God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Covid-19 Lockdown & Trauma


Trauma100 days of Lockdown, I have written and tried to summarize it in my last blog – but one topic, which needs to have its rightful place in an extra blog entry is something, most have not spent too much time on:
The trauma, this crisis and the lockdown has caused for most of the people, and the trauma-related consequences as an individual or as a society – in the case of South Africa anyhow adding to all the burden of a past still not healed.

Being threatened by an invisible enemy is already difficult to comprehend for many – but taken out of normal life completely is a complete other category of trauma:

Think of those living alone and suddenly for weeks without real social contact and maybe nobody to turn to;

think of those whose security was family and suddenly they were not allowed to see them, visit them, be with them, when they became sick or even died;

think of those who were exposed to police or military brutality, suddenly made a criminal after a life without any running into trouble with the law.

Think you those who had been forced to live in an abusive relationship for weeks without being able to run away;

think of the nightmares of the kids not really understanding why all is suddenly so different;

think of the people in townships who were asked, often without real explanation to distance themselves from each other, to stay home in a dense environment without income, food or perspective.

Also think of the people in the health sector fighting every day to keep patients alive and feeling at the same time threatened by the small little virus themselves and consequently their loved ones.

Life, as it has been for many born as “free” suddenly changed in a way, they never could have imagined; and those who have lived through wars and famine – how much déjà vu have they experienced in the last weeks. And not to forget here in South Africa all the limitations during apartheid times – again confined, berated, told what to do by politicians so far away from reality and enforced by a security cluster resembling in parts past experiences.

Being helpless and having to surrender to an apparatus run by people who have allowed, willingly participated or gained from the so-called lost years of state capture and corruption in South Africa creates another trauma.

And for those following world politics there is another trauma to add in the shape of a Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Victor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte and others, showing that human mankind has certainly not reached the point of reasonable development, most of us would have thought we have developed. It’s shocking…

TraumaTrauma must be addressed and worked through – and here would be normally also religious institutions coming into the picture besides the professionals – but the mere absence of leadership in this sector in this time of crisis in so many countries created a trauma itself, but that might be a topic for another time.

Individual and collective traumata – this crisis is so much more than just a health or economic crisis…

 

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

Time to realign…

What the elections of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have indicated looking at how they came to power; what the refugee drama in Europe with the most famous quote of Angela Merkel “Wir schaffen das” has suggested, what “black lives matter” are yearning for since years again and again –  Covid-19 now has confirmed and is confirming in all mightiness:
Our systems are not really holding water not withstanding the dawn of technology and interconnectivity, the human race has not caught up with the challenges it faces in the new millennium on so many levels. It has lost direction and momentum and like on a sinking ship everybody tries to save what he or she deemed important in the times of confusion.
It is not the year 2000 with the magic of heralding a new time in number but the year 2020 which will determine which direction the global village will take and whether it entails a unified human race abolishing the selfishness on so many levels:

As a human race – we have to decide whether we acknowledge each other as equals, or we continue to fight each other as black and white and all the colours in between.
As humans, we have to decide whether we acknowledge being part of the world around us, part of planet earth or whether we want to try to continue pretending to be master of the universe.
As societies, seeing our brokenness we have to decide how we deal with the past, with hurt, pain and memory of the sometimes unspeakable.
As countries, we have to check in again how we are governed and what forms part of our contract between those, we give the power to be our leaders for a period of time.
As individuals, we have to re-assess our values, our commitments, our belief system and our ways of life.

Politicians love to speak of moments in history, of historical times – and I guess, those who have an interest in history have asked themselves often when reading about upheaval of historic proportion how people might have felt or whether they understood the severity of their times. I guess, now we know if we pay attention.

Systems and technology alone will not save us, mighty wannabe leaders with pseudo-messianic aura will turn out like the Pied Piper of Hamelin – there is hard work to do and it has to done on all levels of societies with a strong input of civil societies and religious bodies.
It is time to unite in diversity, to listen to each other, to keep silent with each other to be able to find a sensitive way forward acknowledging the past without being prisoner of what lies behind us. A real new dawn carries the pain and errors of the past like scars, visible but not hurtful anymore, forgiven, but not forgotten.
We need to connect to our roots as the human race while stretching to touch the stars of hope and destiny leading the way forward.

It is a monumental task we are facing as the human race – but there is no alternative. We either face it or we humans will one day in spite of all cleverness be only a footnote in the history of the blue planet living on without us.

 

 

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

Black lives matter

BLMYes, they matter – but I hesitated to write about it because it seems almost everybody on this planet is at the moment is on this topic. But that is not all:

My hesitation is not about that I would not agree with the slogan – my hesitation also does not deny the continuous human rights violation by a race theory, which is complete artificial, but has brought so much pain and hurt and destruction on people of colour.

My hesitation – as a human being- to say something is rather about the inside, that I am born into a system I am not able to escape – I enjoyed the fruits of racism, colonialism without being guilty of anything and even all my activism cannot overwrite this birth right.

As I theologian I would say: If there is any meaning in the term “original sin” – then the question of race, the question of white domination is an example par excellence for this theological concept.

