God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Gratefulness and compassion

Sometimes it is time to sit down and simply reflect on the work one is doing day by day – holding in, letting the world stand still for a moment. For me such a moment was after hearing about the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok, one of my favorite places in Bangkok to go and sit for hours and just doing it: sitting there, observing, praying, just “being” in the presence. In our world it seems that even such places are not protected anymore from the madness of sick human minds, and adding the cruelty and abuse of Islam by ISIS, the streams of refugees running away from civil war and dictatorship and corruption, exploitation and diminished chances of living their human rights in Africa it seems that the world is upside down in the moment. And we easily forget that there is also a counter stream, a stream of goodness, a stream of unsung heroes of humanity, decency and compassion.
And we only have to look into our own lives to acknowledge this goodness. Where would we be without the kindness of others, of parents, family members, friends, colleagues, co-workers, yes, when I look at my work with HOPE Cape Town –  sometimes completely strangers who just support what one is doing, a touch of humanity flowing from one to another without having the chance to meet the person in person.
Dresden in Germany is in the moment often in the news for all the wrong reasons – protests showing little signs of humanity but rather ignorance and hostility against refugees. But for me it is countered by all those actions making those running for their lives made feel welcome and of course not to forget the HOPE Gala in Dresden. For 10 years there are people caring for those less fortune in South Africa with incredible efforts, tons of love and compassion. For 10 years people from all over Germany flock to Dresden to enjoy an evening of entertainment and joy and doing good at the same time. It is up to me to choose what I want to see, what stream I want to follow, what I want to support, to cherish, to be grateful for… And I am sure if more and more I see the good in people, more and more I appreciate the bond of goodness and compassion, and more and more I can develop my own compassion and in return strengthen those strengthening me. Does it make sense? Yeap, for me it does and it is the only way to change the world for the better- against all odds.

Filed under: Reflection, , , , , , , , ,

Nepal and the gender debate

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Messe-83.JPG

Photo via WikiCommons/Sigismund von Dobschütz

While we in Europe and Africa the discussion on gender issues are heating up and churches and some other quarters of society clearly deny any suggestions that gender might be more diverse or partly also a product of society, some countries take realities and sciences into account. I was always thrilled to see that in my beloved Thailand the “katoi” was known as the third gender. And now the Himalayan country Nepal joins such support for transgender citizens.

Currently, Nepal is one of only eight countries that officially recognize third gender citizens, next to Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Thailand. However, despite first including third gender people on a census as far back as 2011, the Himalayan nation of 26.5 million recently marked an important milestone, issuing its first third gender passport.

According to “Human Rights Watch”, Monica Shahi made history when she received her passport with the designation O for “other,” rather than M (Male) or F (Female). Despite recognition of third gender persons, only a handful of the above listed countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have issued corresponding passports.

It is indeed a step in the right direction – God’s creation is much more diverse as visible on first sight and I really believe that God has great humor and he enjoys to spice up creation and evolution with lots of colors, shapes and diverse beings. And whatever it is, sex, looks, handicaps – it all carries a divine message we are asked to receive, read and cherish one or the other way. God does not make mistakes – but humans are very much tempted to do so in prescribing God how to run his ongoing creation. Ecology and environment, nature and creation are top on the list since Pope Francis was elected to be the “St. Peter of our times”. In his encyclical “Laudato Si”  he combined bible and theology with scientific knowledge in a way no other writing of a pope has done before and it is only consequent to develop this combination of two ways of discovering God in all those other fields where we need answers to questions of today’s world and society. This also might mean and will mean robust debate, careful listening to each others positions, and surely being open to be surprised again and again how God works in mysterious ways. And one is for sure: faith and sciences as two ways of getting to know God and they can never really contradict each other – they always will support each other even if it takes time for us humans to understand and acknowledge it.

