lar in an African context, especially during transition times like and generosity. As always, there is the challenge to transfer decolonization periods. However, all traditional cultures are comthese ethical values to practice. munal cultures, and Ubuntu thus As a first step one may ask how shares common traits with many A Supporter: Mr Uli Spalthoff Ubuntu might help to further deveindigenous knowledge systems. lop thinking about economy. At Desmond Tutu based his theology Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies HumanDHS we emphasize ‘right of liberation, reconciliation and relationships’, a term coined by hope on a combination of traditioAfter retiring from a career in communication systems Jean Baker Miller. Relationships nal judeo-christian theology and research and management, Uli decided to pursue other are at the heart of Ubuntu, too. Ubuntu. Since then, the concept of interests and to join the non-profit Human Dignity and This adds to Ubuntu’s appeal as Ubuntu enjoys growing popularity Humiliation Studies network. This network connects an indigenous knowledge system. academics and practitioners from all over the world, who worldwide. aim to strengthen human dignity and to fight humiliation Let me address three questions: at all levels from personal life to global structures. Current impact (1) What can we learn from the indigenous knowledge system As said on the website of the Uli manages Dignity Press, the publishing activity of Ubuntu? (2) Which characterisSouth African Ubuntu Foundation, HumanDHS. He also takes care of the IT systems of tics of South Africa’s current «Ubuntu is a collective respect for HumanDHS and the related World Dignity University. system limit economic equal human dignity». How can Ubun-
B-B | n°4 | 2013
Many see Ubuntu principles being violated in recent years. tu’s current impact be described? Of course, listening to news Nevertheless, Ubuntu often is mentioned by people as the force reports about Africa, one may ask oneself if Ubuntu is really which defends against furter collapse of society. Former South having an impact on what is going on. Frequent violent clashes African president Thabo Mbeki and the philosopher Alexanas well as everyday violence in families and social groups der Shutte realized this when creating ‘The Common Ground abound. Traditional family structures are crumbling under attack Project’, which has the mission to revive Ubuntu ethics. This is from many directions: HIV/AIDS, unemployment, drugs and just one example of many people and grassroots organizations alcohol abuse, deterioration of public services, corruption – in seeing Ubuntu as an important driver of social progress. Drucilla fact, one may justifiably wonder whether Ubuntu has survived Cornell, a co-founder of « The Ubuntu Project» at the Stellenthe transition from a pre-modern to a post-modern society. Are bosch Institute of Advanced Studies, critically analyzed whether there built-in limits to Ubuntu, which jeopardize its success? Are Ubuntu current power structures working against it? When digging deeper than news headlines, it is easy to find Ubuntu being lived in many places. HIV orphans are raised by neighbours or members «could be considered a crucial aspect of the democratization of the customary in South Africa, or alternatively, as it is viewed of the extended family, sharing of basic necessities among the most poor is done routinely, grassroots organizations are formed by its skeptics, as an empty signifier that has been cynically deployed by its proponents to promote and thus capture young to alleviate poverty or to educate children. During my stay in black South Africans in the commercialism and consumerism of South Africa, I became aware of many such initiatives. Let’s look advanced global capitalism.» at jurisprudence. Ubuntu is mentioned in the epilogue of the 1993 Interim Constitution of South Africa: «there is a need for She concluded that understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimization». «First and foremost, ubuntu remained at the very heart of how Despite the term missing in the 1995 Final Constitution, the the young black South Africans that I interviewed saw ethics and Constitutional Court has at least twenty times referred to Ubuntu politics.» (Cornell 2003) in his rulings. Apart from that, however, it has been observed ‘there have not been many attempts to incorporate ubuntu into My personal experience is in line with her conclusion. post-apartheid jurisprudence’. As said before, Desmond Tutu based his theology on a synthesis of Judeo-Christian heritage Ubuntu as a management concept and the African heritage of Ubuntu. This was very influential when he presided the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Sigger and coworkers report on empirical results from Tanzania from 1993 to 1995. He surely made an important contribution to on applying Ubuntu as management concept. More than 200 top the transition from Apartheid to a multicultural society which premanagers from Tanzanian companies were interviewed, virtually sents itself as «Rainbow Nation». Thus one can say that Ubuntu all of them educated on business schools in Europe and the played a crucial part in overcoming Apartheid. In the 1997 White United States. Most claimed that they follow Ubuntu principles Paper on Social Welfare of the South African government, in their management style. However, as the authors indicate, Ubuntu is presented as an underlying principle of social devefurther research will be needed to lopment: confirm how this influences real At the website of the South African Ubuntu Foundation, business practices or whether «The principle of caring for each the essence of Ubuntu is presented: such allusions are just lip service. other’s well-being will be promoted, It has been stated that business and a spirit of mutual support fos«People are people through other people,» and «I am tered. Each individual’s humanity human because I belong to the human community, and I education in Africa is not based upon the concept of Ubuntu, but is ideally expressed through his view and treat others accordingly.» From this inherently relies on the same textbooks and or her relationship with others and humane and humanistic perspective, only by being paradigms as business education theirs in turn through a recognimembers of this universal human community can and at western universities. Steps tion of the indivi¬dual’s humanity. do we fully know, experience, and express ourselves as have been suggested to develop Ubuntu means that people are individuals. business education toward Ubunpeople through other people. It also tu, the first step being to recognize acknowledges both the rights and At its core Ubuntu reflects the deep spiritual truth that the responsibilities of every citizen «We Are All One» – one spiritual essence, one planetary that a firm is a community, not a collection of individuals. Further in promoting individual and societal life system, one human race, and one inter-dependent steps would be to analyze obserwell-being.» human community. vable corruptions of Ubuntu ethics, among them nepotism, groupA statement like this, if not augthink and suppression of individual initiative. All of them are mented by specific Ubuntu-inspired actions, points at a difficulty clearly observable in the current South African society. However, to apply the concept to a modern government initiative. Maybe they are identified as deviations from the Ubuntu concept, not that is why in later official documents, Ubuntu is rarely menintegral to it. Therefore, it is needed to tioned. As agreed by my interviewees, South Africa’s current government and political leaders are no beacons of Ubuntu. further develop education, theory and practice of Ubuntu.
