God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

At the end of the year….

I guess, most of us agree: this was a specific difficult year for societies and in politics. Looking around in our world, there seems to be little hope for 2022:

In the USA, we see a country struggling to keep democracy alive and fight off a sort of white male fascism driven by a Republican Party not ashamed to base politics on lies and deception.
In Great Britain, the Brexit promises have failed in a big way and the current Premier seems to have difficulties with truth and honesty, let alone clear policies.
In Russia old demons of power and might through military means aka Putin style becomes dominant and endangers world peace looking at Ukraine.
China demonstrates its willingness to go the extra mile to kill everything which smells like civil rights; only look at Hong Kong.
Europe throws part of its values into the Mediterranean Sea by letting people drown in exactly this sea and looking at Covid-19, the switching on and off of parts of Africa without common sense does not give the impression that values are universal.

The corruption in South Africa continues, and those fighting within the ANC for power are still pretty safe of prosecution. Even the admission of the President that state coffer money was used for party politics does not draw any consequences – business as usual.

Covid-19 and the vaccine story has divided families and societies – and the virus laid open the impossibility for the human race to act jointly and with common sense in a complex world.

Environmental questions remain to be answered with urgency if the human race wants to survive and have a future.

So 2022 starts with an exceptional package of “needs to be addressed” – and if we would only look at the big picture we could fall into depression.
But there is always our small world within the big picture. There is always the magnitude of kind acts, of friendly and supportive smiles, of acts of goodwill, and if the late Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu is to believe – all those acts will at the end form the safety net rescuing and changing the world to the better.

There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t wait for any divine force to make it happen here on earth, we have to do it ourselves with our hands and our hearts.
Let’s be honest:
the world will exist even when the human race disappears – the world, our environment and the universe does not need us – we need to relate to all of them in a healthy way. And we only can do this, if we learn much more to understand each other as one human race only being able to thrive and survive if we limit ourselves not only in the amount of human beings living at the same time on earth with limited resources, but also much more share common values not only in theory but in practice.

We have to be much more attentive to this – and we have in church, politics and society to understand much more, that being a leader is not about a career and power play but service; we have to examine our systems of governing and our structure of living whether they serve life and well-being of all or only an elite. We have to understand ourselves as a part of nature, and our fellow brothers and sisters rather as a support system we depend on within our environment. Furthermore, we have to watch out, that our systems and AI are not so perfect, that they don’t allow any more for the diversity human mankind represents. Perfect systems, or rather almost perfect systems, are endangering individual lives and livelihoods.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; there is the prospect of a good future, there is the constant dream not only of a rainbow nation, but a rainbow world, a rainbow human race – a unity in diversity – a connectivity which can be felt when one is attentive and open to it. We can’t leave the world to the doomsday activists nor to the Querdenker or those using and abusing the world and humans for their own advantage only.

Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and hearts but also knowing that the majority of people of goodwill have to connect more to advance humanity, decency and civil freedoms carried by joined values for all.

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

Compliments of the Season

Ein frohes und gesegnetes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch in das Neue Jahr 2022
verbunden mit Dank für alle Unterstützung in herausfordernden Zeiten.
***

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year;
thank you for all support in challenging times.
***

‘n Geseënde Kersfees en ‘n gelukkige nuwe jaar;
dankie vir al die ondersteuning in uitdagende tye

Filed under: General, South Africa, The Nex - Indawo Yethu, Uncategorized, , ,

2021: Vaccinated, boostered and recovered

Looking back at 2021 shortly before Christmas, I can’t say, the year was boring or uneventful. 2021 started with the hope that Covid-19 might be overcome during the year and a sort of normality would come back into daily life. Little did we all know that hope can be a stretched from January to December – not lost, but wearing thin at times.

Travel restrictions continued for most of the year in one or the other way, forcing me to cancel a lot of meetings in person and to combine necessary travel in two big chunks for up to 9 weeks at a time. I could write books about the May to July travel, where the German way of doing business simply ended up in the madness of changing rules on a daily basis, on a location basis – and on a “We have our own rules” basis. Besides the anyhow difficult situation and anxieties meeting somebody from the – at that time – South African mutation, it challenged all my creativity to navigate through constant changes in the set program.

Exhaustion and frustration were my constant companions – and for the first time it was difficult to understand my fellow German brothers and sisters. Nevertheless: meetings made possible were rich and felt good – meeting again in person, looking each other in the eyes and catching body language and facial expression directly and not through a camera – simply a human need.

