‘Fratelli Tutti’ and ‘Ubuntu’ on Cosmological Friendship

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Elias Opongo, SJ

 Elias Opongo, SJ / Spirituality / 13 June 2021


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Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti has a number of parallels with the African ethic of Ubuntu. Published in October 2020, the encyclical has drawn attention to the social consciousness on solidarity between different members of society based on social-interdependence. The African concept of Ubuntu largely refers to inter-connectedness within humanity and between its members, and asserts that “my humanity finds its fundamental definition through your humanity.” This definition of Ubuntu is founded on three fundamental values. First, that humanity is essentially designed to co-exist in a cosmological friendship; second, that the core values of humanity cannot only be realized through the recognition of the intrinsic pristine nature of the other person’s humanity; third, that humanity is designed to safeguard and realize the common good that binds it together.

The cosmological friendship within the concept of Ubuntu puts emphasis on relationships and mutual co-existence. In other words, one’s humanity is only fulfilled through a relationship with other closely connected human beings, as well as with those who are remotely connected.[1] This concept of relationship in a sense implies a cosmological friendship that grounds itself in a communal attitude working towards the development of the society. The consciousness that says “I cannot be happy alone” implies that the social fabric that makes society function efficiently is based on the consciousness of the existence of the other as an active agent of social happiness or a potential agent for progressive relationship building that defines the social fabric of the society. In other words, individualism, while possibly bringing success, does not sustain the communal health of society.

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