God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

The gloves are off

Election year in South Africa – and already since the beginning of the year it shows that the gloves are off and the usual South African chaos becomes the norm of daily life. the reaction of the State of the Nation Address of the President Cyril Ramaphosa was instant: a day later the country plunged into darkness with Eskom announcing load shedding stage four – signaling that the country is short before being brought to its knees. A surprised president who seemingly has not noticed in the long years of being the vice-president and now leading the country how bad the situation is with the State owned enterprises including Eskom as he also had not noticed the state capture happening under his co-watch. Billions of Rand’s siphoned from the State coffers to individuals and, now revealed through the Zondo commission, millions in bribes have gone unnoticed by the politicians who seemingly never read newspapers which disclosed this information ages ago.

The miracle of blind spots continues until today – and it was also present at the debate about the address of the President yesterday, where the opposition parties tried to hammer home this fact in a diversity of ways. But there was something else creeping into the debate – the question who sold out whom during apartheid times: a clear sign that the gloves are off and the nerves are blank and a sort of desperation sets in before the 8th of May, the election date.

And so it seems South Africa falls in line with the rest of the world where decency and real considerations are the exemption but pure reaction to crisis and activism and populism is the norm of today’s politics – paired with the given impression, that ethics or honesty have no say anymore in today’s political, social and environmental challenges.

The dream, that the human race is able to find to each other and jointly overcomes the challenges of today’s world has faded away – ideology and the lust for fights and bullying one another has won for now – but hopefully it is not the final verdict.

The gloves are off in so many ways and in so many spots of this world that one could despair – but there is always hope, there are always pockets of common sense, there are always people who don’t give up to work for the greater good of society and there is always the chance that those pockets are network and together form the safety net for societies, so that the madness of politics don’t destroy the very fabric of those societies. Most non-profit organizations, most volunteers, most good people can attest to it. May they succeed.

 

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

South Africa: the role of churches in the times of uncertainty

For people in South Africa, 2019 will mark again the time, when elections are due and with hundreds of parties already registered the fight for parliamentary seats – associated with power and money and influence – it begins to show its ugly face in so many ways. The biblical promises of a land where milk and honey are streaming is taken by countless politicians and taken to a society which is penetrated by a seemingly unsolved past, accusations of racism, insufficient quality of education, corruption, incompetence, cadre deployment and economical stagnation – a list which could be continued for a longer time.
The fabric of society has huge cavities and distrust, the question of compensation and entitlement lingers in the air and one only has to look at the neighboring Zimbabwe to see where it could end.

And I ask myself: what is the role of the church in such uncertain times? When I look around churches are covering the fields of moral and ethics – they fight against what they perceive threats against God’s will for the people – some churches play with the people and promise heaven on earth and proclaiming the “gospel of wealth” – not to speak from all those charlatans who simply abusing educated and uneducated people for financial gain. The field is very mixed, but let us concentrate on the main stream churches and those serious about building faith.

From my point of view and seeing what I see the most important task in 2019 would be to become a safe space for telling stories, for bringing people of all walks of life and all skin colors together to really and deeply listening to each other and so repair the fabric of society and allow for healing. I truly believe that being a conduct for understanding each other, walking in the shoes of each other, seeing with the eyes of the other would be service to this country. No discussion about race or racism, no debate about politics, no lectures what we have to do or not to do –  but listening to each other in a safe and structured way – sharing life and receiving life – being the place of encounter and healing.

If every parish, every religious community would start to become such a place of listening, healing and true encounter it could present that kind of coming together without any hidden agenda our society needs to develop a future where nobody is left behind. And being such a place does not cost anything – no expensive technical apparatus, no big resources, maybe some training for those leading such coming together.

The churches serving as sacred grounds for healing – this is in my view the most important task in the times of uncertainty. And it does not have to be big groups or the masses – like leaven will pockets of healing grow and change at the end distrust in trust, confrontation in understanding – and so allow also for a redress which is fair and open to the future for all.

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

If I would have a say…

2019 is election year in South Africa and those residing here can already sense the  unease with which political parties and organizations start to get into voting gear – it will be messy and surely deadly for some – violence, intimidation and promises never to be fulfilled will fill the airwaves and the headlines of the newspapers and media outlets.

Being a vocal critic of politicians and movements trying to govern this country I asked myself what would be my priorities if I would have a say – what does this country, this wounded society need in my humble opinion anyhow nobody important is interested in. Nevertheless, who criticizes must also know what he ideally want out of those he takes on – so here is what I think South Africa would need to get going again:

Firstly concentrate and throw lots of money and support into the basic education system while cutting the influence of the teachers union – having the best basic education and making sure that every learner has the best change to attend a school with competent teachers and satisfying facilities should be top priority.

