It had been a community where neighbors were supportive of each other. That changed when those in leadership positions outside of their community decided to remodel communities like theirs using an artificial identity system. Until then, no one in the community had even thought of themselves as being any different or better than anyone else in the community.
As a result of the classification system, 15 percent of the community was placed in an elite category with the rest in a more common category. Those who were considered elite were placed in privileged positions. They began to acquire wealth while the more common citizens supported the wealth-generating activities of the elite.
When the outside controlling influences eventually left, the elite remained in power for a while. Then the governance of the community transformed into a majority rule. Past resentments flared up as violence against the elite. Over time the elite were massacred. The community became one front in a civil war that virtually destroyed the nation.
Eventually, peace accords were established, and the civil war ended. But how can a community or a nation bring itself back together again after a genocide ended the lives of so many? Imagine living next door to a neighbor who participated in the death of so many.
Reconciliation isn’t easy because resentment is hard to shake. Letting go of past grievances requires one to be strong in their faith. In southern Africa, the Ubuntu philosophy has become a guide for how we can learn to live well in a damaged world. The fourteen lessons of Ubuntu philosophy as described by Mungi Ngomane, granddaughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, provide guidance for all of us as we struggle to make peace(1).
Lesson 1: See Yourself in Other People
Lesson 2: Strength Lies in Unity
Lesson 3: Put Yourself in the Shoes of Others
Lesson 4: Choose to See the Wider Perspective
Lesson 5: Have Dignity and Respect for Yourself and Others
Lesson 6: Believe in the Good of Everyone
Lesson 7: Choose Hope Over Optimism
Lesson 8: Seek Out Ways to Connect
Lesson 9: The Power of the F-Word – Forgiveness
Lesson 10: Embrace Our Diversity
Lesson 11: Acknowledge Reality (However Painful)
Lesson 12: Find the Humor in Our Humanity
Lesson 13: Why Little Things Make a Big Difference
Lesson 14: Learn to Listen So That You Can Hear
It is often true that there are valuable lessons to be learned from every situation, no matter how evil. It is also true that the failure to learn these lessons will likely result in the return of the same evils. Hanging on to resentment simply slows recovery. Lingering grievance eats at one’s soul. While reconciliation is difficult, it is the only way to peace. Revenge is never an answer.
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“The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.” – Thich Nhat Hanh (Clergyman)
(1)Ngomane, M. (2019). Everyday Ubuntu – Living Better Together, The African Way. Appetite by Random House.