As a German I grew up with the sense, that “we Germans” are guilty of Jewish genocide, of Auschwitz and the gas chambers – and I still recall the comments of elderly people in France verbally spitting at us young Germans touring the country.

So I am not sure where my place is in all of this;

while I am observing the hopefully last white right wing macho-stand off symbolized by the egomaniac in the White House and his cronies trying to keep an old world order alive which can’t be resuscitated;

while I am almost unable to watch the over 8-minute agony of Georg Floyd;

while I am aware of so many video clips of unnecessary violence and brutality;

I try to find a way to remain myself:

Observing, acknowledging, standing in solidarity but also knowing that the mark of Cain will always remain with me – innocently guilty

I also know that the yearning for a society without the term “race” can only be given birth if we overcome the prisons of language and perception on all sides but for that to happen there must be a longer period of silence and acknowledgement, of listening and enduring the voices of pain and despair of our wounded brothers and sisters.

There is no cheap solution,
no cheap escape –
protests,
kneeling,
standing together against unjust systems
can only be the starting point for a long journey ahead.

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

Churches, but no hotels, restaurants

Yesterday evening again President Ramaphosa appeared on TV to introduce a day of prayer for South Africa, but also declared religious leaders essential worker and opened up church services under level 3. He did this obviously under strict conditions and with limitations to the amount of people attending.

I feel this decision is health wise premature and when there is one lesson to learn from other countries opening up for church services then it is that those are becoming the hotspots and origin of new clusters. And this in countries where religion is much more organised while here in South Africa every self-declared prophet can open up a church. Adding to the concerns is that in the traditional churches, the age group of worshippers is more and more moving to those which government want to stay home: the over 60.

Obviously we all know that mega churches and some African-Christian churches are a political factor in South Africa – and the push to open up for business again and bring money in the kitty was obvious after the meeting between religious leaders and government last week.

With this decision government leaves again the grounds of the rational decisions  and shows, that all their talk about science and taking advice from other countries is more of a smoke screen.

Most traditional churches were very quiet during the lockdown – while some pastors tried to mitigate poverty and hunger, the official representatives lacked somehow the “option for the poor”  in words and deeds.
The kairos of Covid-19, the reflection of this sign of the times and the chances it offered for a review of worship practice, theological considerations and house churches was often wasted and replaced by video and zoom maintaining status quo.

I missed the voice of churches in the last weeks and months, I also have not seen really lots of theological discernment here in South Africa. And I fear that the opening of places of worship trigger more hotspots than the opening of hotels and restaurants could ever have done. It has to do with the nature of the beast:
Religious ceremonies are not about distancing, they are about hugging, singing, touching, speaking in voices and trance if you are pentecostal – you simply can’t degree a thousand years all practice to change with the 1st of June.

I guess it is a choice of emotions and not science if politics or society allow for worship again – but then justice demands that also other sectors, where indeed livelihoods hang in the balance, can be open under the same strict measures to allow to earn the money, the religious leaders certainly will claim now again from their faithful.

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

Frustration remains prevalent

It was a somehow defiant performance of the President of South Africa yesterday when he addressed the nation – he certainly learned the lesson that referring to the questionable Covid-19 Command could bring him into hot waters. Especially after the Chief Justice of the country encouraged people to take government to court if their action does not meet constitutional standards.
Moving to level 3 not directly but with still one week to go shows that there is a need for more discussions amongst those in charge to fine tune new rules and regulations – the president appears much more reserved on details of the new rules and avoiding so being contradicted by his own collective.

And there were certain points completely ignored or only mentioned in passing by:

* The question of feeding those without food and the controversy about Minister Zulu’s attempt to control the NGO sector in this portfolio
* The question of the emergency pay out via SASSA which is not really happening on a great scale
* The question of the tourism industry which is bleeding on a scale not seen before and already now partly not reversible
* The question arising out of the Khoza court proceedings judging the behaviour of police and military
* The question of how the emergency solidarity fund is safeguarded against corruption and how it is really administered
* The question of the black market for tobacco products which eliminates the advertised advantage of forcing smokers to stop smoking

As a president one has to have a feeling for the prevalent debates in society and to address those, especially in times of crisis. So the question has to be asked:
Is it a sign of complete disconnect with “our people” or the fear to hurt the ideology of the ruling party not to voice discontent with comrades in public but leave the discourse behind close doors.

Be it as it may be – there were clear signs that the unhappiness and frustration and the danger of these boiling over has reached the highest echelons of government. And this is a first step in the right direction. The coming days will show how the small print will be spelled out by the relevant ministers and the lady in charge: Dlamini-Zuma.  Her past track-record and her crusade against smoking while intrinsic connected to those cashing in on the black market makes her current position and power in a normal democratic society unbearable. But as said: in a normal democratic society. South Africa has still a long way to go to achieve this status.

If Covid-19 has positive aspects so is certainly one of them the mere fact, that this crisis showed all the cracks in our young democracy left after all the state capture and looting. Lots to work on to make South Africa a vibrant democratic state where the rule of law and the respect for human rights and human dignity is paramount at any given moment.

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

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