Secondly an initiative to make every company in South Africa to add one employee to train and uplift – tax incentives and other perks could encourage even smaller companies to join such a drive – more people in work and up-skilled – what a benefit for those families and society in general.

A third important focus should be on maintenance – be it water, electricity or other infrastructure  – private-public partnerships and a heightened sense for the importance of maintaining constantly what is available and caters for the basic needs for all citizens.

The health system needs much more attention – not a NHI system which only distributes current failures to a greater audience – but fixing a broken system – health together with education are basics to build up societies and communities.

Entrepreneurship versus entitlement could be the phrase for another initiative to boost the economics already existing in so many suburbs and townships – there are so many clever people out there in the best sense of the word – there is so much goodwill – with the right tools much more could be done to boost economics.

Tackling the ugly face of racism and trying to right the wrongs of the past in a fair way should be high on the agenda – I strongly believe that we shout too much at each other, use social media to express our raw emotions without really listening and falling prey to those in politics abusing those emotions for political gains – places and town meetings for story telling – listening to each other – how much could churches and civil society organization as partners in this be of help in facilitating such story-telling-listening-deeply-events to bring people really together and allow for healing.

Land distribution in a fair manner is important – using also at length first all the land government posses – but acknowledging that most people don’t want to work the land as farmers but have the desire to live in or close by cities.

Together with zero tolerance to corruption, no cadre deployment, a fading out of BBBEE in the current form and strengthening police and the justice system this country could walk with hope into the next years – creating a positive narrative which spins the people and society as such into a gear of productive energy and allowing for dreams to be fulfilled.

Well, I guess this all remains a dream as long as the ruling political party maintains to own the right of ruling the country and others with younger followers abuse the plight of the elderly during apartheid to demand everything while giving nothing back; it is called entitlement or revolution. South Africa lacks in the moment politicians who are real servants of the people and for the people – but there is always the hope that things can change for the better and people with deep love and compassion for this wounded society come to the forefront. Never lose hope.

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

2018 National Senior Certificate results and false hope

Every year the same scenario: the results of the written 2018 National Senior Certificate exams (equal the German “Abitur”) are publicized and discussions erupt in South Africa about the real numbers. While the Department of Basic Education announces the pass rate of 78,2 % and celebrates achievements, others are pointing out that the figures are trumped-up – as more than 400 000 students never made it to the final exams and if calculated in, the pass rate would be lower than 40%. Also worries of manipulation of results are voiced as needed benchmarks are changed to create “more fairness” by those advocating the higher numbers while others see it more critically.

Looking at the lowering of standards to achieve the necessary results to be able to study foundation is laid for a lot of disappointment and complications. Having the certificate clearly does not prepare most students for university – but the for-said beautification of results gives lead to the impression of students being able and ready to attend university. Besides financial difficulties frustration is the consequence when students then discover that they are unable or not enough prepared to follow academic studies – and the breeding ground is laid for the unrest and violence we saw in the #feesmustfall movement in so many instances.

A broken basic education system leads to massive drop-outs in the process and for many others to unhappiness, anger and frustration for those who made it further. Add the frustration and expectations of parents and family and the perception that not missing preparation but “the system” hinders success of studies one gets the poisoned mix of entitlement and attitude, which is exploited by those who bring then the “race question” and “decolonization”to the toxic mix.

If politicians would be honestly concerned about society they would start fixing the basic education system, putting money into better schools, teachers training, cutting the wings of unions interfering and manipulation the education system and slowly built up a school system of excellence for all.  Then no quotas and no exam result manipulations would be needed and a fair chance would be given to everybody entering the education system.

And it should also be clear that academic study is not the ultimate goal for everybody – vocations in other professions are needed and qualifications in skilled craft and trades are equally important compared with a Bcom or a Master degree.

Lastly: transformation in this area is needed and needs time – and if South Africa would not have wasted now years falling into the coma of corruption, incompetence and cadre deployment, the country would be much more advanced as it is in our days. Blaming only the bad old times of apartheid only works for those less educated or being so ideologized that facts don’t matter.
Education is the basic requirement for entrepreneurship, equality and the willingness to work hard to achieve dreams in life – too many young people have been left behind or given the false impression of entitlement  – time to change course and give the younger generation the tools for a future of prosperity and the ability to contribute meaningful to society.

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

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
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54 days to go.

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