God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Lent in the times of SONA

Ash Wednesday – a time marker to reflect the beginning of lent. Lent is for Christians a time to reflect on their lives and to prepare for the big feast of Easter – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Germany you also have the political Ash Wednesday – where a political party tries to set it’s mark with sometimes over the board speeches to score points before elections or to satisfy their electorate.
This year in South Africa the religious and the political Ash Wednesday are close together with today’s religious ceremonies and tomorrow the president’s address to the nation. It actually started already yesterday, where clearly lawyers for the president and the chair of parliament conceded that they were wrong in their actions in a constitutional court proceedings about the actions of the President of South Africa.  It was a classical turn around and if meant serious an example for remorse and repentance – even if in the world of the courts this only counts as litigation during sentencing of an offender.
So Ash Wednesday may mark this year in South Africa on various levels a time for serious reflection – on an individual base people are called to reflect on their lives, make corrections, ease their burden and try to regain a positive energy and outlook on their respective lives to fulfill their calling and vocation. The church recommends cutting down on luxuries as a means to simplify life and be open for things really important and counting in life.
Society is also called to have a look on its habits – and with all the turmoil in our society, from #RhodesMustFall via #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall; a dwindling economy, a realization that racism is not conquered completely in this country and that old wounds haven’t healed yet there is much to reflect and to correct. But for that we need a moral and political leadership which the ruling party is not willing or able to give in the moment. We need a change of hearts from those in political power.Politicians from all parties are called to look very closely whether they serve their own interests or those of themselves and their followers. No party is immune against corruption, power hunger and self-love and the thought of an importance, which warrants perks of various sorts.

The Catholic Church has called for a “Year of Mercy” – mercy towards others, but also mercy towards oneself. It tries to make visible, feel-able the unconditional love of God towards every human being. But this mercy can only work if one is open to receive it. And openness means to reflect and realize the own situation without make-ups and touch-ups. It’s a mercy which wants to change human lives on all those levels of individual life and social life. I guess in South Africa, we need tons of mercy – let’s start allowing it to flow into our society, into our lives so that Ash Wednesday 2016 might be the beginning of a new chapter in the new South Africa. At least this is my wish for this years beginning of lent.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Observations on the racism question

Much is spoken and written about racism in South Africa and I don’t want to repeat all the wise or not so wise words put into the public domain. So just some observations and questions from my side concerning South Africa:

I notice that the racist card is used politically to destroy and harm the political competitor and to badmouth people. I also notice that the pure motion #ZumaMustFall is suddenly a question of race even if this is clearly a sole question of political leadership. Zuma can be white, black, pink or green – a perceived corrupt and incompetent politician remains the same independent of skin color.  The notion of the ANCYL to put even the #FeesMustFall on a racist note shows even more the absurdity of using the racist card as most students protesting are indeed black students. On a positive note it shows clearly the emptiness in this case of political motivated talk.
Without a proper definition of “racism” and a proper use of the word this debate is only emotional but not substantial. In the light of a disaster scenario in the education sector of South Africa one can obviously not expect this real debate to happen.

I have asked myself what it means for a country when the tweet of an unknown and not socially relevant person like Sparrow can bring up the worst emotions in a whole nation. Does it not indicate the brokenness of a wounded society yearning for healing. And does such a society not need healing instead of stirring the pot, does it not need wise leadership instead of corruption as a principle of government?

I also have questions about BEE – does it really serve the majority of previous disadvantaged in the country? Seeing the education system almost in shatters – is it not that only proper education brings equality and not putting people in places where they either can enrich themselves or they are simply not competent enough to fulfill a job? BEE can turn easily into discrimination, into feelings of entitlement and the loss of needed capacity and skills. It sounds nice to preach about revolution – but the kids of the revolution are always future victims, look into history.

Our president plays the race card as well, stating that he is attacked because he is black and uneducated – and let’s be honest: it needs skills to guide a nation of wounded ones, it needs special skills to know about the economics and to be a politician of statue in our world so globally interlinked. But this is not at all a question of skin color.
I also note with concern that the opposition party of the DA is now starting to run with the racist card, announcing to look for more black skin color to fill the upper ranks.  Not to forget the EFF claiming the whites stole the land without recognizing that history is much more complicated and that before the white and black man there where the Koi and San people living here. Life and history is always grey – and the debate about racism, about history, about who we are, where we are at in this moment in time and where we want to be demands honesty from all sides.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I hope and pray that South Africa finds its way back to a sort of rainbow nation as dreamed by Nelson Mandela, because seeing the state of affair in the moment, his scenario is by far the better one than what we have in the moment. But to achieve this we need honest, non-corrupt, dedicated, service orientated leaders and the skin color should not matter at all. And we need the majority of the society educated and willing to grasp anew the dream of a new South Africa.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being silent…

