God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Thoughts of an unapologetic whitey on #SaveSouthAfrica

I am reading the opinion piece “Here’s why white people cannot demand solidarity” – posted somewhere on social media under the headline “who’s rally call and why is it anyhow?”. On the morning of Friday, 7th of April 2017, the day most serious South Africans try to rescue their country from greed, corruption, downgrading and incompetent politics while MK “Speer of the Nation” soldiers still try to play war in front of Luthuli House my thoughts go back where I am coming from and what I have learned so far living 20 years in South Africa:

First and foremost: I don’t want and I will not apologize for being born white and in Europe – nobody chooses his or her place of birth – and whatever system is in place is taken in the beginning, till reflection sets in, as a normal environment.
I grew up in the small little town of Bitburg – those knowing the history of the city know that Bitburg harbored one of the biggest US American airbases next to Ramstein. So for me – in my childhood I was aware that people have different skin colors – which not really mattered – but we knew: black people are rather richer people as the US Dollar was strong at that time.
When I entered adolescence – news from South Africa were made more and more available and I learned about a small tiny Archbishop in Cape Town and the call for a boycott of South African goods. Empathy for the “poor suppressed black people” far away grew by the day – and I remember still very vivid how we followed the call of activism and tried to convince the adults: “Don’t buy apples and other products from South Africa”. I am not sure about the checks and balances at the end – but those small little and also big activities against apartheid were at least as much as important to bring down the unjust system like the liberation struggle on the grounds of African soil. Nobody has the copyright of solely liberating South Africa.

Having the chance to work in South Africa – the new South Africa with all the dreams and yearnings of the so-called and so often praised rainbow nation – and the possibility to personally meet and talk with my heroes of youth, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late President Nelson Mandela have been ever since highlights in life so far. Working in the fields of HIV in all different levels of society has grown my empathy and my understanding of the human race. I do reflect on where I am coming from, what advantages I have had in life so far – I see the dark and inhumane side of history in South Africa – but not only there: apartheid, colonialism, extortion, abuse of human rights – I acknowledge the role, Europeans have played and are still playing and I see the riches of African culture being often suppressed till today.

But I can only acknowledge and learn from the history and apply my learning’s with empathy  in the present time to create a future where mistakes of the past should be avoided. I can only continue to strengthen and communicate my firm believe that there is only one human race, that skin color does not matter for me and should not matter for anybody. As a Catholic priest being part of more than a billion faithful from all over the world I know what power lies in the faith of being just a brother or sister for each other under one divine mystery.

I also have learned from history, that liberation armies – look at South America or even Africa – need at least a generation to understand that they are not at war anymore but needed to transform in real political parties with understanding of what democracy means. So what we see in the ANC in the moment is history repeating itself because the cadres have not learned out of history and the poor will suffer again.

This is one of the reasons why I march today – reminding myself and others that we don’t have to go the same disastrous cycle if we learn of history. I do march today not because I want to have any privileges back or sustained or because I demand solidarity; it’s the other way around:
I give solidarity to those suffering the most: the poor, those who did not make it because of mistakes of politics, but also because of the greed, the corruption, the incompetence and the ignorance within our political system.
I march today for humanity, for the dream of those having given their lives in the struggle – millions of dreamers who either fought on the battle field or attended concerts to “free Mandela” or begged the people not to buy fruits from an inhumane system.
I march to keep going the dream of a just and non-racial society being able to see the pains of people and to be willing to start the process of healing guided by wise men and women in government, in churches and other institutions.

I march with empathy and solidarity for all and with all who share this dream knowing that there is a long way to real freedom, but if we walk together every day a little bit, we will reach it – a healed society becoming again the beacon of hope for a continent, which was long written off, but – and this is my firm believe – will be on the forefront of a renewed global village in the future – the cradle of mankind a living hope for all our brothers and sisters.

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

A new year for HOPE Cape Town – some thoughts…

With the 1st of March HOPE Cape Town is starting afresh in a new financial circle – the new budgets are approved and put into working, the old ones are closed and now made ready for the independent audit. Obviously the change in the currency exchange rate and so many other factors influence the outcome of budget planing – in our days it is getting more and more difficult to be as precise as possible. Therefore HOPE Cape Town is determined to follow true with the dream to have as much own capital as needed to pay all operations from the interest. It would take away the worries of constant fundraising, the constant knocking on doors which obviously also with all the reporting binds forces which could be used to aid those in need directly.