This was also the time to get my first Covid-19 vaccination shot – followed by a second and – by chance even a third one, today called booster – already in July 2021. I assume I was the first in Germany in this regard; my attempt to get the third vaccination registered on the German vaccination app was met with astonishment in various pharmacies: The system did not allow for it….

Those vaccinations triggered a bit of a change in mindset – I felt more free, more safe, more alive again – and I guess, this mental push should definitely not be underestimated when it comes to the health of the human mental faculties.

The several times postponed HOPE Gala concert took place – and despite all the Covid-19 regulations being adhered to – the sheer fact to be able to celebrate an event again – the sheer fact that you – vaccinated and tested dared to hug a person again – it was an evening with a taste of normality which did everybody attending so good. And add the musical program of this open air event – it was simply great, enjoyable and some hours of liberation from an otherwise so threatening world. I take my head off for the organizers, who until the very end did not know it was possible to run the event, but still put all energy and love into the planing and finally executing of the great Charity Concert.

Back in South Africa there was the constant demand triggered by the construction of The Nex – Indawo Yethu Campus in Delft – so much preparation since 2019 and finally the move into the first buildings: Administration Building, Bavarian House and Resource Centre as well as “La Maison de Christoph”, the holistic preventative health centre. The joy of occupying a new building but also the challenges of a snag list longer than the river Jordan while at the same time starting the first programmes like vocational training / duale Ausbildung in logistics, entrepreneurial skills’ development programs and other education courses constituted a roller coaster of feelings. We had days with more than 200 students on the partly finished campus while next Phase 2, the Early Childhood Development Centre was and is currently in construction. Those who called my idea of this campus a crazy one, a not possible one had finally to admit, that the sky is the limit if you believe in something and one has the right partners creating synergies. Because you can’t do it alone, the HOPE Cape Town team, VPUU and all the other collaborators from government, NGO’s and civil society as well as the Bavarian State Chancellery were all essential to walk the talk and to bring another ray of hope to Delft.

Finally, the last months with the second trip, three charity dinner in Berlin, Dresden and Munich and many personal encounters with sponsors and partners. And still the upcoming 4th wave in the back of your mind constantly threatening travel plans: nevertheless most was possible to achieve, but it took more energy out than anticipated.

Back in Cape Town beginning of December there was no rest for the restless as the official opening of the Bavarian House and the anniversary of 20 years HOPE Cape Town were due to be celebrated. And while we missed our Bavarian friends, who could not travel due to Covid-19 travel restrictions – and the arrival of Omicron – Saturday, 4th of December was a day of joy and celebrating achievements – not in a big way, but the day stood out and felt good. I am still grateful for all who made this day happen!

Now we are before Christmas – and as the headline indicates, there is one item missing: recovery. There was a time in between of flu-like symptoms where I quarantined, not wanting to give the flu to anybody else – nothing really dramatic, just a bit of cold and cough, quickly gone. It turned now out that this was Covid-19 – and my natural antibodies are now skyrocket high next to the ones triggered by the vaccine.

So yes – it looks like this year was really full of challenges but also islands of joy. There were moments of frustrations, but also of deep gratitude and happiness. Covid-19 has created many obstacles on my way and certainly did not help to fundraise and cut the possibilities of expansion of my network. It showed clear limitations of activism, but it also triggered creativity and the determination to achieve set goals even in the midst of a pandemic.

I am going out of this year more humble and more grateful – I count my blessings more carefully. And I am determined to welcome 2022 with open arms willing to make again the best out of what is possible.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Reflective silence

It is a longer time since I have written a blog contribution.
As a Catholic priest, politically interested and working amongst others in the fields of health it seemed to me in the last weeks, that in all those category groups madness has taken over in the public and not so public sphere.

As a priest I follow with sadness the many stories of child abuse in my own church; I notice the arrogance of power, amongst others in the Archdiocese of Cologne and the for me incomprehensible reaction of the Vatican, ignoring that without trust you can’t be a Bishop of a Diocese any more. In Cologne, people made their view clearly known by leaving the church. Hamburg is another sore point in this regard; and generally: the church is still a prisoner of its own power games instead of being a real servant of the faithful. The fear to lose this power overrides the possibility to admit, showing the consequences warranted on this matter.

As a political animal I have watched the German election from far – and obviously also the local election in South Africa. Both raised more questions than answers. And looking at the USA the battle for democracy in the real sense of the word seems to be relentless. The discussion on climate change and saving the planet has also its moments – unwillingness to change or to take responsibility by head of states mixed with expectations and demands beyond reality by some younger people makes it difficult to find solutions in time. On the other hand – the universe will continue – with or without human beings present.