B-B | n°4 | 2013
an irrelevant system of the past. Even when the current situation of a large majority of people in South Africa is dire, I tend ‘to see the glass as half-full, not half-empty’ Most encouraging was to experience how people live the spirit of Ubuntu by caring, sharing and compassionately driving socio-economic development. Shortcomings of the current government and ruling elite are acknowledged as violations of Ubuntu and many people-driven activities aim to improve the social system by reviving Ubuntu principles.
Still today, the traditional philosophy of Ubuntu is regarded as important for development of Africa’s socio-economic system. Ubuntu as indigenous knowledge system, however, is attacked by global consumerism. People are thrown into individualism as social and family structures crumble due to abject poverty and the HIV/AIDS epidemy. Nevertheless, Ubuntu is deeply embedded in the mindset of people, far from being dismissed as
B-B | n°4 | 2013
The common good and the beloved community: ‘Tikkun’
By Pr Mar Peter RAOUL Kenya
Whether conceived as the ‘common good’, the ‘beloved community’, tikkun (to heal and repair the world), or by what is known in Southern Africa as ubuntu (humanness, kindness, compassion), it is the same spirit of love out of which people of good will, from everywhere in the world, live decent, intentional lives with conscience and compassion.
The concept of Beloved Community
tion of the City. Learning from Mohandas Gandhi of the power of love and nonviolence in a struggle for freedom, what Gandhi called soul-force, King led the civil rights movement with the vision and hope that the movement would build a beloved community. Through the method of nonviolence, and determined when beaten by police and bitten by dogs to love, to refuse to hate, he believed that
nonviolence were more powerful and enduring than hatred and violence, and would, finally, however long the struggle, prevail. «The moral arc of the universe», King often quoted, «is long, but bends toward justice.»
Steeped in the American Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King’s theory of the power and efficacy of nonviolence, love, and social justice, I know best the Project for Public/Global concept of ‘the beloved community’. As Citizenship the goal in the 1950’s and 60’s struggle for civil rights, the beloved community, As faculty and co-founder of as articulated by King, is made the Marist Praxis Project for up of all those of good heart Biography of Ms Mar Peter Raoul Public/Global Citizenship at who seek a community, even a Marist College, and founworld-house, characterized by Faculty, Religious Studies, Marist College ding resident of the Beloved agape, socio-economic justice, Community House, I have the equality, and the flourishing of Co-founder, Marist Praxis Project for Public/Global Citizenship enormous privilege of initiating all people. It is a world without public work, and to mentor war, poverty, or racism. At its Founding resident, the Better World Beloved Community such work initiated by students very heart is solidarity with the themselves. From several poor, the marginalized, and with Published in Liberation Theology, Socio-Political & Economic local public praxis sites - those burdened with the conseJustice, Higher Education humanitarian, environmental, quences of injustice. after school - to a corner dump in Kolkata and an AIDS orphanage in justice and righteousness would have the When King took the civil rights campaign Kenya, students are meeting with those last word. to Chicago, he did not stay in a comforwho inhabit a world walled in by poverty, table hotel. Rather, he stayed where the loss, addiction, violence, and exploitation. Though believing that evil was real, poor are found; a 4th floor walk-up where Lacking material goods, an adequate “stark grim, and colossally real,” he was the hallways smelled of urine, a building education, or even a support network, the sure that love, truth, righteousness, and situated in Longview, a depressed sec-
B-B | n°4 | 2013
very poor have no known way out of the conditions in which they have been effectively ensnared.
analysis, critical reflections, and in some public form – op-ed pieces, broadsheets, brochures, forums - shares one’s learning and experience with the larger public, contributing to public consciousness.
Gradually forming reciprocal relationship, students get to know residents personally, begin to gain their trust, and unobtrusively find ways to lessen burdens, and consider possible remedies for aspects of the situation. Glimpsing, first-hand, the lived reality of those who ‘don’t matter’, who are not on any urgent list of policy-makers, students see an angle on the world not visible anywhere but in this shared space. Socio-economic structures and political policies, seen through this lens, surprise with clarity and revelatory power.
Though some evenings found everyone deadly tired, no one missed gathering together with Elisabeth, a number of Pastor Jean’s household, and myself in the large second floor meeting room that led to an outside veranda. Here a communal reflection ranged across the impact and the emotions of the day: some heartwarming, some very funny; all thoughtful, some deep. Recounting that day’s experiences – participants recalled the child too small at the refugee center, Mar and her translator, Evelyn, taking a taxi to the CyberCafe, the “taxi” turning out to be two motorcycles; on the return, getting off the cycle, Mar had one leg off and one leg stuck over the seat, and with passersby stopping to watch and laugh, Evelyn finally wriggled the leg loose; Paulo, Pastor Jean’s son, playing his own songs on the guitar with cries of “play more, Paulo, play more”; the sheer joy on the faces of the kids running into the water.
