God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Snow from yesterday

Schnee von gestern” – “snow from yesterday” are yesterday’s news – so a German saying – and today we have moved on after World Aids Day. For 24 hours the pandemic which killed roughly 33 million since the beginning of the pandemic while 76 million have been infected in the same timeframe took somehow centre stage again.
In the times of Covid-19 with so far 1.5 million death such days of memento are somehow subdued, people are too busy with the current worldwide pandemic. So the day passed more quiet than normal due to restrictions – the usual suspects gave press statements and those in the field did their duty to remind the world, but even this felt half-hearted and at times decent to not get into competition with the headline creating Corona.

For me, World Aids Day was a day of reflection on how the AIDS pandemic would have played out, if not “only those gay people” would have been hit at the beginning but everybody.
What would have happened if President Ronald Reagan had put aside his misguided religious views and acted properly and in line with his duties to protect every citizen.
What would have happened if care, worry and empathy had prevailed and not the feeling by many that they called it on themselves with their appalling lifestyle.
How many lives would have been spared, how much suffering would have been avoided? Do we care to reflect and learn out of it?

Working in the field of HIV/AIDS more than 20 years I sometimes wonder how this country I live in would have evolved without the pandemic shattering the dreams and hopes of so many South Africans till this day.

Looking at Covid-19 in South Africa, there was this déjà vu – the same mechanisms kicked in – panic, fear, uncertainty in overdrive in the health sector, stigmatisation and it took time to settle down in the health sector and reason prevailed, and now, in current times, almost carelessness on the streets in the face of the second wave.
Of course, in this case, vaccines are in reach, even if we learned yesterday that the South African government is very late to secure those for the country and pay their dues in time. Being late was also the trademark of this government in times of HIV – so nothing new on this level.

And the question remains: Have we learned out of the AIDS pandemic enough to rise to the occasion?

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

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

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

A fool as distraction?

Four years of tweets, lies and impossible behaviour are still not coming to an end – defeat is not one of the words used by Donald Trump and as it has been for the last four years; the press indulges in commenting and reporting on all the new lies, false facts, sexist remarks, insults and other neurotic patterns, this man brings on a daily basis to the table of news outlets.

Almost in the background it is currently noted that others are too afraid to speak out, especially after the lost election – and emphasis is put onto the fact, that Trump has such a standing in the Republican Party which hinders the righteous elite to reign in and stop the latest charade.

Maybe there is another story line to tell – the story of Mitch McConnell, Graham Lindsey, Rupert Murdoch and others who let the political fool dance in the front to the amusement or embarrassment of the political audience and electorate while those gentlemen pulling the strings, trying to keep an old world order in place: a world order which is white, male and racist.

For those having this world order in mind, Trump was a gift from heaven, easily to be manipulated via Fox News and lots of praise, slowly installing a reign of an egomaniac puppet delivering the right judges on so many levels. Governments coming and going, but to maintain a system, other levels of society have to be looked after and the right people positioned. And as Obama has used social media to garner the support – the political white racist right in the USA has quickly learned to adapt to the new tools available as well. For people like McConnell and Lindsey, Obama was a mistake not to be repeated and now Harris the next in line of those kinds of errors.

Democracy as the rule of the people for the people is an ongoing process of trial and error for most Americans – and even if it is an internal affair for this country, the consequences for the rest of the world have been felt the last years. Our global village is meanwhile so connected, that the faith of a major player is not an affair not noted by the rest of the world. Human mankind’s challenges are piling up, and they need new answers not forthcoming from those now pulling the strings in Washington.

Human mankind and the world order is in the process of changing – we live in times of an interesting and challenging battle of minds, which is even sped up by a small little virus called Covid-19.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to be a distraction in this process – too much is at stake for this world we call home.

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

The attack in Nice and the choice of words

Language is a powerful tool and language creates realities. That is the reason why how we talk about events and things is critical.

The terror attack in Nice that killed three people last week left France increasingly unsettled and once again, the phrase Islamist extremism or Islamist terror was used.

While all religions without doubt have also a violent past, human mankind has moved forward and recognized that religion per definition can’t be violent, but must be a peace enhancing force for good. And this should reflect also in the way we talk about such brutal violence which the perpetrator tries to put into a religious context. We simply should not allow for this any more.

Killing innocent people is simply terrorism – and we should not grace any such act with an association to any religion. We should not allow in our vocabulary to link ideology with faith. Our news headlines should not indicate that murderers and terrorists are allowed to justify their violence with religious terms; we should reject any attempt to create a space where others could have a sense that violence can in any circumstances be connected to religion.

Terror is terror, terrorism is terrorism and ideology or political madness should in our language have no bearing on religion. Not allowing this association is an important tool to diminish such awful acts and to make it clear that in our times, religion and violence never ever go together again. Period.

Language is an underestimated tool in the fight against terror and violent ideology.

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

Germany “im Herbst” or the 50 scare…

When you ask ordinary citizens, nobody really knows – but the number is omnipresent: 50 followed by 100 000 and 7 days. And the number determines the colour red, present on every map beamed into the background of the newsroom of every TV sender. And there are clearly panic signs visible in the presentations of all the premiers and politicians – dancing around a bushfire triggered by a second wave of a small little virus conquering the world again.

Hectic decision-making, a forward and backward: the accommodation ban for people coming from so-called “red” areas declared, withdrawn, insisted on and declared invalid by courts is only one example of triggering confusion among ordinary people who had prepared to go on local holidays; local holidays which they have been asked for by the very same politicians: don’t travel abroad, stay home.

Germany is a federal state – and the effort of the German chancellor to give citizens a uniform set of rules has been without success in the last weeks – every state has still its own rules written down in lengthy paragraphs – and travellers like me have to study hard to understand how many, how often, how far, how allowed or forbidden certain activities are….

I don’t hear other parameters which would give me more insight into reality: How many people are really sick, how many people are really in their infectious phase – news anchor do highlight the fact of many more testing compared with the first wave, but it remains unclear this is only to comfort the masses or what it really translates to in meaning.

Conspiracy theories continue to raise their ugly heads and obviously the forward and backward has eroded the public trust into those in power; a situation sounding familiar looking into South Africa, from where I travelled to Germany a couple of days ago. It becomes clear, that our systems and our politicians were not prepared for a scenario, every one should have known it will come as history shows and scientists predicted.

The general crisis of humanity triggered by the digital revolution and the advent of social media has found a sparring partner in the pandemic to kick the confidence of human mankind of having all under control out of the window: We are all part of an evolutionary fight for survival and our systems have developed huge gaps which we can’t hide anymore.

It is a wake-up call to return to humility, to simplicity in a certain sense, to a realistic view where human mankind really is standing and a clear indication, that we have to reflect on our place within creation. The way of communication and governance, environmental questions and generally how our systems work and whom we entrust what kind of power are topics to be discussed in time to come. The virus also has taught us that we are indeed a global village and that any attempt to proclaim “our country first” is outright stupid and not constructive, but destructive on all levels.

Where from here?
Uncertainty all over the place – honest awareness of where we stand as human mankind in this pandemic and the realisation of the mere fact, that only a fair balance between state power and individual responsibility can move us out of this mixture of distrust, helplessness and incapacity to find the perfect solution everybody will be satisfied with.

And there is again nagging another question: If the virus would only have shown up in Africa, or only would have taken possession of a certain population – how would it have played out?

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

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