With HOPE for Babies in the maternity wards of Tygerberg Hospital the work with pregnant moms, delivering moms and then paediatric HIV to follow through with the kids infected and affected HOPE Cape Town compliments more and more its own goal to work with children from birth till they are matured in adulthood, only to come back as parents of newly born babies. The first 1000 days play a pivot role in having a holistic view and HOPE Cape Town is proud to be part of the program, the Western Province is pursuing to make sure that every newborn has the best chance in life possible in the framework of the circumstances he or she is born into. Re-visiting the Go-Box project to engage with young mothers and their babies in teaching them how to stimulate the little once with educational toys and education play adds to the bouquet of services.

Published research in national journals gives HOPE Cape Town the chance to showcase the results of best practice and to share this knowledge with those beyond the Western Cape boarders. Attending national and international conferences or, as just happened with our Program Coordinator doing an internship in a German paediatric hospital in Passau, adds to the possibilities to learn, share and being part of an international movement assisting children being infected, affected or having related illnesses or medical problems.

HIV and AIDS are topics which interconnect with so many other topics and portfolios. This lead for example to the founding of HOPE Cape Town USA – poverty, racism, the desire for Afro-Americans to find their African roots as well as infection rates are common areas to engage in a close working relationship with the USA.  Obviously also the chance to contribute as an US American to our work in South Africa is a welcomed component of this adventure. Many US students take a chance to engage with HOPE Cape Town when visiting South Africa on a field trip or excursion.

So, this small little entity called HOPE Cape Town connects three continents now: HOPE Kapstadt Stiftung in Bonn/Germany, HOPE Cape Town USA in Dallas/Texas and HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust in Cape Town / South Africa. The global family is growing slowly but substantially with all its challenges here in South Africa, but also to bring worlds together in a global village which seems in the moment so much driving apart. We hear about “America First” and all those funny slogans – HOPE Cape Town remains committed to “humanity first” and the organization will work tireless not only to serve those in need in the Western Cape but also to make sure that international understanding and care for each other stays a much-needed focal point.

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

Difficult times for an US adventure

Preparing for my trip to the USA in March I wonder how the present situation is playing out. The messages coming from US soil are divers, hostile, confusing and at least irritating. Having founded HOPE Cape Town USA last year, nobody could envisage that the situation is getting so different in such a short time. It seems that a split is going through society, either complete and utter praise or complete and utter condemnation on the style of government in which the new president conducts business.
What does this mean for a NGO trying to bridge between the USA and South Africa – to tackle common problems, specifically HIV, AIDS and children, but also related problems? There are two possible scenarios: either people in the USA are so preoccupied with the internal battles that international affairs are on the back-burner; or the opposite effect will be seen: people want to make a point that “America first” is counteracted by “humanity first”.

Be it as it will be – the uncertainty does take its toll on planing and preparation for the work ahead. It creates more question marks than answers – but maybe the only answer is to go ahead, meet people in person and try to make the world a better place cutting through the rough waves of politics and anxieties. Maybe the joint venture can be a sign for those involved to remind themselves that the world is bigger than the tenure of a president and that focusing on the men in power might feed their egos as they crave for attention.

Maybe a bit “business as usual” is needed to maintain sanity in these turbulent days – showing practically what counts in life and for the good of the world. I am determined to continue walk my way with all those of good will – showing that “America first” maybe means “America first when it comes to humanity and service”. Let’s never forget that those we try to assist are those who need the compassion especially in such uncertain times – those in poverty, those at the bottom of society; those sick and thorn apart by daily problems need all help possible.

I am looking forward to meet my friends in the USA and to continue working for the hope we are called to be for others in need.