A public praxis experience in Haïti Let me illustrate the above through a public praxis experience in Haiti. Over spring break, a year after the calamitous earthquake, I took my class in the course, Haiti, Praxis, and Solidarity, to Les Cayes, Haiti. The mix of 12 adult and traditional students, with at least half earning a public praxis minor, and myself, teamed up with H.E.L.O.HAITI (HomeEducationLoveOpportunity), led by Elisabeth Kennedy, co-founder with Pastor Jean Beaucejour of HELO’s three-house orphanage, headquartered in les Cayes – our destination. With most class members seasoned ‘praxivists’, they connected immediately with the orphanage kids of all ages, the house parents, staff at Pastor Jean’s, and Elisabeth. Practicing Creole for weeks before the trip, they engaged the kids, the best they could, in their own language. One excited little girl dragged Katie across the grounds pointing at stones, porch, tent, clothes, bushes, teaching her the Creole word. Katie, in turn, taught her the English word for the objects. Right away the older boys attached themselves to Jorden and Matt; young girls hung around Dwajuana’s neck and wouldn’t let go. On the second day of creative play, erupting onto the grounds from a side craft table, three 7-8 year old boys, thrusting their fingers straight out for all to see, proudly displayed the polish that Domtila, a Native of Kenya, had painted on their nails. Painting the nails of boys and girls alike, she attracted all ages of kids with their fingers held out in front of her wanting them painted. Kit, an artist, brought art supplies for the kids to make a wide banner to mount. Taking the kids on a rare trip to the ocean, attending Pastor Jean’s church service, making food bags to distribute at a refugee center, painting the outside porch of one of the houses, and the whole interior of another, kept everyone fully occupied. Still, the week also included students’ reading and nightly Journaling. Everyone had read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who would Cure the World, Farmer having established a clinic in the poorest part of Haiti. Other books were along for students to read including Farmer’s The Uses of Haiti and Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s In the Parish of the Poor. Public praxis integrates direct, relational experience with research/readings,
One evening touched the deepest part of us all. The day had been spent at a newly opened house for rescued restavek children, essentially child slaves. Haitian families so poor that they cannot feed their children give them to live with better off families as live-in servants. The trade-off is the expectation that the family will feed the child and send him or her to school. In some instances this happens. But in most cases, the child is used for all kinds of work, from morning to night with no time for play or school. They are often beaten, made to eat left-over scraps, used sexually, and punished with their shins rubbed in a grinder (see http://www.rfahaiti.org | http://www.restavekfreedom.org). The difference in presence and behavior between the orphanage children - squealing with excitement and delight - and these former restaveks was a thud to one’s spirit. The rescued children were at first awkward and hesitant. The students brought out a soccer ball, bouncy ball, Frisbees, and a whiffle ball with a bat. Katie showed some of the smaller kids how to hold the bat and hit the ball; Joseph kicked the soccer ball around and little by little some of the kids joined in. «I even jumped the rope with the children,» he related, “but I could not keep myself in one place…I was jumping side to side and the kids couldn’t figure out what was going on.” When one little girl, M, never smiled, and didn’t play, Joseph tried to ‘figure out ways that I could make her happy; I tried eating the leaves of the trees. This didn’t work. While I was trying to make her smile, I remembered the times when I was little and was left at places where no one looked after me. I thought I could feel just a little what she might be feeling. Then I remembered the whiffle ball, so I tossed it in her direction. At first there was nothing, but then 12
B-B | n°4 | 2013
she tossed it back to me and I missed it. I noticed something changed…she had a great big smile on her face and was laughing. This made me feel good because I had finally broken through that force field that had built up through years of abuse and mistreatment». Joseph’s group was in charge of that night’s meeting. As members shared meaningful, if sobering, experiences of the day, he could only think about that little girl. «The more I thought about it, the thicker the tears were filling my eyes. Then it all hit me at once, and I broke down. It was not a little break down, either» Susan sat next to him, rubbing his back. Kate came over and put her arms around him. «I was crying so long and hard, that Kate whispered, ‘would you like to go outside for some air?’ I agreed because it was too painful to sit there. Talking on the veranda with Kate helped. But the thing that helped me the most was when Kate got me talking about my past. I never knew that I had so many repressed memories that were tugging
at my insides for so long. It also helped having her tell me all the great things that I had done for those children that day. Thanks to Kate, I was able to rejoin the group to hear what we would be doing the next day.» Back home at the College, Matt, class member and Mar’s assistant with the Public Praxis Project, interviewed on camera all the participating students, went over reams of pictures, wrote the script, featured Amanda’s deep and soulful account of her day with the rescued restaveks, and made a documentary that won first place in the annual Silver Fox Award, as well as being named a finalist for a significant upstate documentary festival. Sharon, an adult pre-med student, edited a ‘Special Edition – Haiti’ of The Praxivist Press with everyone in the class writing a thematic article related to Haiti and their experience. Joseph wrote of his day with the restavek children. Each also presented at the annual Public Praxis Forum, followed with a Haitian meal served special that night in the cafeteria.
Since the trip approximately half of the students have returned with Elisabeth; Jennifer visiting little Saphira whose care she adopted and who is the subject of the children’s book she has written; Kim and Kate taking their mothers, and their mothers returning multiple times themselves with needed items, once with a bank of computers. The entire experience has been a communion, with each other, with Elisabeth, with Pastor John and his household, with all the orphanage children, and with the wounded former restaveks, all animated by a love that heals, that connects hearts across all lines of ethnicity, age, orientation, faith traditions, and affinities, that from one person to another like new tributaries ‘from a mighty stream’ gathers the power of increasing humanity. This soul-force, of all who give themselves to love in any of its many forms – as Ubuntu, the beloved community, tikkun, the common good, common decency – this love, as does ‘the moral arc of the universe’, finally, prevails.
