Since they first came to be, I have loved the Enduring Principles. As I was sitting in the auditorium at World Conference in 2010, I watched these concepts flash across the screen and felt such deep love for the Community of Christ and these principles that we have chosen to uphold. For once, I knew I had a real reason that I belonged to this church beyond the simple fact that it is the church I was born into. The whole experience nearly brought me to tears.
Now, over two years later, I have been blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I have traded my home in Iowa to live here in Durban for a little over four months while studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
During one of our first days here, we were guided on a tour of Durban by a man named Sthembiso, a history major who was extremely knowledgeable about the distant past as well as the more recent strides that South Africa has made as a nation.
As we were driving along, I was distracted, looking out the window at my new surroundings. However, my attention was instantly snapped back to Sthembiso when I heard him begin to talk about “unity in diversity.” He used this phrase to describe how South Africans had come together in just a few years following apartheid and had especially impressed the world during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Of course, things here aren’t perfect; they aren’t anywhere. But as I’ve continued to learn and grow in this country, I’ve found that South Africans feel those words in a way that I have never experienced and can’t accurately describe. Unity in diversity has been sewn directly into the fabric that continues to be strengthened in this beautiful nation of numerous ethic groups and eleven officially recognized languages.
This idea is depicted in the Y shape of the colorful South African flag that represents, according to the government, “the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity.” I have continuously been inspired by the people I have met and the passionate ideas they have shared. It is clear that, although not everyone’s visions are the same, there is a strong common desire for this country, their country, to be all that it can be.
These experiences have helped me begin to understand the concept of unity in diversity in a way that I never would have before. Unity in diversity no longer means that it is merely necessary or beneficial to come together despite our differences. For me, it directly affirms this vast diversity of opinions, backgrounds, visions, and dreams as an essential and invaluable part of our community. These very differences enrich our daily interactions as part of our collective and individual journeys with God. After all,”We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.”
Community with Christ and of Christ is simply not possible without celebrating the world’s expansive, beautiful, and lovingly created diversity. May we continue on the road ahead as a community that is not only united with one another, but is extending hands of invitation from all sides as well.
“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu