Celebrating our Core Values: Compassion

In this autumn month of May in the African Region, we reflect on the virtue of Compassion, identified as one of our core values.


Compassion as we know is not a stand-alone virtue; rather it is closely related to kindness, empathy, understanding, and solidarity. Compassion, whatever our beliefs, can be described as “putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes”. As human persons, our basic instinct is to reach out to someone in need of help. Our help may be physical as we have witnessed or heard/read about during the recent massive fire in Cape Town. It may be emotional, for example when we see someone distressed as a result of a family bereavement. It may be social, e.g. when we see large-scale injury and displacement as a result of poverty, war, and natural disasters. In the last few days, we have witnessed a great show of compassion not only by the people of Cape Town but by the whole nation. Some have done it by donating food and essential items for the emergency personnel on the ground, given refuge to evacuated UCT students. People not living in Cape Town have shown solidarity through their concern, by offering prayer and messages of support. Not to mention the great compassion, concern, and solidarity expressed during the Covid 19 pandemic not only in our own region and African countries but around the world. My own experience of compassion is that I had to learn to be compassionate towards myself in certain ways to be genuinely compassionate towards others. I often feel helpless and would like to help others such as refugees, migrants, homeless people, and very poor people in South Africa and beyond the walls of the Nazareth Houses where I nursed for many years.

I just hope that by prayer and concern and through creating awareness about issues these can be used by our good God to help my fellow human beings. At times we feel compassion but something holds us back such as fear or the attitude that someone else will take care of the situation. Maybe in May ’21, we can try to overcome our fears and hesitancy to do within reason what we can, even in very small ways at home or work. We can report an incident to relevant authorities or offer some kind of help. The ethos of Nazareth Care is to show compassion to each other and to those whom we care for such as vulnerable children and the elderly in society. People may feel compassion for others but may not do anything, either because they are not the qualified person to intervene, as in some medical, criminal, and natural disaster situations. However, we can be compassionate towards our families, neighbors, those who serve us such as essential workers, colleagues in our work situation, and those whom we are serving and meet every day. As Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) says: “Our human compassion binds us one to the other – not in pity… but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future”.

Sr Frances Bonham

Nazareth House Pretoria

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