Praxivist Press Marist College
Special Edition - HAITI Marist College Students traveled with the international aid organization H.E.L.O. Haiti over spring break. The experience was deeply profound for the Praxivists who were able to undertake the journey. This special edition of the Praxivist Press includes several first hand experiences from the trip along with a few critical analyses of key issues. The articles are augmented by photographs that were taken by the team at several sites in Les Cayes and Port au Prince. It is the desire of the contributing authors to share with the readers not only the sense of fulfillment and solidarity that is experienced when travelling with an international aid organization, but also to inform others about the ongoing plights experienced by Haitians todays. Perhaps, dear readers, one of you can pick up where many of us have left off.
1st Row -Kit Stebbins, Dwajuana Stokes, Amanda Piebes, Jorden Eck, Dr. Mar Peter-Raoul; 2nd Row - Susan Pallatto, Paultre Beaucejour, Katherine Saso, Katrina Brewer, Kimberly Mead, Jennifer Klipper, Sharon McDowell, Domtila Achola; 3rd Row - Jolnaise (Our Driver), Matthew Wilk, Joseph Berkes, and Elisabeth Kennedy of H.E.L.O. Haiti.
Inside This Issue Travel Log
Home, Education, Love and Opportunity
Bring me with You...
Reflections on Poverty A History of Haiti
A Visit to the Hospital in Les Cayes
Tribute to Dr. Paul 10 Farmer
Deforestation and Ecology of Haiti
Sponsoring a Child: 13 Saphira’s Story
Lost Children of Haiti
A Day with Restaveks
Editorial: US in Haiti 19 and Latin America
B-B | n°4 | 2013
The Common Good and the philosophy of the society ‘La Vie Nouvelle’
By Mrs Nicole Fondeneige; Mr François Papy La Vie Nouvelle, France
The culture forges both the person and the framework where people live. In this reciprocal tension one finds «Community personalism», a philosophy designed by Mr Emmanuel Mounier, founder of the Magazine Esprit (1932) in France. Every individual is considered as a «person» - unique and responsible - structured through his or her interaction with other people and the world. Soon after his death in 19xx, Mounier’s philosophy inspired the creation of ‘La Vie Nouvelle’ (the «New Life») movement, which is designed to be a common property of all its members. Since its inception in 19xx the movement has dealt with events, surprises, upsets and provokes engagement. A brief history can be found at:
Over time there emerged shared fruits of passionate debate, as well as ruptures in terms of orientation. Originally linked to the Catholic Church, the movement eventually opened its doors to Protestants and agnostics. While Vatican II initially encouraged the opening of new points of view, the encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968 discouraged much religious practice for people engaged on issues related to contraception and family planning. Eventually positions for the so-called ‘Veil law’ 14
(allowing the possibility of abortion) finally cut ties with the institutional church. This secularization has been accompanied by a pluralistic openness to the meaning of life in a broader sense. Politically the same evolution developed among Christian Democrats , as the movement radically changes position, notably on decolonization matters. In that respect, the war in Algeria was a key moment. La Vie Nouvelle approximates the so-called «second left» party, and groups like the Club « 60 Citizens « founded in 1959 by Jacques Delors who also runs the magazine « Citoyens 60». During the presidential election in 1965 between De Gaulle and Mitterrand, the left orientation was confirmed (i.e. in favor of François Mitterrand) With these changes, the movement deepened its philosophy of the notion of ‘person’, while he identifies it as a movement of popular education. New authors became references, such as Emmanuel Levinas, Paul Ricoeur, Jurgen Habermas, Hans Jonas, Hannah Arendt. Those representing French social and political
life, such as Christophe Deltombe, Michel Albert and Jacques Delors, played a crucial role in the building of the movement.
open to the public as well, in particular to discuss different matters for each election.
One can also perceive changes in its operation. The early, highly centralized and interventionist direction of the beginning faced new challenges: the personalist inspiration that nourishes its members would upset the organization of the movement. The members of La Vie Nouvelle have multiple commitments. The richness of the common good within these society represents the multiplicity of belonging to each of the various social groups. Also it gradually empowers local groups and conducts workshops in tune for local action around issues - such as women’s empowerment, as well as sociocultural events. Also at the beginning, within the churches, were proposed liturgical animations or manufacturing of the so-called ‘agenda Alleluia’. Many members of La Vie Nouvelle participated in the 1960s in the creation of action groups in the cities. From these initiatives came federal sectors workshops like « political workshop « from ‘60 Citizens’, as well as « the spirituality workshop « of the Alleluia team which continued with the workshop ‘Faith - Meaning of life’. In the 1970s, the revival of personalist studies lead to the establishment of the workshop ‘Philosophies of the person.» More recent initiatives from local groups have mounted two other federal workshops : «For a united future « and « Sobriety and sustainable development.»
Examples: - Beyond fears and folds, which political projects ? (2012) ; - Living together the governance of the Commons for an inclusive future ; - The local democracy: living it, engaging, and how?; - What kind of solidarity in Europe to fight the emergency of serious Economic, ecological and social issues (2009) ; - And coming soon, on 8-9 February 2014: Euro-citizens and Europ’players: a Parliament for what to do? Through the commitments of each shared in common, the movement take into account the different facets of the current multiple crisis. It is defenitely part of a civil society that seeks to be heard even in a climate where individualism and gloom prevail. That is why, following a conference on «Democracy facing potential risk of spirituality « (December 2006) , La Vie Nouvelle decided to become part of the ‘Pacte civique’, a kind of civic Covenant, gathering collective societies and activists who are rethinking, acting and living in a different way. Some researches coming from those people intend to provoke changes in personal behavior, as well as modes of institutional functioning, or political challenges.