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

As 2016 winds down…

As the year 2016 comes to a close, there is the usual time of reflection. On first view 2016 was indeed for the global community a very sad year: populism was triumphant, in the USA a self absorbed womanizer was elected to be the next president and as even history shows that you can’t run a country like a business as Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy clearly showed – the US system granted victory to the next failure with dire consequences to be seen if I may add. The human race is not learning nor is it able to master and digest what modern science and social media throw at them. After creating the global village and interconnecting with each other – humans are back to nationalism, patronism and guidance by anxiety and promised simple solutions.
In Germany, my home country this all reflected in the drama unfolding regarding refugees, the strengthening of the right-wings, the clash between those following in the footstep of reborn Neonazis and common sense and the uphold of human rights. A battle endangering the European Union symbolized in the Brexit and in the high amount of votes in the Austrian presidential elections. It seems that balance is lost and panic rules.In South Africa 2016 was the year of the Zuptas, the state capture, Nakandla, the SABC8 – and if conspiracy theories to capture a state are known in fiction, it shows reality in the Gupta’s attempt with the help of a president, who surely would have been a great village elders but he is completely out of place as a leading statesman. The mixture of tradition, corruption, brutality, streetwise cleverness is breath-taking and dangerous. And it hurts those suffering the most: the poor people of South Africa.
In this context the systems human mankind created to organize itself are not only abused in a constant way from those in power, but they also develop a perfection which makes them inhumane to its core. The spirits we created are taking over and it seems that compassion, seeing every situation as what it is, indeed a special one, as an impossible undertaking.
An example is the ongoing discussion in the Roman-Catholic Church about Amoris Laetitia: it shows a great example that people are resisting to except that there is no black and white, or in the computer language “zero” and “one” – systems have to be clear cut and judgements have to follow this rule. The law, which is an expression of mercy is seen as a threat to order when applied with the component of conscience and judged situation recognized as unique.
All in all the complexity of life and the interconnection with the possibilities of social media and constant news updates of all sorts seems to overstrain most humans and counter the believe in globalization – the pendulum is going into the opposite direction with a dire outlook into 2017. Anxiety and populism are governing our global village and both are used and abused to keep all afloat for the benefit of a few.

In this scenario the work of NGO’s and community based initiatives like HOPE Cape Town and millions of others are mere drops in the ocean – but those drops seem to me the only hope we have to survive the waves of inhumanity serving those aforesaid few. Those drops are the basis to conquer the negativity and abuse happening in our days, be it religious, social or political – those drops will make sure that 2017 will see rays of hope, rays of faith, rays of love reaching those suffering under the systems which try to maintain the status quo of this world.

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

Challenging times

Times are moving fast and arriving in Dresden attending the 11th HOPE Gala it is time to reflect on all what is happening in the world around us.
In South Africa, times are getting more and more tough – students are trying to force the state into submission of free education with turmoil, violence and militant language – not seeing that their initially good cause is meanwhile compromised for many reasons. President Zuma survived another non-confidence vote as the ANC is still not ready to acknowledge the magnitude of corruption and damage done to the country.
In the USA a womanizer and liar with a very limited world view is elected president via a system which assembles only a shadow of democracy. In Germany right-wing thoughts are popular again and the populist AfD seems to win the hearts and minds of more and more people.
Black and white, simple solutions, believing in simple answers, following a gut feeling of fear and anxiety seems to govern most people in this global village. And the systems holding societies together are fading away in the challenges of today; the vast amount of information available at any given time seems to be so indigestible to most global village inhabitants so that they seek refuge in those mentioned simple answers.
Churches seemed to be too much self-absorbed to have the time to really take note and actively work against this trend of time – when you look to the USA, most Catholic Bishops were so occupied with certain topics that the social Catholic teaching faded away in the judgements given before the elections.

Well, life turns in circles and therefore there is always hope that the wheels are turning again and reason will prevail. There is no need to get lost in desperation, but this is a time to watchfully and carefully observe the situation and to actively try to correct the turns of society and their leadership into a direction towards humanity, charity, tolerance and compassion at heart.

The HOPE Gala in Dresden shows me that people still care, that people still go the extra mile to assist and help and reach out to people far away; those living on the margins of the wealthy  spots in our global village. There is hope as events like this are happening not only in Dresden but also for many good causes around the globe. As long as there are some lights in the darkness of todays social and political developments, as long as there are people not giving up on trying to better all lives instead only their own ones – as long as there is resistance to let go those unfortunate living in the wrong places or born at the wrong times there is a reason to fight for a global village which is compassionate about everybody equally.

I guess we also have to learn to strive a balance between information flows possible and the ability of people to digest those info. Again we have to learn that human minds and brains and hearts have a limited capacity of in-take. And that fear and anxiety are bad advisers when it comes to develop our future as a human family.

As always life goes on and there is light at the end of the tunnel – faith, love and hope remain as the bible tells us rightly.

Filed under: General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, 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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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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