Challenges students to reflect on the unity of all humankind.
by Paul Hess
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To challenge students to reflect on the unity of all humankind.
Preparation and materials
- Find and have the means to play Bob Marley’s song ‘One Love’ and Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, from his Ninth Symphony, or just one if you cannot find both (check copyright). Note that the lyrics given below are just one of many variations that have arisen as they are all translations of the original poem, which was written in German.
- Play about a minute or two each of ‘One Love’ and ‘Ode to Joy’. Ask the students if they can identify the pieces of music and work out the link between them.
- What connects these two very different pieces of music is that they are expressing a vision of our common humanity, of a united humankind. Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ was a musical setting for a poem written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785. The following quote from the poem gives some idea of its theme:
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy magic power reunites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Schiller’s prayer in the poem – that all human beings be united – is reinforced by the drama and grandeur of Beethoven’s music. ‘Ode to Joy’ has become a powerful symbol of unity and, for this reason, it has become the European anthem.
- In the same way, Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ embodies a dominant theme in his work – that all human beings are one. Marley’s lyrics – ‘One love, one heart, let's get together and feel all right’ – combine with an infectious melody to give a joyful vision of unity and love.
Marley worked tirelessly to bring together the warring political factions in his native Jamaica. On 3 December 1976, Marley was shot and wounded by a gunman thought to be opposed to his appearance at a concert for peace. Two days later, despite his injuries, Marley performed at the concert as scheduled. When asked why, he said, ‘The people who are trying to make this world worse aren't taking a day off. How can I?’
- Beethoven’s and Marley’s music proclaim the truth that we all share a common humanity. The lies of prejudice and discrimination do the very opposite – try to convince us that other groups of people are not like us at all and are, in fact, inferior, less than human. Racism seeks to dehumanize other people.
- A lot of the biblical story is concerned with the history of the Jewish people. The first Christians were all Jews and they debated whether they should allow Gentiles (non-Jews) to become part of the Church or not. Eventually they realized that God’s love extended to not just the Jews but everyone. Peter famously said, ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right’ (Acts 10.34–35).
At the heart of the good news of Christianity is the idea of a God who reconciles all people – that is, brings people together.
Our challenge is to share this message of unity, of ‘one love’ in our own lives – in our school, in our community. We need to fight against prejudice and discrimination of very kind. We need to treat others in way that shows them we understand we all share a common humanity. We need to act in a way that reflects the knowledge we are all made in the image of God.
Time for reflection
Paul speaks about the unity of all people in Galatians 3.28:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Desmond Tutu said, in God Has a Dream: A vision of hope for our time:
If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, our destinies are bound up in one another's, that we can be free only together, that we can survive only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being.
Help us to see that beneath our superficial differences we share a common humanity.