La Vie Nouvelle currently publishes the magazine «Citizens, notebooks political education, philosophical and spiritual issues». It is dedicated to its members, partners but seeks a wider audience as well. It develops diverse and reasoned opinions, and presents stories of people involved in this society.
Thus, Community personalism, far from being a fixed doctrine, is a philosophy that accompanies a person throughout his or her personal history and living the history of the community.
Note the formation of Commissions, the organization of workshops sessions for members but
It should led him to reflect on the causes and consequences of events that he can see in practice and so listen to the daily life of events and people.
La société forge la personne et les personnes font la société : dans cette tension réciproque se situe l’intuition du « personnalisme communautaire », philosophie conçue par Emmanuel Mounier, fondateur de la revue Esprit (en 1932). Chaque homme, chaque femme, est une «personne » unique et responsable, qui se structure par sa confrontation aux autres et au monde. Cette philosophie inspire, très vite après sa création, le mouvement la « Vie Nouvelle », qui, ainsi conçu, constitue un bien commun à tous ses membres. C’est ainsi que depuis sa création, le mouvement répond à l’événement qui étonne, bouscule et provoque à l’engagement. Un bref historique va l’expliquer.
Créé en 1947, le mouvement vient des « amitiés scoutes » autour du slogan « Agir et non subir » et dès 1949, le personnalisme communautaire de Mounier l’inspire. Héritages directs du scoutisme, les petites équipes appelées « fraternités » sont le lieu privilégié où les membres de La Vie Nouvelle trouvent un espace de réflexion, d’échanges, de liberté, d’écoute, de parole, où chacun peut se construire dans son rapport aux autres. Dans les fraternités se développe l’esprit communautaire. Le premier bien commun vécu est la bienveillance qui élève chacun, celui là même où peuvent se travailler les désaccords, conscients chacun que la vérité n’est pas « en – soi » mais « dans l’entre –soi ». La
Established in 1947, the New Life movement comes from the « Scout friendships « and its slogan «Act and not suffer «. It was also inspired in 1949 by the concept of Community personalism in Mr Emmanuel Mounier’s work. Evolving from Scouting, small friendly teams called « fraternities « were created. These were places where the members of ‘La Vie Nouvelle’ could gather for reflection, exchange, freedom, listening, speaking, and where everyone could build relationships with each other listening to other points of view. Those ‘fraternities’ developed a spirit of community in which the key feature was development of common experience and good-wlll between each student, even where there are disagreements. Each of the students are aware that the truth is not « in - itself « but « in the inter-se »: in the relationship with each other». These fruitful disagreements allow everyone to advance respect as regards the difference of each other. In the early 1950s, La Vie Nouvelle implemented an idea coming from the book «Economy and Humanism» and animated by the Father Lebret’ thiking. In-
deed in a spirit of sharing, each member makes a financial contribution, proportional to his income, to the common good for the operation of the movement.
B-B | n°4 | 2013
B-B | n°4 | 2013
construction des désaccords féconds permet à chacun d’avancer dans le respect de sa différence avec l’autre. Au début des années 1950, la Vie Nouvelle met en application une idée qui lui vient d’« Économie et Humanisme », qu’anime le père Lebret : la péréquation. Dans un esprit de partage, la contribution financière de chaque membre au bien commun que constitue le fonctionnement du mouvement est proportionnelle à ses revenus.
ateliers fédéraux : « l’atelier politique » tire son origine de la revue Citoyens 60, « l’atelier spiritualité » de l’équipe Alleluia, qui s’est poursuivie par l’atelier foi-sens de la vie ; les années 1970 voient la relance des études personnalistes qui aboutira à la mise en place de « l’atelier philosophies de la personne ». Plus récemment à partir d’initiatives des groupes locaux se sont montés deux autres ateliers fédéraux : « Pour un avenir solidaire » et « Sobriété et développement durable ».
Au cours du temps se dessinent des orientations partagées en commun, fruits de débats passionnés, et parfois de ruptures. Clairement lié à l’institution catholique, le mouvement s’en détache progressivement, s’ouvrant à des protestants puis des agnostiques. Vatican. II incite à l’ouverture tandis que l’encyclique Humanae vitae éloigne de la pratique religieuse les plus engagés sur les questions de contraception et de planning familial ; les positions en faveur de la loi Veil coupent définitivement les ponts avec l’Église institutionnelle. Cette sécularisation s’accompagne d’une ouverture pluraliste sur le sens de la vie. Au plan politique, même évolution. Initialement lié à la démocratie chrétienne, le mouvement s’en sépare nettement sur la décolonisation. La guerre d’Algérie est un moment clé. La Vie nouvelle se rapproche de « la deuxième gauche » et des clubs comme le club «citoyens 60», fondé en 1959 par Jacques Delors, membre du mouvement qui lance aussi la revue Citoyens 60. A la présidentielle de 1965, opposant De Gaulle à Mitterrand, l’orientation à gauche se confirme.
