God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

South Africa: Miracles still happen

South Africa has in the moment a lot to worry about: from corrupt political leadership via rising political killings to the complete lack of moral leadership in major parts of society with all its consequences the portfolio of negativity is growing by the day. And not to forget the economical downturn and the threat of being a complete junk state on this note. Did I forget the danger to abuse pension funds to fill fiscal gaps or selling the table silver of Telkom to bail out – for the – I can’t count anymore – time to short-term fix the disaster of SAA created by a very close friend of the president, not wanting to leave till “ubaba” is gone. “Gupta” and “Statecapture” – thousands reasons to be negative adding to despair and hopelessness.

But in all this misery and after a peaceful transition in the early nineties from the inhuman Apartheid system to the dawn of democracy there is once again a shimmer of hope:
South Africa, with all its trouble and all its misery has the guts to expose big international companies on what they do best: floating best practice and just looking where the money is while throwing all ethical considerations over board:Bell-Pottinger, KMPG, SAP, McKinsey – and it seems the list will go on. It is amazing that a wounded country living through the agony of democratization and the fight to end racism and achieve equality for all its citizens is able to be a leader in forcing companies to come clean and stop hurting people, nations and basic ethical standards supposed to govern the global village. This is a ray of hope we can hold on and be proud of – especially being proud of those journalists, activists and politicians who are going for the truth as wounded healers.

And this ray of hope is the reason to I hope for another miracle: that the history of liberation movements turning into wanna-be political parties and failing their own people up to the point of destroying again what they fought for – because they can’t transform from the military battle ground to the party political debate acknowledging that the opposition parties are not the enemy anymore but part of the dynamics of democratic decision-making – that the ANC somehow finds a way to defeat this seemingly automated historical process of self-destruction and rise to the occasion of the new and democratic South Africa.

Let’s not only hope, but actively participate in all political and social processes to become what we have been in 1994 under the leadership of Madiba: a beacon of hope for the global village that human mankind can learn and evolve peacefully and meaningful for the benefit of all.

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

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Decolonization

The word “decolonization” is in South Africa a buzz word – especially among students it seems to be the holy grail of changing and transforming universities and centers of study and learning. The suggestions how to achieve it are indeed very diverse – up to the point that students demand to abolish traditional sciences and start anew to discover that the world is not flat. Obviously such ideas are not helpful and mirror quite a limited understanding of the world for a student and even put into question if a person with such demands has the maturity to study. Also burning libraries or destroying paintings and university property does not help in reaching the goal of “decolonization”.
For me the word has a much deeper meaning – reflecting on the history of colonization and the madness of today’s political leadership as seen in a President Trump or President Zuma I see the word rather more broadly defining the transition of human civilization in this global village into a new area. The advent of social media and the consequences of instant information of today’s news and the readily available information about the past, the history and – if reflected and the dots joined – its dynamics shift us humans into a new understanding of who we are and how we can live and should live together. People like Trump and Zuma are representing history, representing a lost world – comfy for the ones who want to keep it desperately and painful for those who are trying to flee out of it by all means.
Decolonization is needed for both parties – because both draw their movements and ideas from a past gone and in fear of the unknown coming in the future. Decolonization is practical, economical, academical and mental – and I bid, that when the real South Africa gets a chance to decolonize without all the political pressure and violence and corruption, it could lead the way and Africa could be transformed from a lost continent into the beacon of hope for the world. We have to start a meaningful conversation without creating a battlefield.

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

Pentecost and Ramadan in exhausting times

 

 

 

 

 
Let’s be honest: our times are overwhelming in the moment – it is tiring to learn every day new scandals about our government, president and ministers and associates in South Africa. It is causing fatigue to see every day tweets and news from the US American president whose self-absorption trumps all his predecessors, adding to the complication of international politics. It is simply too much to watch the news and learn about new horrors of terror, killing sprees and war in our global village. And closing the circle and coming back to South Africa it simply creates sadness and incomprehension to read constantly about all the rapes and murders in a society having lost completely the moral compass.
“Enough is enough” one would like to shout and close eyes and ears to withdraw from all those stories, yearning for times of a “normal” life whatever it means for each and everybody of us.
Feeling helpless in the chaos of our times might be a normal reaction, but maybe such times remind us how important it is to know who we are and what we stand for. Maybe such times bring us closer together with those, who care, with those who mind more than their own business. Intact families and knowing the own values also helps as does speaking truth to power. Using whatever means one has to encourage each other and simply to do good, to do what has to be done and being a living example for others.
It is indeed difficult especially in South Africa to do so – the narratives of colored pain and historical entitlement versus prescribed guilt creates a sensitivity which is in danger to be the base for new injustices and for the time being complicates the ability to face all the challenges of life in our times.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost today – we believe that the divine spirit opens new doors and let people of different languages and faith understand each other. It is a reminder that our lives meant to be full of love, hope as well as tolerance and respect for each other. Pentecost opens a new dimension of faith being a tool to understand each other – it contrasts so greatly from those using faith as a tool of destruction or hiding place for their insults on the divine. Our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith celebrating Ramadan – a month of reflection and devotion to a God of Mercy. We should never forget in these trying times there is faith as a source of encouragement and rooting ourselves to withstand whatever is thrown at us. And not only to withstand, but to change and alter to the positive. The true meaning of faith: a source of hope…

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

A plastic bag with blood

Driving up the West-coast Road and listening to the news my thoughts kept swirling around one of the news reporting of the murder of 4 year-old Iyapha Yamile from Khayelitsha, found in a plastic bag close to her home early Monday morning. The reporter covering the case reported further of four suspects aged between 20 and 30 years old being arrested under the suspicion of this murder. I try to imagine what a person or a group of people could drive to murder a 4-year-old child – somehow it seems to me that the young age of the victim symbolizes how  sick society has become where murder or attempted murder is part of the daily local news.

The four-year old is only one of so many babies and children being killed and murdered on a weekly base – and for me, this mirrors the state of affair this country is in in the moment. If all the failed politics does not wake us up on the seriousness of trouble South Africa is in, the amount of murder, killings for gain or political reasons, the thousand of rapes and the destitute of people trying to make a living through crime should give us the wake up call we need to listen to.

We are living in a sick and hurt society – and what is needed are not revolutions or leaders still in combat mode and struggle mood but those who are ethical and concerned to heal the divide, to acknowledge the hurt, to see the disadvantaged, to listen to those feeling left behind and therefore to shine as an example of moral and ethical leadership.
If there is need for a radical economic transformation then it is radical in love, compassion and attention to detail, economic in a way, resources are used and the result must be the transformation of hearts and minds with an adequate education system and real chances to achieve a decent life without the tools of bribes, corruption or bullying through the ranks.

Let’s add honesty and leading by example – South Africa could then shine again as an example in the global village that there is a way to learn from the past, tackle the presence and achieve a future for all in an honest and human way.

 

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

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
7 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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