Friday, 1 July 2011



“Ethiopia is the land of our fathers, the land where God loves to be.”


Ethiopia is one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world. Most of us identify Ehtiopia with Emperor Hailie Selassie or the queen of Sheba (Saba). The land of Sheba was referred to as Saba by the Ethiopians. The actual name of queen of Sheba was Queen Makeda. The time span between the reigns of queen Makeda and Emperor Hailie Selassie is approximately 3000 years. Most of the world is familiar with this period of history wherein Ethiopians ruled a great civilization. Most people are unaware of the existence of at least 97 other sovereign rulers who reigned prior to Queen Makeda. Once we include the rule of these 97 sovereigns, Ethiopian civilization can be tracked back to 3000 B.C.

We are familiar with Ethiopia from passages in the Old Testaments of the bible. Genesis Chapter 2, Verse 13 refers that flowed out of Eden. One of these is River Gihon which is the river that encircles Cush (sometimes in the bible Cush and Ethiopia are used interchangeably). The Gihon is another name for the Blue Nile River of Ethiopia. In addition to Ethiopia being one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Ethiopia is also one of the oldest Christian Nations in the world. The Ethiopian court was first introduced to Christianity in approximately the year 42. Some of you may remember the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch as written in Acts Chapter 8, Verse 27: “Then the angel of the Lord said to Phillip, Start out and go south to the road that leads down from Jerusalem to Gaza. So he set out and was on his way when he caught sight of an Ethiopian. This man was a eunuch, a high official of the Kandake (Candace) Queen of Ethiopia in charge of all her treasure.”

The passage continues by describing how Phillip helped the Ethiopian understand one passage of Isaiah that the Ethiopian was using. After the Ethiopian received an explanation of the passage, he requested that Phillip baptize him, which Phillip obliged. I cross referenced some of my Ethiopian materials and discovered that Queen Gersamot Hendeke VII (very similar to Kandake) was the Queen of Ethiopia from the year 42 to 52. 

The aforementioned reveals that the Ethiopian court was introduced to Christianity in the 1st century.
Another very interesting fact with respect to Christianity that remains hidden is the fact that Christianity became the official state religion of Ethiopia in the year 320 (the forth Century) during the rule of emperor Ezana. Further the Ethiopians commemorated the event (acceptance of Christianity as the state religion) by removing the image of the crescent from their coins and replacing it with the Christian cross!! The Ethiopians of what was known as the Axumite Empire minted, distributed and utilized coins for money. Hundreds of varieties of coins were minted in gold, silver and bronze during the Axumite Empire over a period that spanned 700 to 1000 years. The Axumites also built numerous monuments, palaces, temples and other structures in northern Ethiopia. Some remain standing after 2000 years.

Ubuntu - The Image of God

Ubuntu, a Bantu word, defines what it means to be truly human. We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.
Yesterday, I saw a photograph on Yahoo News of young Israeli girls writing messages on war missiles. I assume, given that these same missiles were intended for Lebanon that the messages weren't of peace and prosperity for the Lebanese. But I wonder if these girls completely understood the implications of the missiles – that, when launched, they will, in all likelihood, kill or maim other little girls, who just happen to be Lebanese. Empathy seems to be in pretty short order these days, so probably it won't even matter to them. Equally appalling is that these sentiments are perhaps as, if not more, rabidly reflected in the opposite camp. Spreading hate as adults is vile enough, but to teach it to your own children is unforgivable.

Perhaps half the troubles in this world would be over if parents gave up saying, I don't want you to talk, play or associate in any way with them, I won't allow you to get to know them, I don't want you to like them, because, get this straight, they are not like us - they are gooks or kikes or hajis or huns or niggers and so on – everything except people like us. The emphasis being on 'Not like us and therefore a whole lot less worthy of inhabiting this planet than we are.'

Perhaps the world would be a more peaceful place if more emphasis was placed instead on teaching respect, decency, and tolerance, on teaching Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu?
 The word 'Ubuntu' originates from one of the Bantu dialects of Africa, and is pronounced as uu-Boon-too.
 It is a traditional African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation with the world. According to Ubuntu, there exists a common bond between us all and it is through this bond, through our interaction with our fellow human beings, that we discover our own human qualities. Or as the Zulus would say, "Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu", which means that a person is a person through other persons. We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.

The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes Ubuntu as:

"It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them."

Religious Aspect of Ubuntu:

For many Africans, while they may belong to different societies and have different traditions and rituals, Ubuntu usually has a strong religious meaning. In general, the African belief is that your ancestors continue to exist amongst the living in the form of spirits and they are your link to the Divine Spirit. If you are in distress or need, you approach your ancestors' spirits and it is they who will intercede on your behalf with God. Therefore it is important to not only venerate your ancestors, but to, eventually, yourself become an ancestor worthy of veneration. For this, you agree to respect your community's rules, you undergo initiation to establish formal ties with both the current community members and those that have passed on, and you ensure harmony by adhering to the Ubuntu principles in the course of your life.

Political Aspect of Ubuntu:

Since the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa, Ubuntu is often mentioned in the political context to bring about a stronger sense of unity.

On 19 February 1997, the South African National Assembly passed the White Paper For Social Welfare, and Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister for Welfare and Population Development, announced:

"The passage of the White Paper for Social Welfare through the National Assembly signals the start of a new era in welfare delivery in South Africa. For the first time in our country's history delivery in the welfare field will be driven by key principles such as democracy, partnership, ubuntu, equity, and inter-sectoral collaboration, among others."

The policy of Ubuntu is explained in the White Paper, published in August 1997, in Point 24 of Chapter 2. National Developmental Social Welfare Strategy -

"The principle of caring for each other’s well-being will be promoted, and a spirit of mutual support fostered. Each individual’s humanity is ideally expressed through his or her relationship with others and theirs in turn through a recognition of the individual’s humanity. Ubuntu means that people are people through other people. It also acknowledges both the rights and the responsibilities of every citizen in promoting individual and societal well-being."

It is not perfect, however. Ubuntu – which stresses on allowing every individual to have their equal say in any discussion and on ultimately reaching an agreement acceptable to all – could lead to conformist behavior in order to achieve solidarity. It seems a trifle ironic that Group Politics and the Herd Mentality – the human qualities common to us all, in fact - could derail the quest for the common goal.

Social Aspect of Ubuntu:

Still, as they say, the good points outweigh the shortcomings.

Given the vast racial, cultural, religious, educational, and socio-economic differences apparent not just in South-African society but the world over currently, the concept of Ubuntu is really rather relevant. It is far too easy to go into the 'us and them' mode. It is far too easy to fall into the trap of judging a different people by our standards or by sticking to certain established stereotypical notions. If you instead regard someone as a fellow human being, all individual quirks and differences taken into account, there is perhaps a greater chance of achieving understanding.

And, achieving understanding is important and necessary, because, like it or not, we are all interconnected. What hurts you could one day come around and hurt me. What benefits me, if I'm not too selfish about it, could make a crucial difference in your life. And knowing you could bring a world of meaning and interest in mine.

Ubuntu is an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other. The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa. Ubuntu is seen as a classical African concept. The Ubuntu operating system was named for this principle.