Read time 02 mins
Author: Linda O'Connell
Category: Blog

Bringing people together is what I call 'Ubuntu'

As I sat to write this editorial, I didn't know exactly what to type. With fingers poised over my keyboard, I could hear in the background the news on TV that a BBC presenter had died. George Alagiah was a migrant from Sri Lanka who experienced racism throughout his life. He married a British woman and worked most of his adult life in Africa, highlighting the horrendous suffering people endured because of war, famine and racism. As a colleague spoke of their friendship, I heard him use a word I had heard before; a word I was familiar with, had read about, and had personally written about in the past: Umbutu – a word born from an African concept of collective existence. While there is no direct English translation for Umbutu, “it encompasses a suite of ideas and deeds that form a social and humanistic ethical code. Umbutu represents the core values of kindness, humanity, compassion, life, reconciliation, freedom, and the bonding with others. It is about listening and recognising our entanglement with others. It is not only a moral theory concerned with fostering humanistic attitudes but also one that embodies values, morals, and justice. It brings the human face to every aspect of life, as to be human is to recognise humanity in others”.

Bishop Tutu said, "I can only be fully me when you are fully you; we two are connected. I can't be rich if you are poor, I can't be free if you are enslaved". Does the word Umbutu not represent or embody SVP’s mission statement; why we chose to serve those who need our help?

SVP - Blog - Bringing people together is what I call 'Ubuntu'You only have to turn on the news or listen to the radio to witness an ever-growing movement of resentment, hatred and fear towards those who would compete for our resources, towards people who are refugees, many fleeing wars, hunger, torture and suffering. In mediaeval Europe, pilgrims travelled to far-off countries on journeys of spiritual enrichment and, traditionally, were warmly greeted on their way by locals and monastic communities and were given food and refuge (similar to Umbutu). The spiritual exercise of the modern traveller is the more existential one of keeping body and soul together, yet we seem to be on the verge of forgetting the hospitality imperatives of our Benedictine predecessors.

Within this edition, you will read about SVP's special annual pilgrimage to the Knock Shrine in September to celebrate the 190 years of the Society's founding, our 190 years of helping. Also, how our Galway-based resource centre, Croí na Gaillimhe, recently created videos to assist asylum seekers and refugees apply for International Protection in Ireland. As usual, the magazine covers the vast array of work that the Society does at a local and national level from prison visitations, to daycare centres, to the work we do to highlight social justice at the governmental level as well as within the Young SVP programme.

I hope this edition gives us all room for reflection on how we live Umbutu, or whatever word sits most comfortably for you.

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