God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Only those who live the Torah… observations from a sommer study

Summer academy in Tabgha and Jerusalem – refresher course on bible history, Islam and Judaism and as always something new to learn.

To speak about Israel is a minefield, especially for a German. The Holocaust lingers constantly over all discussions, and the trauma somehow continues. To criticise Israel, whose politicians have cleverly conjoined the State of Israel and the Jewish faith, is consequently made difficult. How easy is it to be called an antisemite while criticising Israel’s politics towards the Palestinians.

The wilful ignorance towards the original plan to keep Jerusalem under UN administration has added to the woes. The trauma of the Holocaust has obviously also caused Israel to use massive force against Palestinians in a way which clearly hinders any political solution and kills also innocent bystanders. The violence on the part of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups does not help either. It is a poisonous circle of violence, madness pure and not leading to any solution.

Visiting a Jewish service in a synagogue to welcome the Sabbath is touching, observing the ritual joy of welcoming the day of rest. It is admirable to see how traditions are kept and hopes are lived while having endured so many changes in their history from the deportation to Babylonia, the destruction of their sacred temple via the murderous crusades till the Holocaust and all the Antisemitism growing again in our days.

Having Jewish lecturers for the topic of Judaism, it was interesting to be reminded, that ultra-orthodox Jews oppose the State of Israel. A man-made state is not acceptable because at the end only God can establish the new Israel.

Besides this, we learned that the promised land is from a religious point of view only for those who live the Torah – and looking at the modern Israel on a Sabbath shows that Israelis are not per se living according to their holy books.

Another observation is that obviously the stretch of land has a history before the promised land was occupied by Jewish clans – and there are historians indicating that the people led by Moses originally have been from the same background as the Canaanites they battled.

Living in South Africa, there comes the same thoughts: What a beautiful country, and how magnificent could it be if only the people living there would keep peace. My stay here has reminded me how intertwined the problems of trauma on both sites of the fence are. Judging becomes a difficult task, but there is something I believe in:

Jerusalem, the holy place for the three major monotheistic religions, should be an open city under the UN, belonging to nobody than human mankind – to be a witness for the peacefulness, all three religions somehow claim. It is a failure of the UN not to have followed the original plan; and it is a failure of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faithful not to create a location where love, hope, tolerance, goodwill and peace are liveable and touchable in this space and place.

Shalom, Salam and Peace

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

Roe v. Wade – unfiltered thoughts…

Newspaper announcing the 1973 decision

The Republican Party, the right-wingers and those deeply entrenched in a specific way of thinking are jubilant – and my Roman-Catholic Church officially lauds the decision: “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world”

I am holding my breath – and no, I am not convinced that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position. Polls tell the opposite.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without abortion – but also without unwanted pregnancies and with programs supporting single moms and difficult social situations. We all know, that this is not happening; that there is a lot of lip service.

Secondly, this is not a decision born out of democracy: It is an almost fascist takeover of a democratic institution essential for justice served in a democratic society. The USA has lost since Donald Trump many facets of a functioning democratic system. Radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken over the reins at the Supreme Court and forcing their ill convictions onto society. Candidates for the Supreme Court bend the truth under questioning in their confirmation hearing – one could also say there were lies and deceit in the run-up to confirmation. We also heard about sexual harassment and more by one of the now elected judges – and we know that Mich McConnell abused the system to avoid an Obama proposed candidate. Politics instead of justice as a matter of fact.

No, the end never justifies the means – and the hijacking of the American democratic experiment by white macho evangelical and Catholic hardliners is one of the greatest dangers to Democratic means in the USA; it is a great danger to long fought for liberties and civil rights. Fake news, lies and outright criminal activities against the laws of democracy as the hearings in Washington bring to light cannot be the base of a juridical decision of the highest court of the land.

I can’t and I will not celebrate an attack on the values of democracy. I am appalled to know that the reality is that poor women will bear the brunt and consequences of this decision – there will be illegal and dangerous options with deadly consequences. The writing is on the wall – see Alito and Thomas opinions – that other basic rights will be on the chopping block in the future.