Being silent at the beginning of the new year seems to me the only way of responding to all the madness happening around me. I can’t remember a year having started so chaotic and full of negativity. Looking to South Africa, we see the aftermath of the irrationality of our president for which mostly the poor will pay dearly. The Rand continuous to fall and the political parties are busy to capitalize on a very unhealthy social media storm over racism. In Africa it seems more leaders are tempted to extend their ruling into a life-time dictatorship and the battle between Daesh or ISL and the rest of the world continuous to cost precious lives. In the USA Donald Trump, since yesterday supported by Mrs Palin shows that even the word ‘stupid’ can be topped and in Europe the bill is paid for having a European Union not built on social equality and human rights but purely materialism and finances. The refugee crisis in Europe reveals the shadows of the so-called Christian Occident.  Looking from politics to the churches it seems that there are also wars going on – in my church it seems that preaching the gospel and trying to bring it to the people does not sit well with some of the people higher up the hierarchy or in the administration of the Vatican while the Anglican church seems to be split answering the question whether God’s creation of different people with different preferences was a good question or should be welcomed by God’s own people.
But there is the Year of Mercy – the door of mercy is wide open since the beginning of December and maybe this is the only ray of hope in this chaos of uncertainty, brutality, stupidity and maybe even clash of cultures and civilizations. I ask myself where will we be at the end of the year? Will reason and love prevail or will the world continue to spiral into the darkness of self prophecy and negativity? I am not sure – I will wait and see, but continue to do my little bit in the hope that all those millions of unnamed decent people doing the same by following their dream and vocation overcome at the end the madness of a world where according to Oxfam the 26 richest persons have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. And the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. Not sure I can be silent about that…

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shitstorms….or some thoughts on social media in our days

It is amazing to follow social media and to see the storms of civil commotion and agitation from all walks of life on various issues getting people into a fever of excitement. Be it a question of racism like Mr Hards or Mrs Penny’s tweets in South Africa about entitlement and filth at the beach, be it a question of sexism like the word ” pantyprenuers” at an ANC anniversary meeting – or be it the discussions about the events in Cologne in Germany where more than 100 women laid charge against men looking like those “from North Africa” because of theft, rape and other criminal or unlawful behavior. My observations are not dealing with the matters as such but with the reactions on social media – it’s rather a search for the reasons of feeling often uncomfortable with what is posted or put out on social media. And these thoughts are indeed just thoughts, not conclusions or determinations.

It seems that everybody has an opinion and hammers the internet with this opinion, people getting into fights with each others, being disciplined, suspended, kicked out, threatened with physical attacks and other promises of revenge. Racism and sexism seems to be like a cudgel to accuse the other side not being in tune with the own opinion. Social media suddenly turns into a madhouse of accusations, threats, counter accusations and most people have obviously not only an opinion but also a remedy to avoid repeat of the perceived or real misconduct or criminal act; they know exactly how to battle racism, sexism, crime, discrimination and all the rest of it.

Seeing this in the framework of a world in various difficulties and seemingly overwhelming situations like the refugee crisis in Europe, the wars in the Near East, the battle of minds and ideologies in various African countries I can’t help the question to ask how this all ties together – what is it that make people so furious, so angry, so sure that they are right and most others wrong, so willing to defend positions, analysis, thoughts, impressions as the only valid and right ones.

My guess is it is often their own insecurity and anger and let me explain this:
It seems to me that the world is changing dramatically with all the access to information 24/7, all the constant input from politics, religion and society from the other end of the world as it would happen around the corner. Cellphones and tablets are peeping all the time announcing new messages and news. It seems to me like an information overflow – we cannot handle as human beings the constant influx and to counter it, we retreat to safe ground, either defending our own little world at any cost or running with the majority of opinions to not to lose out or been seen on the wrong side of society – in both cases up to the extreme. And if one gets “flack” – opinions suddenly are perceived as treats, as attacks and dealt with accordingly. The war of words begins…
Reading the sometimes tough and verbally violent opinions and demands on social media, the judgements without often knowing the facts and – or – just going with the flow I read in it the anger of a world getting more and more complex, offering too many options and possibilities, a freedom of choices while on the other hand governed by more and more automated systems in administration and society leaving less and less room for humanity and provisions for the individual case. Never ending information floods from everywhere in a seemingly smaller and more regulated world makes social media the perfect outlet for all the anger and frustration. The constant flow of information seems to force us to immediate reaction and comments – reading headlines on Facebook allow already for the like button and 140 letters of Twitter are enough to describe a complex situation.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to connect and to find related minds, it is indeed a great tool for social movements but as with all things it can also be used to marginalize and outcast, to create sentiments hurting people and societies but it never replaces real dialogue and the need for personal encounters. We have to acknowledge the limitations of communicating on social media – and we have to develop a tolerance and understanding that a person is more than the brief twitter or the status report – and that posting a link might be meant to stimulate discussion rather than portraying it as the own opinion. And we all know that sometimes our mouth is faster than our brain – and we have to realize that social media might be less forgiving than a spoken word retracted immediately.

So what I wish for is:
* read first and then share or post; don’t trust the headline
* think first and let anger vanish before posting
* give other posts the benefit of the doubt if possible
* raise your voice against xenophobia, sexism, racism, but in a dignified way and report it to the relevant authorities
* no tit for tats – it pollutes the social media

Filed under: Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

All the mistakes necessary to grow…

Year’s end resolutions are always the best – because they are formulated quick and abandoned even quicker. Nevertheless, it is nice to have goals in life :-) and so my resolutions for 2016 are:

… to be more faithful to whom I am deep inside me
… to have less time for all the nonsense s’times other people throw at me
… to enjoy life even more and share it with friends and family
… to accept life as is and make the best out of it
… to allow myself to make all the mistakes necessary to grow

Doing so, and allowing you and all the others I will meet in the coming year to do the same will certainly make this world a better place for all.
A blessed 2016

Fr Stefan

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

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