God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

No nation is criminal, and no religion is terrorist

In a message to an assembly of nearly 700 community organizers and social justice advocates in California, Pope Francis called on all people to become Samaritans and resist the “grave danger” in this moment to disown our neighbors amid a culture of indifference. “Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart,” the pope said. “You must become a Samaritan,” he said. His letter was delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson and a World Meeting of Popular Movements organizer, who read it together, alternating paragraph by paragraph from English to Spanish, to those gathered in Central Catholic High School gymnasium to participate in the U.S. regional meeting. (“Used with permission from NCRonline.org, a service of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.”)

To read more about this important issue, which surely resounds also on the background of South Africa’s society and challenges please check the following links:

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/unbreakable-world-meeting-justice-opens-california

http://www.lastampa.it/2017/02/17/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/no-people-is-criminal-and-no-religion-is-terrorist-BBpd3RREVg0dyWuggiUNXP/pagina.html

 

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

Durban2016 – a reflection on the World Aids Conference

durbanTomorrow ends the World Aids Conference in Durban – most probably the same way it started, with lots of encouraging words and hopes held high: treatment for all, equity, justice and equal treatment for those on the margins of the so-called society.

It was a week full of talks, presentations, encounters – a week full of demands, pleas, promises and a concert of different voices: researchers, activists, business people – all wanting to have a share and a say in the biggest HIV related global conference, taking place every two years.

The magic year 2020 and the numbers 90 – 90 – 90 were repeated and mentioned over and over: 90 % of the infected people should know their status; from those knowing 90% should be on treatment – and from those on treatment 90% should be undetectable.
Another magic year named very often was 2030 – the aimed end of the Aids pandemic.

But let’s be honest: all the tears, pleas and promises could not hide the fact: as the world stands today, we will not reach this goal. 16 out of 37 million people are in the moment on treatment – and the Global Aids Fund lacks promised money to reach all of the ones in need of treatment. The so-called “war on terror”, the financial crisis, the madness of politics let made financial pledges degrade into empty promises. The gap between what governments have pledged, what is needed and what they finally pay into the global fund is going into millions of US Dollars.

And it is not the lack of money – besides the madness of war and terror, perceived or real – it is the assumption that we have the Aids pandemic under control. It seems forgotten that every year 2 million new infections are still counted and 1 million people perish as a consequence of HIV, Aids and related illnesses.

But even the future looks bleak – conferences like this are needed: they serve as a public reminder of the injustice of poverty, sickness and premature death and the responsibilities of governments and public health sectors. They also bring people together one would not meet otherwise.
In South Africa without the activism we still would be told that HIV does not cause Aids and that antiretroviral treatment kills. Only activism, toi-toi and conferences as well as taking the government to court as civil society brought the much-needed results. But we should never forget those having died because Manto Tshabalala Msimang and others fought against common sense for a far too long time.

I am grateful that this conference brought me together with gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people, with male and female sex workers and with drug users – encounters without the moral pointing finger – it was about meeting other human beings with their struggles like I have my struggles. It was about listening and giving everybody dignity and space to talk, to share, to explore, to feel loved and accepted. How much could also the churches learn from such encounters – understanding that the world is much more diverse and colorful than most allow themselves to accept in their small little world of daily and religious life.

Conferences like this also help to deepen the understanding of HIV and its related problems, it gives the chance to celebrate successes, mourn failures and last but not least to feel not alone in the battle against a deadly syndrome. 18 000 people from all over the world, united in an ongoing battle to save lives, to demand access to treatment, to put the fingers on human rights abuses and inhumane and unjust laws hindering our fellow brothers and sisters to live life to the fullest.

Conferences like this are energizing – they liberate one from the narrow views one automatically have working day in and day out in the same social and cultural environment – for me as a priest they open up to what “catholic” really means in the full sense of the word.

Churches are praised for their active role in the fight, but they are not very much appreciated when it comes to legal matters or global or national policy decisions. The anti-gay laws in Nigeria, the questions of sexual orientation and the women’s rights in matters reproduction are contentious issues which impact clearly also onto the fight against HIV and Aids. Sometimes it seems that moral considerations overshadow the life-and-death consequences, such stances have on grassroots level.
And obviously the long stance of my own church regarding condoms did not help either – and it took Benedict XVI’s interview to start open up this question in his acknowledgment, that if a male escort uses a condom to protect his customer it is the beginning of morality.

So lastly conferences like this put the finger on open questions, on answer demanding questions, they make the bridge between teaching, sciences, research, religion, faith and real life palpable and it’s the conversation between all parties which could bring solutions adequate to the life of the ordinary person plagued by all the challenges on a daily base.

