Free & Fit NYC - Desmond Tutu's Ubuntu Philiosophy - A Social Media Campaign & Reflectio

Free & Fit NYC - Desmond Tutu's Ubuntu Philiosophy - A Social Media Campaign & Reflection

Context and Introduction

Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of the Anglican Dioceses of Johannesburg in South Africa. His works during a period of significant conflict, pain and hurt for the nation of South Africa has been seen to some as the most revolutionary conflict resolution when faced with arguably one of the most difficult and challenging humanitarian domestic issues in world history. The rule of Apartheid was abolished and during seeking reconciliation and forgiveness Tutu’s work, alongside Prime Minister Nelson Mandela, proved pivotal in pursuing a positive outcome to an uncertain and difficult future for the nation of South Africa (Battle, 2009).

This paper reflects the authors reading over a semester, with peers and Professor Michael Battle, to focus on one specific aspect of Tutu’s theology during his work in South Africa. The works which interests the author the most in his work on Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy. Specifically, Tutu’s position to pursue reconciliation and how we, as a human race, can reconcile between one another. Tutu believed we were all created in the image of God and worked to create a culture of a healthy and all-inclusive community by building, maintaining and establishing a sacred covenant. This process of reconciling in community is exactly how the author wishes to grow as a Christian leader, as a Christian visionary and, more importantly, as a practicing Christian disciple (Battle, 2009).

The theory of loving one another through change, repentance, surrender and compassionate submission to God. Through his unpublicized works Professor Michael Battle presented to us a class this process as three parts of Tutu’s works; Purgation, Illumination and Unitive. Tutu believed that by demonstrating love in unifying and illuminating way it could lead people to Purgation. Tutu built Ubuntu upon these practices and stated that it was vital in any community to be open and available. This can also be applied to different traditions, faiths or a wider secular society. In Tutu’s theology it provides a questionable approach in that if a Christian were to avoid God altogether and just to seek after any community, he or she could receive God’s love. However, the author would like to explore how God may not be accessible to somebody who is just a passive person in the crowd on a Sunday service, perhaps as an inactive member of a congregation or somebody who finds themselves as a lost individual who is without an identity, community or purpose in life. Further issues we seek to try research in this paper.

During the various texts, books and reflections of the semester the author completed several reflections throughout the project and completed a presentation on Tutu’s book “No future without forgiveness.” It is from this book and another text, “Reconciliation: The Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy of Desmond Tutu” written by Professor Michael Battle, that this paper will draw its foundations. Both books help defines Tutu’s own description of Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy. Taking it from the human perspective, to a Christian perspective and setting a clear aspirational character for us all to follow as both followers of Christ and sons and daughters of God created in his image.

The core definition of Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy from Desmond Tutu himself for this text is:

“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are. (Tutu, 2001)”

It is from the first book, “No future without forgiveness”, that the author selected, and it is this quote that will create a hypothesis for this reflection. This process, of reconciliation, includes the author identifying the people in which he himself needs to apply Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy and includes steps of how this will impact his relationship and local community. It is through Tutu’s works that the author hopes to create a conversation, through the social media project, to open doors and windows to engage with reconciliation, forgiveness and overcoming the reality that it may not create a certain positive conflict resolution.

The context of reconciliation is chosen to explore new ways to engage the marginalized, broken, poor in Spirit and hungry for authentic community in New York City. Today, in a world charged by instant gratification, political hurt, seasonal climate impacts and the increasing changes to society, Tutu’s spiritual inspiration and leadership we can see new roads and rivers to pursue reconciliation in new and entrepreneurial ways.

The relationships Tutu developed whilst working in South Africa helps us to see a way to reconcile. Tutu, supported by newly released and nominated first Black President Nelson Mandela, work together during a period of turmoil by standing up and against Apartheid in South Africa.

This is a clear purgatory made by the White British and Europeans in South Africa who were ruling, governing and enforcing apartheid at that time. To approach the modern situations of injustice in New York City it is important to identify ways to embrace and welcome people who have been subject to pain and hurt from groups including migrants, refugees and “new arrivals” into New York. These people when they first arrive may have big dreams of making it in New York as the cliché’ goes “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.

