Did you know that many indigenous African languages do not have a word that is equivalent to the English word “stranger?”


Ruth Picha, a spiritual director and leader of our monthly Taize gatherings at the Regional Center shares the following from a spiritual direction website:





Did you know that many indigenous African languages do not have a word that is equivalent to the English word “stranger?” Tanzanian professor Raymond Mosha explained, “In my native language I would say that I have not met you before. There would be no pejorative connotation as exists with ‘stranger.’” Mosha asked others if they knew an African word for stranger. People from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe confirmed “stranger” did not exist in their native tongue.


During the first conference of spiritual directors from the continent of Africa at Saint Augustine’s College in Johannesburg, South Africa, I witnessed that no one is alien. In God’s eyes, no one is a stranger. No one is an outsider or deviant; everyone is community.

Thousands of years ago, before the language of stranger and the separation that it describes evolved, we were all practicing Ubuntu, the African philosophy of “I am what I am because of who we all are.” During the conference, some of us rediscovered our ancient African heritage of being interconnected, while others welcomed us home to an ancient-yet-new sense of belonging.

Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu in this way:
A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntudoes not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?

On July 18, Nelson Mandela celebrates his ninety-fourth birthday.
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