Abortion is in civil societies a much debated issue – and obviously the sanctity of life is at stake. But so is the sanctity of life attacked by the death penalty, by wars and certainly by current gun laws. The obvious schizophrenia of evangelical fundamentalists to pick what is convenient and to ignore or even promote the opposite of the rest is breathtaking.

Once again: The end never justifies the means – celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision is ill-advised. It brings more chaos and more division to society; and more danger towards the democratic institutions in the USA. It will also cost lives.
Obviously, religious institutions and faith based groups can and should have an opinion and also participate in the public debate. But there are rules and ethics when it comes to how decisions in a democratic system are made.

If we are honest, we all have to admit: abortion will not disappear by a court decision, but by an openness of society to discuss sexuality, by means of avoiding pregnancy and by politics supporting children, single parents and families. All things, religious fundamentalists and evangelical hardliner, but also organized religion are not known for to put into practice.

Convincing people in a democracy to do the right thing (whatever that is…) is always a process of words and deeds, but also carries the freedom of those we try to convince to say “no”. We people of faith are part of this process, but in my humble view we can never support supreme decisions which are based on lies, deceit, political gambling and hardly covered intentions born out of private religious fundamentalist convictions.

The decision in the matter Roe v Wade is at the end a dis-service to the aim to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to acknowledge realities; it will polarize and militarize those in favor or against it, and it brings in disrepute the standing of one of the most important institutions in a democracy. And the victims in all this are at the end again: women.

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

Turn of an era?

We are living in interesting times; we also could say we live in dangerous times or exciting times. However, one defines emotionally current times, it is increasingly becoming clear that humanity faces difficult decisions to make on a variety of questions flocking together in one moment in time.

The Coronavirus has brought us the message, how quick our big and small seemingly stable world can crumble because of a small little virus taking over the world. The way we densify areas to accommodate more people in spaces and the way we extend our habitat into the last pockets of real nature should be reflected on if we as the human species want to have a future on this planet.

Add to this the climate change which becomes increasingly dramatic looking at the so-called eternal ice, the glaciers, the weather patterns which will not go away while elected or authoritarian politicians try to make sense of it – always having in mind that the sacrifices must be on the other site of the fence.

The Ukraine war has shown the people on the “island” Europe the realities of the rest of the word, where violence and war is a much more frequent occurrence. But it also shows how interconnected the world is now and people all around the world are suffering because one leader runs amok for reasons one can analyse, but it does not mean they make sense.

Trump, Johnson, and their likes have brought a culture of lies and fake news to the table. Amplified by social media and as predicted by warning voices, that the amount of information and communication will overwhelm our brains, we have created the best environment to create a fictional reality besides the real reality. And millions, overstrained and anxious, flee into the madness of such fictions. Looking at the USA and its current affairs – the plan of the Christian right together with those wanting to keep the white macho monopoly comes dangerously to conclusion: racism, the upcoming decision “Roe v Wade” has ramifications far beyond the USA. A country and society which is at war with itself and therefore giving rise to others like China, which is posing the biggest threat to human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

Looking at the overall politics, many democratic systems need an overhaul to arrive in the 21st century, but it is impossible to do with the culture of professional politicians who would never survive in the real world and who have mostly their re-election at heart instead of the people. Our democracies are a shadow of what it meant when the idea was born. It is still often the best we can, but it will not be sufficient to move forward in the next years to come.

And this applies also to international organisations like the UN, being stuck in a post II World War idea and clearly not being able to develop into a tool needed in our times. Alone the fact, that a country, being the aggressor and committing war crimes has a veto power is on all imaginable levels simply wrong.

Social media and democratic structures are also more and more in competition – reading Elon Musk’s announcement that he most likely will unban Donald T from the newly purchased Twitter, looking at the power of a company like Facebook to determine what you are allowed to say or not, the logarithm and AI increasingly and often silently starting to manipulate our lives: we are at a point in time when we collectively need to come to decisions how to proceed as human beings and what values we put first.

There would be so much more to list – the role of religious institutions and their failures, questions of how the global economy is working, questions of the interaction of so-called “developed / developing” countries in relation to the so-called “first world” – whatever that really means when looking at it more in detail.

We need to have more conversations – and when I say conversations I mean really engaging with each other, listening to each other and recreating a culture of engagement. Social Media should assist and stop creating millions of keyboard warriors and bots pushing their point of view in a way which defies the word “communication” and triggers rather aggression and violence.

