Freedom, Diversity, Unity


I am not a fan of complicated, arbitrary and suffocating rules and conditions. I cannot help but take each and every word seriously. Other people sign their lives away without a second thought and I have trouble with it. I do appreciate simple, meaningful and inspiring ideals, core values, guiding principles, mission statements, mottoes, logos, and associated symbols.

The Republic of South Africa’s current national coat of arms contains the motto “Diverse People Unite”, usually expressed as “Unity in Diversity”. It was launched in 2000 on Freedom Day 27 April, an annual public holiday to commemorate our first democratic elections held on 27 April 1994. Unfortunately this motto is not very obvious, as it is written in the /Xam Khoisan click language which very few people would understand as sadly it is now extinct.

The motto calls for all South Africans to be united in diversity as one rainbow nation. This motto and the theme of unification are not totally new. The country’s previous motto “Ex Unitate Vires”, Latin for “From Unity, Strength”, was adopted when the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 from four separate British colonies including two former independent Boer republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State). The Union’s motto was derived in turn from the motto “Eendragt Maakt Magt” of the Transvaal Republic which became a British colony at the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902.

African National Congress Centennial Logo

The official colours of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s dominant political party and former liberation movement, are black for the people, green for the land and gold for the mineral and other natural wealth. The ANC colours are now implicitly merged with the red, white and blue of our European settlers in our national flag adopted on 27 April 1994, with the Y shape representing diverse elements uniting as one nation.

The Y shape also reminds me of a sideways Elhaz, the rune of invocation and divine protection in the shape of a person with arms outstretched reaching towards the heavens in prayer, which coincides with our national anthem “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (“God Bless Africa”).

The ANC will be celebrating their centenary in 2012, and have adopted a centennial logo based on the theme of Unity in Diversity, with jubilant multi-coloured people waving the ANC flag. I am glad to see that they are now accommodating some non-black people.

An explanation of The Centennial Logo on the ANC website acknowledges past feuds, animosity and divisions over and above racial inequality and ends with a pertinent quote by former ANC president and 1960 Nobel Peace prize winner Albert Luthuli (1898-1967):

What is important is that we can build a homogeneous South Africa on the basis not of colour but of human values.”

“Unity in Diversity” or “United in Diversity” (Latin: “In varietate concordia”) is also the official motto of the European Union, and in the broader context of liberation the motto is reminiscent of France’s motto “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”) that originated during the French Revolution.

Democracy has wider implications than racial equality for South Africans. The liberal constitution of the new South Africa provides for inter alia the right to “freedom of religion, belief and opinion”, thus also paving the way for the South African Paganism movement with its own challenges of integration and co-operation within the movement and with other more established religious groups in the country.

South African Pagans have celebrated Pagan Freedom Day annually on 27 April since 2004. Anyone can join the Pagan Freedom Day Movement (PFDM) Facebook group for information and updates about regional Pagan Freedom Day events being organized for 2012. The Facebook group description elaborates:

“Since its inception, Pagans across the country have willingly embraced the ideal of Pagan Freedom Day, namely to encourage Cooperative Community building amongst Pagans and between Pagans and non-Pagans. It is hoped that by fostering a positive and holistic South African Pagan identity, we can promote understanding and tolerance amongst Pagans and between Pagans and non-Pagan South Africans.

Regional Communities have been formed to facilitate these ideals and to foster both Pagan identity and consolidate cooperative community building. Diverse Pagan individuals and groups have rallied together under the banner of Freedom and Unity in Diversity.”

Since March 2011 the PFDM has been administered by the South African Pagan Council (SAPC), an organization dedicated to facilitating the realization of the ideal of a unified national Pagan South Africa. The SAPC has adopted the PFDM motto “Unity in Diversity”. Morgause Fonteléve, co-founder and current Registrar of the SAPC and the current national PFDM coordinator, explains “The adoption of the motto was a natural consequence especially since it is in direct agreement with the Council’s Vision, Aims and Objectives.”

Morgause elaborated in an interview with Christopher Blackwell in the Mabon 2011 issue of ACTION, the official newsletter of the Alternative Religions Educational Network based in Florida, USA

“The SAPC adopted an ‘open door’ policy last year, which allows the individual the right to self identification. This means that provided that a person agrees to respect and adhere to the mission, vision and principles of the Council, that they retain the right to identification as well as the autonomy to manage and run their groups and traditions without outside interference.

The Executive realised through debates held over a period of over a year that any form of intolerance is unacceptable. Intolerance is insidious; today it’s them, tomorrow it could be us! The Pagan Freedom Day Motto, Unity in Diversity, has therefore become the Council’s war cry.

As Pagans we want nothing less than acceptance. Tolerance implies ‘putting up with’, despite disapproval, and until the disapproval is removed from the hearts of the men and women in our country, until hubris is no longer the flavour of self-made justice and validation, superstition, hatred, violence and persecution will continue unarrested.”

Integration is a gradual and iterative process. It can be difficult and painful, like the struggle to maintain a balance between togetherness and individuality in a marriage.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness.

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls…

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

On Marriage, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)


This article was first published here on 9 October 2011


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