Statement on Tribalism: BECOSA 2013

Statement for dissemination in Benedictine
Communities of Southern Africa

1. Introduction and Background

At BECOSA 2012, concerns were raised about the effects of tribalism on Communities. This topic was then referred to BECOSA 2013 for proper discussion and to draw up a statement about tribalism.

2. Definition of Tribalism

For the sake of this statement, tribalism has been loosely defined as the need of one group to dominate and control another group within the same community by various means and methods.

3. Means and Methods of Control

The following have been identified as some of the main areas where discontent is manifested:

a) Language

b) Food

c) Hospitality

d) Table Etiquette

e) Generational differences

f) Personality being defined as culture

g) Family relations and cultural attachments

h)The formation of power cliques

It is important to keep in mind that all the above have many nuances in the way that they may be expressed.

4. Remedies for Dealing with Tribalism

Above all, we are to remind ourselves and each other that we are called to this life, which is a life with its own unique culture and demands. In this we are guided by Scripture, the Rule of St Benedict and Church Teachings. We are called to love and respect each other and we must, as part of conversatio morum, be open to compromise. In all of this, Christ is the model.

With this in mind, the following have been identified as some of the guidelines to deal with intolerance:

• A firm foundation of trust needs to be built so that there can be open communication where issues can be freely aired.

• There has to be an openness to others and a willingness to try new things.

• New people in community need time to adapt and should be given the opportunity to do so. The existing community must also understand that they need to adapt to the newcomers as well;

• People are encouraged to look for commonalities and focus on them, rather than to focus on differences;

• There has to be constant dialogue;

• Communities must be aware that they are part of the formation process and as such need to set examples of tolerance and openness not just to new people, but also to each other;

• Issues should be clearly named and claimed so that they can be recognized, understood, and dealt with;

• Fostering a sense of belonging, and;

• Creating opportunities for the expression of culture.

However, care must be taken not to let the beauty of multi-culturalism be suppressed by tribalism; it should be allowed to enhance the life of the community.

5. Conclusion

The consensus is that tribalism as an expression of abuse, oppression and power is not acceptable. However, the above proposals will not work in isolation. They have to be lived on the foundation of formation, conversion and constant prayer. They should also be seen in the light that a community is composed of people and is therefore alive and dynamic, so there should be a constant openness to change. To reiterate though, as in all that we do, Christ is the model and guide.

Collect for Unity

God our Father, we thank you for calling us to be part of the instruments of your kingdom; you have called us to be religious men and women. Lord, we humbly beg you to enable us to live in unity, even though we are from different cultures and nations. Let our uniqueness help to deepen our love for you. We humbly ask this through Christ our Lord. AMEN