However, the reality is when you first arrive in New York, like any city, you are a stranger in a new, lonely and intimidating city. Through the theology of Ubuntu, it is also clear to see both the differences and similarities between South African and New York City issues of independence. In New York a culture and identity of “self” orientation and awareness is a major focus. The “New York self” consists of several psychological mental perspectives including self-awareness, self-support, self-pity, self-righteousness and the perspective on an individual themselves being fundamentally responsible for everything in their life without help or support of other people. This culture isolates, alienates and distracts individuals from other people around them who can help, love and support humanity the most.

In South Africa the issues were different in the time of Tutu’s reign as Archbishop in Johannesburg. The independence issues were more to do with tribal and isolated groups and the wider group of white minorities. “Afrikaners” including Europeans who were more entitled than their nonwhite, Asian and black brothers and sisters as one wider and given the title of Bosskap. The African non-white groups were referred to as mixed race or blacks as “Kaffir.” These titles, socio-economic groups and class divides created conflict and clear power struggles between white and non-white populous.

Today in New York the problems exist outside of just race and class, but they also exist in wider ethnic groups and even deeper identity problems. Issues around sexual orientation, prolife, abortion, euthanasia, mental health and opioid exist and continue to plague the wider American population. Indeed, there is a need for Christians themselves to separate themselves from this political agenda to identify with their Freedom which is found in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 8, Galatians 5.)

The concept of alienating groups of people due to the color of their skin or the origin of their birthplace is rife throughout history. However, a society which disqualifies groups, secludes others and separates different ethnicities from the body of Christ is immediately representative of a misconception of God’s love and justice for the world. Tutu explains that racial injustice and oppression can remove our ability to view the world. Instead he implores us to embrace equality and to welcome all people including non-white groups who themselves can be agents for change in all kind of ways.

However, the reality is that whites continue oppressing blacks, it is constant. Throughout history this has been the case, but as Christians Tutu, the author and others who call themselves Christian are called to a higher account. Indeed, Christians must place our trust in God, not societal norms, and overcome the past of our ancestors and build a place for community and trust across race, age, gender and identity through missional communities. In order to achieve this Tutu states that we must address all the causes of violence if we are to bring it to an end. We must keep our wits about us and build a safe place in our own towns, cities, schools, colleges, workplaces, communities and neighborhoods to stop from this continuing. We must be impartial and sincere, quick to listen and slow to speak and fundamentally aware of those around us. Not just ourselves. Through embodying “real reconciliation” it is the author’s desire to research and establish safe spaces where people can ask questions and not be judged or oppressed for how they look or where they come from.

For this to happen the author proposes to explore four things in this project:

  1. To establish three clear character and personality traits that represent the Reconciliation and Ubuntu Tutu defines and apply them clearly to New York & London via social media

  2. To build a Social Media project which asks questions, builds a conversation and creates a platform for people to consider how Ubuntu can reconcile with peoples in their lives.

  3. To build a second Social Media project to give thanks and to reconcile with our communities through sharing the miracle of kindness throughout the month of November

  4. To make recommendations based upon this semester reading, research, reflections and social media campaigns to develop strategies to build equality and community faith-based conversations.

Reconciliation Made Possible Through Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy

The past relationships the author has personally formed in and through community have been through the Sports Ministry Free & Fit, formally known as Faith and Fitness. It is from this community that we will form the basis for conversation about Tutu’s Ubuntu Philosophy in New York City and London. Firstly through a social media campaign with a wider audience of twenty to thirty people selected at random from both my UK and US networks and then more specifically two individuals who have spent one to one time answering questions with the author and who would be able to help reconcile the problems previously discussed in society and personal life. It is with these communities that the author has been able to build a strong bond and through Ministry it is the author’s desire to the process of reconciliation and using Ubuntu this to take place.

Firstly, the author would like to identify that this paper wishes to make no comparisons between the process, the design or the relationships that Desmond Tutu formed when he approached the issues he faced when dealing with Apartheid in South Africa. When Tutu built bridges, he created opportunities for reconciliation between the oppressors, subjects and institutions accountable. When the law was enforced it is only th