Health – or better the battles around Covid-19 keeps one awake at night – here I have never seen more conspiracy theories made available via social media; the amount of wannabe academics and experts behind the keyboards at home on one hand and in the instance of some European countries the Nanny State attitude without limits in sight are difficult to face every day in the news and on social media. Where does the fiduciary duty of a state ends? And where ends the freedom of an individual to endanger himself and others with possible deadly consequences?

So yes, reflective silence was needed looking into all those challenges which can be overwhelming at times. I still have no real answers yet, but I felt that just reflecting personally and silently instead of jumping onto the battlefield of opinions without balancing them was the right thing to do.

If more people would do this, maybe the conversations would be less emotional and black/white but more productive and serious.

What I miss is a culture of really listening to each other, really weighing in on arguments, but I have to admit there is also a limit, where nonsense can’t be tolerated or even entertained any more.It seems to me that people are overwhelmed by situations and constant information flows; our brains are simply not made for the advances in IT. We feel the downside of the technical revolution, bringing into questions on a massive scale the way we lived and thought for quite a while.

We have to acknowledge that the human race is not that far as we thought; and we have to learn to use what digital technic offers us in a way appropriate to human consumption and human ability. Thinking before posting, reflecting before making a statement on social media will do societies good.

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

A human “mea culpa” needed – and then action

Hurricanes, heat-waves, fires destroying big chunks of nature and habitation in California, Turkey, Greece, Russia and so many more parts of the globe. And looking at Germany, the big floods still are making headlines, destroying the livelihood of so many while having killed others in their way of destruction.

In all the tragedies, with all the sympathies and with not stopping to help and assist those in need and those having suffered or mourning the loss of a loved one or their sheer existence; we have to ask the hard question about responsibility in particular cases and wider scenarios.

I recall as a youngster, scientists left no doubt that the way we treat nature, the way we get closer to the rivers while at the same time straightening them out to serve our purpose, will hit back. We know since ages, the way we live is unsustainable; we know that climate change is happening and will, if not tackle, destroy us as the human race. Earth will not care about it – the small little ball within the universe will continue without us until our solar system will change dramatically in ages to come.

Additional, there is a clear limit to what earth can take on human population – the verse in Gen 1,28 of the bible “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” might find a line drawn into the sand now.

We not only have allowed to continue our path of destruction – millions of people elect and support politicians and leaders worldwide, who simply deny climate change – who simply ignore the well-being of nature for greed and power reasons. And this ignorance is entangled in the whole question of white male dominance, which makes it even harder to tackle. Add to this the birth control debate within, for example, a church with 1.2 billion faithful: then you get a full picture of what we are facing.

Much of it applies to Covid-19 and other virus related incidents, where transition from animal to human occurs. We are all aware that nature has its own life full of bugs, not really hurting their animal hosts. We come closer, we destroy their habitat and ignore their rightful place in our world and force them to find another place to live – with deadly consequences.

We as humans are our own worst enemies – no other creature in this world is more destructive, more ignorant and more willing to go the extra mile on a path which will end with a new dawn without human beings. Those who have the most maybe will survive a bit longer – but all money, all greed, all power of the world will not prevent the final outcome.

The alternative is really to change course dramatically and radically – but not naive, as one hears it sometimes from younger activists who mean good but don’t overlook always the whole picture. But the mix of young and not so young activism with the wisdom of more matured and experienced professionals can open a new chapter for humanity. It can end the “keep it up” strategy and turn lots of words and promises from political and economical leaders into meaningful actions.

We are as humanity in this together – no country can go it alone, no government can solve it alone – which also means to strengthen political bodies like the UN and other international entities. We need a universal “mea culpa” and the intelligence to choose our leaders wisely in this respect. Furthermore, we can’t afford to have those proclaiming their country first, we can’t allow for those more concentrating on stealing from the public purse, and we can’t allow any more for those in charge, who prefer ideology and “the party is always right” instead of a public discourse allowing all meaningful voices to be heard.

And we need the buy-in of churches and religious institutions – make no mistake: Most of them are more involved in the economic deals of current times than we want to admit and acknowledge. Amassing wealth is certainly an important goal of many so-called “prophets” and prosperity churches; and also the mainstream churches are not immune when it comes to investments. Here also, a “mea culpa” would be appropriate and a new outlook needed.

Whatever the future will hold: nobody can say, we have not been warned many times.

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

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