We need to realise that putting average or professional politicians on pedestals because there are no better ones, or because they have a specific gender, sex or skin colour does not really help but often obfuscate the wanted outcome.

The world of our days offers so many tools and possibilities to reach out and connect; we need to make more out of it, and we have to learn to use it wisely if we really want to come out with a perspective for us humans as part of this world we are living in. We owe it to the next generations that we turn this obvious transition time into something which is worth living.

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

The “Ball of HOPE” joy – please join in…

Indeed, there is much joy in the hearts of those organizing the Ball of HOPE for the 20th time. After 2 years of cancellations due to Covid-19 it looks good for the 21st of May 2022 at the Westin Hotel by Marriott in Cape Town.

20 years Ball of HOPE, the end of the 20 years anniversary year of the organisation itself and the better late than never celebration of 20 years of the local office of the Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Ball of HOPE developed out of a dinner-dance established in 1998 at the Mount Nelson and organised by the German-speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town. The first guest of honour was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He also introduced the culture of letting culinary chefs be in pain keeping the main course hot and tasty, while speeches are indeed longer than anticipated.

The first guest of honour: Archbishop Desmond Tutu

With the opening of the local office of the AHK in Cape Town, the dinner-dance became the “Ball of HOPE” in cooperation between the newly founded organisation HOPE Cape Town and the Chamber of Commerce. In 2003 the Westin was inaugurated, and the event moved from the Mount Nelson Hotel to the then newly established Arabella Hotel at the Foreshore in Cape Town, which today is the Westin by Marriott.

Opening and blessing of the new Westin Hotel

During the following years, the Ball of HOPE became a fixture in the social calendar of Cape Town, and attracted also visitors from Europe to come and join this prestigious event.

So, yes, we are full of joy to invite all of you to the 20th Ball of HOPE – please come, register and join us in this celebration of service, of commitment and of a partnership between business and development, which changes the lives of people for the better in the last more than 20 years.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Asking hard questions

Looking at the social-economic & political consequences worldwide of the Russian attack on Ukraine, there comes a point, where the removal of Putin by all means possible and any means necessary must be ethically discussed.

The UN writes about the global impact of the war in Ukraine:

“The war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is producing alarming cascading effects to a world economy already battered by COVID-19 and climate change, with particularly dramatic impacts on developing countries. Recent projections by UNCTAD estimate that the world economy will be a full percentage point
of GDP growth lower than expected 1due to the war, which is severely disrupting already tight food, energy, and financial markets. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are among the world’s breadbaskets.
They provide around 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil2. At the same time, the Russian Federation is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter. Together, neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation also export around a fifth of the world’s fertilizers.”

The world is factually a global village and the digitalisation has contributed strongly to interconnect the economies. This means that the unfolding war will bring not only hardship, but also hunger and additional poverty, and with it premature dying of people worldwide.

The full report of the UN titled “Global impact of war in Ukraine on food, energy and finance systems” is available here

Besides looking at the ethical possibility to remove a leader violating with his actions the dignity of millions of people, the current situation has also made it very clear again, that the UN mechanisms, created after the second world war, are not carrying any more the weight needed to send a clear-cut message to those violating international laws and committing war crimes without even making the attempt to hide it.

Looking at other challenges like energy needs and climate change it becomes, especially after Covid-19 and now the attack of Russia on Ukraine crystal clear, that human mankind has to change tune if it wants to survive as the human race. We are not essential to the universe nor to our planet; if we want to live and thrive and create a future for the next generations in peace and dignity, we better get our acts together.

Looking into our world with the mounting numbers of fake news and outright lies, of unashamed violence and exploitation, those ethical questions of how to respond need a new reflection and answer for our time. Philosophers and religious institutions are challenged to come up with guidelines when it comes to political and social actions determining the future of humanity and the human race on this planet.

And to clarify: No, the war in Europe is not really special, as war governs constantly parts of the world. But I believe that suddenly also Europe woke up to this truth and after Covid-19 there is a kind of sensitivity towards challenges. People have woken up to think the unthinkable – a good moment in time to push for deeper reflections.

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

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An event not to be missed10/15/2022
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