That of God in everyone

FWCC Update

The commencement of Southern Africa Yearly Meeting in January 2023 marked the beginning of a global process of discussion and discernment among Quakers on the theme of ubuntu, leading to and beyond the 2024 World Plenary Meeting in South Africa and online.
Ubuntu refers to the deeply held belief, morality and custom that every person is worthy of being recognised, respected and heard, and that we as human beings are all interdependent. It is found as a daily practice in many African societies, although terms and languages differ.
It implies a collective responsibility to ensure that all members of the community have the means of subsistence and learning and participation and further extends to care for the environment, since people are part of the same divinely given creation, that is an interdependent whole.
This is affirmed throughout the Bible,  including in Jesus command to “love your neighbour as yourself” and in Paul’s teaching that “a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
Christian understanding of ubuntu are often associated with Desmond Tutu, who explained the term with the words, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours”. It is also reflected in the famous words of Martin Luther King Jr “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.*
Ubuntu forms a central role in Quaker thought in Southern and Central Africa, including the region’s book of Faith and Practice,
Living Adventurously which speaks of ubuntu being rooted in “an invisible circuit of connection between us all”. In the chapter about ubuntu, former FWCC clerk Duduzile Mtshazo describes her first experience of a Quaker Meeting: “The warm embrace of acceptance, just as I was, was moving and magnetic… ‘Umuntu ugumuntu ngabantu’ – a person is human through the humanity of others. I found my humanity and humanness through those Friends who saw that of God in me and affirmed that.” 
The recognition that many countries and economies are not guided by principles of ubuntu, has led many Friends to ask why this is the case, including by engaging with the historical injustices that have contributed to the present situation. Relatedly, Friends are exploring how initiatives leading to, for example, a universal basic income, and abundant sustainable energy, might help reflect ubuntu more widely.
FWCC will share resources and perspectives on ubuntu throughout 2023, to help inform discussions at Section Meetings, on
World Quaker Day (1 October), and to assist with spiritual preparation for the World Plenary Meeting.
* Neither Desmond Tutu nor Martin Luther King Jr were Quakers, but both worked closely with Friends, and were nominated by Quakers for the Nobel Peace Prize. The quote from King is from his 1963 ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ which was published and distributed by the American Friends Service Committee.