So thank you to the organizers of the conference for making it possible once again to meet, to greet, to exchange, to laugh together, to learn together, to fight together, to discern together, to disagree with each other in the quest of the best answer possible.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who am I to judge – a developing story

“The history of homosexuals in our society is a very bad history because we have done a lot to marginalize them. It is not so long ago and so as church and as society we have to say sorry,”, so the German Cardinal Marx somehow in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting and it seems the walls of the fortress Catholic church seems to coming down. Even worse Pope Francis re-affirms his “Marxist Cardinal”, as he jokey called him and the tremors can be felt on twitter and in statements all over the Catholic world. Cardinal Napier fears for the worst according to his twitter account and even revokes God’s help on this subject. Also in the USA bishops feel either called to testify to the effect that Catholic wording has contributed to the hate and discrimination of LGBTI people while others see no harm in calling their brothers and sisters “intrinsic evil”. It seems Orlando has taken off the gloves in the Catholic church when it comes to the question of same-sex love and its consequences in life.
This is in principle good so because it opens up a debate and reflection on a seemingly hot potato clerics were not even allowed to whisper loud in the times of Pope Benedict XVI without risking to be reprimanded heavily.  The rifts, the different opinions, the soul-searching can now start in earnest – and as with most things in our days society has been in the lead while the church tries to catch up with matters important for those not falling in the “hetero” category.
I guess if we agree that we all are on our way to understand God’s good creation, if we agree that listening to each others stories without judgement or prejudice would be the order of today then Orlando might become a turning point in the relationship between the biggest faith communities and the LGBTI community in this world. A tragedy turned into a blessing for those at the margins of our church longing to be fully accepted in their God-given way of love and commitment. The teaching of the church always has developed – from how we saw slavery till the judgement on democracy, freedom of religion and so many more – because our knowledge and insight developed. Even in the bible we see this development from a God of war and killing fields slowly being recognized as a God of peace and love and understanding. We as church are always on the way, we always have to listen, to discern – and maybe the biggest sin of a faith community can be to be so anxious of new insights or more closeness to God and his children that there is simply a refusal to walk forward.

Moses, Abraham and all the prophets called the chosen people again and again out of all safety zones to conquer the promised land. All those stories also tell us of failure, of turning back to the seemingly “good old days” , telling us of penance, of God’s willingness to forgive and to continue the alliance between God and mankind.

Let’s remember that the concept of homosexuality is a very modern and new one. No Jew of the Old Testament nor Jesus did know about it. So let’s start to discern, lets start to look anew at what is God telling us – let’s listen to voices like Pope Francis and Cardinal Marx and dare to dream of the people of God including all in his love without labeling some as “intrinsic evil”.

Working in the fields of the HIV pandemic which indeed has hit the LGBTI community the hardest the influence of faith of the lives of people is clearly to be seen. The religious views of Ronald Reagan contributed heavily to the ignorance government showed in the USA when HIV emerged because it was just killing gays. With proper unbiased action 32 million people would not have to suffer today and millions would still be alive. Faith can change the world for better or for worse.

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

Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”

Long awaited and finally out – and already there is a flood of comments from all sides of the church spectrum and beyond. So I want to  add my two cents to the growing number of comments and I will do it brief and up the point.
Firstly I am not disappointed and I am not surprised neither, as the exhortation is the continuation of a sincere approach of Pope Francis to move the church in the right direction, but also bearing in mind that he is coming from South America with its specifics.
Style, tone and content is indeed refreshing and I never thought that in parts – when it comes to discernment and the conclusion that nothing in this world is either black or white – a pope confirms what my pastoral approach is since I was ordained a priest. It is indeed with great joy that I read those parts and I feel strengthened. It almost feels like common sense has prevailed and for me personal, I feel much more home again in this church. Even if nobody dares to spell it out: we have had other times in our church where all was only seemingly black and white and whoever was stepping aside was already seen as an outsider in the church or even worse, outside the church. This church is changing under his leadership and guidance.
“Wonderful complicated”, is the description of Pope Francis for this world, for all the different family situations and we as clergy are encouraged to embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. Accepting conscience instead of replacing conscience – it really warms my heart to hear such words from the top of our hierarchy.

And yes, there are parts I still think are missing, for example the word “intrinsic evil” in connection with my brothers and sisters belonging to the LGBTI community should have been officially withdrawn and banned, but I guess, being asked to not discriminate means that the use of those words are not allowed anymore. Another contentious issue is the question of artificial contraception where I hoped for some development.

“We need a healthy dose of self-criticism,” so the pope, and with his writings he certainly opens the church up for such reflection. And not only for such reflections but also for a new chapter of being a church not only for the people but walking with the people and seeing and pointing out all the grace being present in the chaos of our lives, our families, our situations.
I think there is so much food for thoughts in this exhortation, starting by seeing grace in imperfection and following through with discovering the lively spirit of God in all human situations. This will keep us busy and if done sincere as a church getting “soiled by the mud of the street” in the process  will look good in the eyes of God.
Let’s hope that the humble and honest reflection of Pope Francis really filters through all the church officials and that we all, being either labelled “progressive” or “conservative” just hold in and reflect ourselves on the rich input the pope is giving with “Amore Laetitia”.

And here the full text in the official translation:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

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

Ball of HOPE 2016 in Cape Town

Ball of HOPE 2016 invite and intro_Page_1 Ball of HOPE 2016 invite and intro_Page_2 Ball of HOPE 2016 invite and intro_Page_3 Ball of Hope BOOKING FORM 2016

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
The Southern African - German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and HOPE Cape Town looking forward to celebrate this event with you - more info: admin@hopecapetown.com

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