Le mouvement édite actuellement la revue « Citoyens, cahiers d’éducation politique, philosophique et spirituelle ». Elle est destinée à ses membres, ses partenaires et se veut ouverte à un large public. Elle développe des opinions diverses et argumentées, présente des témoignages de personnes engagées. Avec la commission formation, les ateliers organisent des sessions, pour leurs membres et ouvertes à l’extérieur, en particulier afin de faire le point à chaque échéance électorale. Des exemples : - Au-delà des peurs et des replis, quels projets politiques en 2012 ? - Vivre ensemble les biens communs pour un avenir solidaire - La démocratie de proximité : la vivre, la faire vivre, comment ? - Quelle Europe des solidarités face à l’urgence économique, écologique et sociale ? en 2009 - Et prochainement les 8-9 février 2014 : Euro-citoyens, Europ’acteurs : un Parlement pour quoi faire ?»
à travers ces évolutions le mouvement approfondit sa philosophie de la personne, en même temps qu’il s’identifie à un mouvement d’éducation populaire. De nouveaux auteurs font référence tels E. Levinas, P.Ricoeur, J.Habermas, H.Jonas, H.Arendt, etc. Des figures de la vie sociale ou politique française (voire européenne) comme Christophe Deltombe, Michel Albert ou Jacques Delors cheminent un temps dans le mouvement.
à travers les engagements de chacun partagés en commun, le mouvement prend la mesure des différentes facettes de la crise actuelle. Il se sent constitutif d’une société civile qui se cherche et veut se faire entendre dans un climat où domine l’individualisme et la morosité. C’est pourquoi, à la suite d’un colloque sur « la démocratie au risque de la spiritualité » (décembre 2006), il a participé à la création du « Pacte civique », collectif d’associations et de militants qui appellent à penser, agir et vivre autrement. Ce « Pacte civique » recherche des ruptures dans les comportements personnels, les modes de fonctionnement des organisations et des institutions et interpelle les politiques.
La Vie Nouvelle évolue aussi dans son fonctionnement. Au début très centralisé et dirigiste, l’inspiration personnaliste qui nourrit ses membres va bousculer l’organisation du mouvement. Les «vie-nouvelliens» ont de multiples engagements. La richesse du bien commun qu’est « La vie nouvelle » tient à la multiplicité des appartenances de chacun à divers groupes sociaux. Aussi progressivement les groupes locaux s’autonomisent et organisent des ateliers de réflexion en prise directe sur des actions locales autour de thèmes comme l’émancipation des femmes, les animations socioculturelles, ou, au début dans les églises, les animations liturgiques ou encore la fabrication de l’agenda Alléluia. Beaucoup de membres de la vie nouvelle participent, dans les années 1960, à la création de groupes d’action municipale (GAM). à partir de ces initiatives se mettent en place les secteurs appelés maintenant
Ainsi, le personnalisme communautaire, loin d’être une doctrine figée, est une philosophie qui accompagne l’homme à travers son histoire et, dans l’histoire, le conduit à réfléchir sur les causes et conséquences des faits qu’il vit, c’est une pratique à l’écoute des événements et des hommes.
B-B | n°4 | 2013
Ubuntu: the Spirit of Humanity
By Mrs Helen SAYERS OMAN, Africa
Helen Sayers has an extensive international professional background. After learning more about Ubuntu in order to understand the depth of its meaning through research in literature, she decided to develop contacts with people who come from Ubuntu-oriented societies or who work to promote and implement Ubuntu through their work. In that capacity, she developed methods of training and education.
«Ubuntu! That’s what it is!» Since leaving Africa in the mid 80s, having spent over six years in Kenya and in Swaziland, I had often wondered what it was that had left me with an incurable nostalgia that kept pulling me back to the continent again and again. Was it the stunning scenery, the unforgettable sunsets, and the incredible wildlife? All of these had added to the feeling and the yearning, yet there was something much stronger and deeper, something connected with the soul, that remained a mystery till many years later. United Nations World Conference In 2001, by then based in Geneva, some colleagues and I were preparing to take part in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. We were discussing how to make a positive contribution to the general debate, which was likely to revolve around highly political issues, reparations, and multiple conflicting opinions. Mxolisi, a young man from Soweto, near Johannesburg, was part of our group and knew, from first-hand experience, the misery and horrors of racism. Mxolisi is typical of so many African people I have had the pleasure to meet – generous-hearted, kind and friendly; with an open relaxed nature that made one feel at ease in his company. “Let’s organize a workshop on the theme: «Ubuntu – a Force for Living Together» he suggested, and went on to explain the meaning of Ubuntu, an African code of ethics, a noble way of living that held families and communities together and built bridges across nations over centuries. What he expressed resonated totally with ‘that thing’ that had touched my heart so deeply during my time in Africa. It was to do with the sense of belonging that I had felt, of being accepted as part of an extended family, of being interconnected with others and with the natural world; and it was about the African way of sharing – not only what you have but also what you are. He quoted the phrase «I am because we are». The workshop was a huge success – speakers included a Rwandan Ambassador, a Zulu teacher and mother of eight, a researcher studying indigenous people in Mexico, and Mxolisi. They all spoke from their heart about a way of life that is fast disappearing and that urgently needs to be reawakened. A colourful Native American gentleman stood up from the audience and proudly told us about the values of his ancestors. He spoke of the same – ‘Ubuntu’ – values.
