Ubuntu is a well-known concept in Africa. It means “I am because you are”.
South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission explored this concept wholeheartedly during the peace process that put an end to apartheid.
Instead of quickly sentencing the perpetrators, as happened after War World II, in South Africa those who had committed human rights violations were asked to make themselves accountable. If they spoke the whole truth they could be granted an amnesty.
Not everybody was ready for reconciliation: some people continued to justify their atrocities and crimes, but those who opened their hearts to the pain they had caused found a new level of humanity and connection that came from acknowledging that despite our acts, we are all interconnected as human beings.
Ubuntu created the possibility of healing for both perpetrators and their victims through acknowledging their common and shared humanity.
Since then, the term Ubuntu has been widely used in many contexts to talk about reconciliation.
As the Reverend Desmond Tutu says, “Ubuntu is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong.
Ubuntu speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion.”
I find that there are stories that contain Ubuntu. These stories affirm life and humanity and bring us together, and people tend to gravitate towards them.
But if you’re not sure how to recognise these stories here’s a good tip: if your story talks about who you are because of others, you’re speaking Ubuntu.