African proverb on mutual respect

« Mdu o Mrasa nguo ago kawi » Kiuru Proverb (Dialect of Chagga language, Tanzania)

« A neighbor is a second cloth » Kiuru Proverb

Meaning: We must respect each other.

Source of this proverb: Father Michael Mushi,


                                Biblical Parallelism:

A garment is used primarily to cover the nakedness and protect the body. This is the key to the above proverb for it enables one to grasp the depth of the symbolism. Thus, the neighbor is compared to a garment: they are both helpful for covering one’s nakedness. Of course, the nudity in question here is primarily a moral nudity. From this perspective, a good neighbor covers errors, forgives the faults and sins, does not expose to the general public the faults of others, and seeks to correct mistakes and misbehaviors as discreetly as possible.

Clothing also plays an aesthetic role. It enhances the physical appearance of a person. Similarly, a good neighbor can project a beautiful image of his or her peers, enhance their honor, and make them much more pleasant to the eyes of others.

In both cases, a good neighbor helps to raise high the banner of respectability of those around him/her. This is what the Bible teaches: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10, NIV)

God wants us to respect each other. Joseph understood this when, having found that Mary was pregnant, he opted for the solution of a secret break (Mt 1: 19). He could have exposed Mary to public disgrace. Although others would have agreed with him, he refrained from doing so. How many Christians have such a noble spirit today?

It is the same spirit that animated the Good Samaritan of the Parable of our Lord in Luke 10:25-37. He did not take the climate of enmity between Jews and Samaritans as a pretext to stun his neighbor who was seriously wounded, helpless, naked, and exposed to public shame. Against all odds, it is him (not the countrymen of the robbed who moreover were religious) who took care of the Jew who was attacked by robbers. In doing so, to borrow the terms of the Kiuru proverb, he was « a second garment » for his neighbor.

If only we could do likewise in all our human relationships! The world would have a different face. For, as Vagner Fernades Lobosco wrote so beautifully, « Respect is like the smiles: it costs nothing and everyone loves it.  » We can also put it this way: Respect is like the smiles – it spreads easily and everybody feels good about it. Therefore, let each one of us take initiative to respect our neighbors, to cover their moral nakedness and enhance their respectability by sincere love for them and for the glory of God.

© Copyright by Moussa Bongoyok, 2012

2 responses to this post.

  1. Many thanks for the service. More than a sentence credits, worth the effects it generates and people reaching …

    Un grand merci pour le service. Plus d’un crédit de peine, la peine les effets qu’il génère et les atteindre …

    Vagner Fernandes Lobosco


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