 

Filed under: General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Gap

Sitting at the Waterfront in Cape Town I watch the crowd of people making their way through the shops and passages of this No 1 tourist attraction. It is buzzing as always after the day of pay for most of the people. Having read a report of the NGO Oxfam just a bit earlier, I wonder how to reconcile what I see with what was written in the research ” Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space? ”  In the conclusion they mention that South Africa has one of the highest official unemployment rates in the world (25%) and is one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.69. The wealthiest 4% of households receive 32% of total income while 66% of households receive only 21% of all income. Over half of South Africans live below the national poverty line and more than 10% live in extreme poverty, on less than R15.85 per day.
Once again it is obvious which gaps exists between those who have and those who don’t have. All BEE and BB BEE and revised BBBEE has not achieved that the entrepreneurial spirit ignited on a scale changing the destiny of the country. Poor leadership and cadre deployment has done injustice to those aspiring to leave the spiral of poverty, hunger and desperation. It is the millions still living under conditions not suitable for humans which did not get the fair share in the new South Africa. But not all is lost – there is an immense will and dedication in many places to better the lives of those in need and hope never has disappeared. But South African society will remain unequal till the spirit of 1994 re-emerges and people understand that only together we can make it and turn the tide towards a prosper nation. It is also this inequality which makes sometimes working in the fields of HIV and AIDS so difficult: empowerment of patients to understand their treatment, to have the means to dish out good food on their tables, a social network which carries those in need the extra-mile. It is not only about donations – bridging the gap between those who have and those who don’t have means to get to a real understanding of each other and a solidarity which comes from the dept of the heart and not as a feeling of obligation to share some bucks with the poor. Religion could play here a much better and supportive role – if all the energy which goes into the controlling of sexuality and related fields as well as marking the territory against competition or those believing differently into supporting social coherence and healing the wounds of our society, much could be achieved in little time. At least the aforesaid gap could be narrowed and the blessings of the new South Africa could be spread to many more as it is done in the moment.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Impressionen: HOPE Cape Town on Mandela Day in Blikkiesdorp

Filed under: Africa, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , ,

Mandela Day & Tierra, techo y trabajo

Today it happens again like it happened the last years: everybody wants to be involved for 67 minutes – and especially those so-called VIP’s are keen to be seen with children, packing food parcels, donating blankets or whatever – just to make sure that everybody acknowledges their good heart and intention. And I don’t doubt these intentions at all, but I always ask myself what happens after the 67 minutes? What happens to those being fed, being cloth, being catered for the next morning, when they wake up in the same misery as the day before? What’s about the other 365 days and 22 hours and 53 minutes of the year? Waiting for the next Mandela Day – for the next invite to be part of the icon’s legacy? I don’t want to sound sarcastic but while doing also my 67 minutes and more in Blikkiesdorp yesterday morning to honor this legacy – I was looking into the faces of those we served and honestly, I partly felt bad knowing, that the rain jacket, the sweets and the porridge might be the highlight of their day but not changing their lives profoundly. Well, being lucky and knowing, that our organization HOPE Cape Town is working since years in this semi-permanent community I felt assurance that it was not a once off but part of a bigger effort to aid and help this very community of almost 15 000 people at the outskirts of Delft. But it remains that unsatisfactory feeling not being able to do more, to turn around those lives and giving them what Pope Francis described in three Spanish words as the fundamental rights of every human being: Tierra, techo y trabajo.  It was translated into English very loosely “land, roof and work” but I think this translation does not fit exactly the Spanish meaning. What the pope is saying and not only saying but demanding is that everybody has the right to have a piece of land he calls his own and yes, with a roof under which he can lay his head at night. But roof means more, it means a real home, a real protected place he feels secure and safe together with his loved once. And added is the right to have work, to be able to earn a living, a decent living and not a hand-out, not a social grant but the dignity, only own work can bring to a person. And it is about dignity, about the possibility to create and follow your own dream how to live you life, to be able to have a good education, a protected home, a loving family, an honest earned income to sustain this life. We in South Africa are far away from this dream of tierra,techo ytrabajo – not only in Blikkiesdorp but even in the posh suburbs of the cities a protected home seems to be an illusion just reading the headlines of a daily newsletter: robberies, intrusions and murder are making screaming headlines and the private security business is booming. And with more than 24% unemployment and the gross number of social grant recipients we are far away from “work for all” who should be able to do so. Maybe we should think of a Mandela moment next year where we don’t do hand outs but put our minds together and go for real change in distributing wealth and work, in giving more people the chance to get a better education, a real working environment, a chance to proof themselves and earn a decent living. Just a thought…

Mandela Day - a hand-out is simply not enough

Mandela Day – a hand-out is simply not enough

They need a real dignified future

They need a real dignified future

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 31st, 2015
2 months to go.

Ball of HOPE

The Ball of HOPE - our charity event in Cape TownMay 14th, 2016
8 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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