B-B | n°4 | 2013
B-B | n°4 | 2013
ties or who work to promote and implement Ubuntu through their work. It was a fascinating time – exchanging ideas, co-creating platforms for dialogue, arranging panel discussions, and attenDuring the main conference, Mrs Mary Robinson, UN Human ding seminars and conferences. Geneva, with its international Rights Commissioner at the time, referred to Ubuntu: community, was an ideal launch-pad for such an initiative, and a number of events were hosted at the United Nations itself. As «We can draw inspiration from the African concept of Ubuntu, a representative of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Unithat ancient term which embraces humaneness, caring, sharing versity at the United Nations, I met many who were interested and being in harmony with all of the world. in exploring the spiritual dimension of Ubuntu – specifically the spiritual wisdom that exists at the Ubuntu empowers everyone to core of every culture, and the unibe valued, to reach their full poHelen Sayers is manager and trainer, Oasis Life-Skills versal values that live in the heart tential while remaining in accord Training Services, based in Oman (www.oasisoman.com). and soul of every individual and with everything and everyone She specialises in Ubuntu workshops as ancient African that are the foundation for living around them. code of ethics, providing a framework for exploring unitogether in harmony. versal values for living and working together in harmony. This spirit is reflected in the Creative interactive workshops have been facilitated in Ubuntu in daily life? Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it speaks of «the in- Ghana, India, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Portugal, Germany, South Africa & UK – for teachers, students & professional Very soon, however, I found that herent dignity and the equal and groups. A trainers’ guide: ‘UBUNTU! The Spirit of Humanitalking about Ubuntu was not inalienable rights of all members ty’ is available through Oasis, available in English, French, enough – it had to be actually of the human family». Arabic, Spanish and soon in Italian. Oasis Life-Skills Traifelt and experienced in order to ning Services is a local company specialising in life-skills be understood, inculcated and Mrs Robinson also referred to for personal and professional development. Oasis works implemented in daily life. I started Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s mainly with business and educational institutions wishing to develop creative activities view of Ubuntu: to develop the capacity of their staff or students, and and workshops to help people to supports the work of youth groups and community orgadiscover their own Ubuntu. «Africans have this thing nisations. Creative interactive workshops are designed to called UBUNTU. It is about the explore new ways to bring out the best of talents, strengths It also dawned on me that in essence of being human – it is order to convey the concept to part of the gift that Africa will give and qualities. Consultancy services are offered in the area of developing training programmes for youth preparing others convincingly I would need the world. It embraces hospitato integrate into the workplace and for recently-employed to live the values and principles lity, caring about others, being young professionals. of Ubuntu myself – a huge, lifeable to go the extra mile for the long challenge! Nelson Mandela sake of others. We believe that A teacher by profession, Helen taught science in the UK, became my role model … Despite a person is a person through Kenya and Swaziland. Her experience of living in Africa serving 27 years in jail, he never other persons, that my humainspired an interest in values-based education and its lost the Ubuntu values of forginity is caught up, bound up, application in different cultures. Helen is a lead trainer veness, compassion, reconciliainextricably, with yours. When with the Association for Living Values Education Internation, dignity and solidarity. At moI dehumanize you, I inexorably tional (ALIVE). She has trained educators in a number of ments when I let myself down, for dehumanize myself.». countries in Europe and Africa, and in India, Kuwait and example, instances of unkindness Oman. Founder and former president of the Swiss Assoon my part, I often say to myself Reflecting on the rich conversaciation for Living Values, Helen currently coordinates its «That’s not Ubuntu!» It gives me tions leading up to and during programmes in West and Central Africa, organising training a mirror for self-transformation. the Durban conference, I felt workshops for teachers from early childhood to secondary as if I had found a long-lost and school level and for street children. From Ubuntu to a method very dear friend – Ubuntu! I also (see http://www.lvafricacentwest.net). of education intuitively knew that this was the beginning of a personal journey In order to develop effective ways – that continues to this day. to help people of any background to experience the beauty and wisdom of Ubuntu, I needed a method which is thoughtful, creaRealising that Ubuntu really is a ‘gift to the world’, as Archbishop tive and fun. I drew from the Living Values Education approach. Tutu so beautifully put it, my vision has been to share this gift as Living Values was established in 1994 and has grown into a widely as possible. global network of educators passionate about bringing values into every aspect of a child’s development, through reflective, Lessons from Ubuntu-oriented societies experiential learning. The teacher aspires to be a role model of values and encourages the students to achieve their full My first step was to learn more about Ubuntu in order to potential in a learning environment where every individual feels understand the depth of its meaning, researching literature and valued, understood and respected. networking with people who come from Ubuntu-oriented socie-
My first opportunity to experiment with a range of activities came when I was invited to conduct a weekend retreat in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany in Italy, with a group of professionals from different backgrounds. All were curious to know what Ubuntu is all about while some were sceptical about its relevance to their work in the corporate world. However, after exploring Ubuntu approaches to communication, conflict resolution, reconciliation, and consensus building, several participants concluded that Ubuntu is needed not only in their companies, but also in the government!
United Nations Human Rights Commissioner
A few years later a friend asked me if I would write a chapter on the topic of Ubuntu as part of a book she was producing on practical approaches to working with values. I set off enthusiastically and the chapter grew and grew, to the point where my friend recommended that I create a separate booklet. The booklet then grew and finally became a training manual and resource book for teachers and trainers, titled ‘UBUNTU! The Spirit of Humanity’. The book ‘Ubuntu! The spirit of Humanity’ Full of creative activities and ideas for interactive workshops, the concept of Ubuntu is used in the book as a framework for exploring and experiencing the values essential for living together in harmony and for building bridges between people of all backgrounds and cultures. The book has been printed in English, French and Arabic and is available in Spanish in e-version. Italian and Konkany (Goa) translations are in progress.
