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The Eritrean Spirit of Perseverance:

Etymological and Philological Analysis & Moral Significance of

Hade Libi Hade Hzbi

The Eritrean notion of Hade Libi Hade Hzbi has the connotation of population who has one heart. It is similar to the Latin term Unum Corpus formulated by Thomas Aquinas that has the connotation of one body, and this philosophical teaching presupposes that people of a given community should relate to each other as members of the same family.

There is perhaps no clearer testimony to the recent conceptual manifestation of Hade Libi Hade Hzbi in an Eritrean culture than the complete participation of Eritrean people, inside and outside the country, in world-wide peaceful demonstration, to challenge the unjust sanction imposed on their country.

Similarly, drought and abundance, traditionally, are two paradoxical opposite aspects of nature that affects the Eritrean farmer. It is with these two elements of nature that the Eritrean farmer has to struggle and wrestle, as it is, his harvest and livelihood. Through their cyclical effect, the elements of nature, set the precise terms of the struggle, and in that sense it is nature, which ultimately determines whether it will be a year of bounty or famine.

However, the Eritrean people never allow nature to set a limit to what human autonomy and human will could accomplish. The construction of Aligidir dam in Gash Barka, for instance, is a clear manifestation of combating the cyclical, and natural drought by altering one’s nature through sustainable environment in order to ensure food security, and implement the concept of self-sufficient. Armed with a slogan of Hade Libi Hade Hzbi they take on the feature of a struggle to alter nature to their advantage with human action.

Similarly, one can recall similar action taken to avert an enemy’s aggression. When Eritrea was invaded by Woyanne, Eritreans from all walks of life, notwithstanding their differences or their geographical proximity and distance to the land, contributed immensely, and in great numbers, financially and otherwise to alleviate human suffering caused by the devastation of war.

Thus it is from these facts and fragments of our culture that we seek to extract the constant principles of the human spirit and moral significance and to make maps that point the way toward our communal future.

Eritrea is a complex nation founded in human spirit and human relations forged on the battlegrounds of this century. Historians put our reality of human spirit and human relations in context, explaining Eritreaness to themselves based on this powerful slogan of Hade Libi Hade Hzbi of remarkable depth and perception that sets high standard to modern interpretation of human relations.

In the past, informative teachers and philosophers have attempted to construct the compelling concept of this slogan unto numerous civilizations, however only Eritrea has carried this quest into the new century.

We Eritreans are called to protect and safeguard the nation and the people. Traditionally, the concept of familial obligations i.e. looking after your children, parents, relatives, or after those who are endowed with less fortune occupies a prominent place in Eritrean culture. Those who have more are called to share with those who have less. This Eritrean concept of obligation keeps the community of people together who are otherwise relegated to different status.

For instance Augustine had asserted rightly that Caritas and utilitas proximi constitute fundamental human relations. Of course Caritas is a Christian precept of Charity regarded by Thomas Aquinas as the “highest virtue”. This concept is similar to the Quranic teaching of Alms found in the third pillar Zakat, in the Islamic faith.

Furthermore, utilita proximi could be translated as the interest of one’s neighbor or what we call in Tigrigna Bitsay in its true camaraderie meaning as Halyot Bitsaynet. However, only in Eritrea the word Halyot Bitsaynet has quintessential meaning. In Tigrigna the word Halyot derived from the verb Haleye which connotes the utilitarian concept of loving concern of others, that is explicitly the same as Augustinian’s utilita proximi i.e. interest of one’s neighbor.

Those who have participated in the Eritrean armed struggle know by experience that Bitsaynet demands self sacrifice. In Bitsaynet the fundamental virtue is not the honour or power of this life, but the sacrifice that one endures to protect the welfare of the comrades. From the perspective of Bsaynet, therefore, a position of leadership stipulates something more than political responsibility which is paying with one’s life to protect the people under your leadership. Similarly, in private life Bitsaynet calls to show a loving concern as well as to protect, and safeguard the welfare of those who are under us-salutem subditorum.

In Western tradition, this concept of human relations was proposed by Augustine based on charity. However, unlike the Eritrean concept of obligation that makes essentially no political or religion distinctions, the Western notion of charity initially was based on principles of Christianity. The Latin term unum corpus formulated by Thomas Aquinas has the connotation of one body, and the teaching of charity presupposes that people of a given community should relate to each other as members of the same family. Similarly, the corresponding Tigrigna saying Hade Libi Hade Hzbi has the connotation of population who has one heart.

Hade and Libi are the Tigrigna nouns of one (number) and Libi (heart) respectively. In Tigrigna one can observe the equivocal and singular nature of these nouns. But in contrast to this, the Tigrigna language, when referring to population where many cohabit, uses the noun Hzbi (population) to denotes exactly the multitude of people. Even in Tekie Tesfay’s Tigrigna dictionary the noun Hzbi (population) is defined in its plural connotation.

Therefore, these terminologies represent something new in the history of the usage where Hade Libi (one heart) methodically describes the flow of blood that is life from one source – heart. Furthermore, the linguistic usage of Hade Hzbi (one population) faithfully preserves the equivocal meaning of multitude of people at the receiving end of the life sustaining element from one source that is one heart (hade Libi). A conceptual analysis of the compendium usage of Hade Libi Hade Hzbi , therefore, suggests a terminology to describe strong bond between people wherever they are and how different they are, and it corresponds to general human experience of love.

In conclusion words such as Libi (heart), Hzbi (population), Halyot (loving concern), Bitsaynet (camaraderie), Halafnet (responsibility), evoke memory of responsibilities and sense of obligations towards our fellow human beings. They bring to our memory inevitable and inscrutable connection to our homeland that transcends human understanding. The aforementioned words are what we have in common with our people both at home and abroad. It is because of such explanations that the Eritrean notion of Hade Libi Hade Hizbi has no difficulty to manifest itself whenever the need arises, whether it is to fight famine or to defend the nation.


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