Workshops in Africa and worldwide Ubuntu workshops have been conducted in Oman, Kuwait, the UK, Goa, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and Germany, and in a number of countries in Africa. The fundemental values are the same in almost every context: respect, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, cooperation, team-spirit, etc. Activities can be adapted to be used by different groups – from staff in large companies, to students of higher education institutions, to street children, to kindergarten toddlers! A key objective of the project is to put forward that the values that Ubuntu embraces are not confined to Africa but are universal and at the heart of all cultures. I have included several references to illustrate the universal nature of Ubuntu, including an article about His Majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman and his annual ‘Meet the People Tour’ where he connects closely with the community with care and affection, earning the love, trust and loyalty of his people. There is also a description of the work of Prince Charles’ charitable organisation, The Prince’s Trust, as an ‘Ubuntu-style’ approach to helping disaffected young adults to integrate themselves into society with dignity and a sense of belonging. Ubuntu in the Sultanate of Oman I now live in the Sultanate of Oman. It has been a great joy to explore the concept of Ubuntu with Omani people, comparing parallels in their own culture, making connections with the values found in the Holy Qoran, building bridges between generations and within the colourful tapestry of different nationalities that make up the unique community that is Oman.
B-B | n°4 | 2013
IN THE NEWS
From our correspondant in Africa
B-B | n°4 | 2013
From our correspondant, PRINCESS UKAGA OF NIGERIA, Nigeria, Africa
Princess Ogechi Ukaga, Chapter Leader Children of the Earth Nigeria
The project One Peaceful Africa
Values of Sustainability and Holistic Education
One Peaceful Africa, our International Movement Children of the Earth (CoE) Premier Project, coordinated by Princess Ukaga of Nigeria, is a call to unite young Africans in peace building, peace making, and peace living.
Children and youth that are fostering the values of sustainability and have been educated in a holistic, conscious and spiritual way are trained and educated for the establishment of justice, peace and sustainable development within society. Nevertheless, they also need to be taught the skills to empower themselves, form global movements, participate within society and make sure their voices are being heart while at the same time making society more transparent and democratic.one big way to join hands in bring peace in Africa is by all
This past September, CoE held an initial leadership gathering in Ghana. Participants from Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Uganda and Nigeria have now gone back to their respective countries to catalyze new chapters, offer trainings and inspire local community projects. They will convene with other CoE leaders for a One Peaceful Africa summit in Kenya in 2015.
African youths joining hands togather to build a better Africa and this can only be done by we African Youths,we are not only the future of Tomorrow as people say but we are first the future of Today.
One big way to join hands in bring peace in Africa is by all African youths joining hands together to build a better Africa, and this can only be done by ‘We African Youths’. Indeed we are not only the future of Tomorrow, as people say, but we are first the future of Today
From our correspondant, Sonja KRUSE, South Africa Together with a few like-minded individuals, we’ve registered non-profit organisation in South Africa, called ‘The Ubuntu Effect’, which will be the non-profit publisher of the book. It is of the utmost importance and in keeping with the spirit of the UBUNTU journey, that the families have a copy of the book and endorse it before it hits mainstream publishing. Our aim is to return to the families with a copy for each. If this book has healing power, it can only come from this foundation. The funders will all appear on the same page, regardless of the amounts invested. We are in this together. We carry one another, whoever has the strength on the day. http://www.theubuntugirl.co.za
For Future Leaders in business, politics and civil society Leaders in business, politics and civil society can create wealth while at the same time they can positively add value to the conservation and protection of the ecological world, having respect for other human beings and building on positive change in their own life. Socially responsible business can not only do well for the world around us but also for the development and the realization of the full potential of individual people. As it’s not always that easy to marry sustainability with making profits in order to develop socially responsible leaders within business and society we need to start teaching the youth of today already at a very young age about sustainable entrepreneurship and how to become a social and environmental engaged leader.
Educational, Economic and Environmental Projects Princess Ukaga, founder of the first official Chapter of CoE in Africa, is coordinator of One Peaceful Africa - a cross border crusade to unite African youth and make a difference in the lives of all through educational, economic, and environmental projects. She believes a prerequisite for world peace is to strengthen the dialogue between today’s and tomorrow’s decision makers. Princess aims for a dialogue between generations and emphasizes this within her activities for peacebuilding and cleaning the environment within Nigeria. She believes that one of the principal aims of this initiative is to strengthen the dialogue between today’s and tomorrow’s decision makers.
A Call to Unite Young Africans One Peaceful Africa, Our COE Premier Project coordinated by Princess Ukaga of Nigeria, is a call to unite young Africans in peace building, peace making, and peace living. This past September, CoE held an initial leadership gathering in Ghana. Participants from Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Uganda and Nigeria have now gone back to their respective countries to catalyze new chapters, offer trainings and inspire local community projects. They will convene with other CoE leaders for a One Peaceful Africa summit in Kenya in 2015.
“We are following our own path to true and lasting peace which we believe starts within our own hearts. To truly transform our communities, our countries and the world is to begin transforming ourselves which is the way to sustainable unity within our world. We need to strive to to prepare the ground for exceptional ideas and to inspire to concrete action, enriched by the critical voices of idealistic and courageous young people.”
Common Good Forum http://www.commongood-forum.org Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Editor: Violaine Hacker Knowledge Manager and Graphic Design: Caroline Hacker Bauer Communication/Translation: Tom Mahon Credits Photos Homepage: Sonja Kruse BB and News: Sonja Kruse, François Flahault, Uli Spalthoff, Mar Peter Raoul, Nicole Fondeneige, François Papy,
Helen Mayer, Dr Moustafa Traore, Princess Ukagof Nigeria, Zandile Nkosi
(…photos données par les auteurs.)
Published on Apr 2, 2014
As a Bridge-Builder, the Common Good Forum promotes cross-cultural understanding and cooperation among local and global communities. It...