God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Elections reflection…

It is done: The South African election has been concluded and the observers are left with quite bias feelings. On one hand the election was generally free and fair and without major glitches. Also violence was not prominently to be seen during the day. The participation was very low: only 65.98% of possible voters took the chance to cast their vote – it seems that especially young people who were very vocal on social media forgot to register for the election day.
Looking purely from the outside the result is astonishing: The ruling party, having majored in the last years in corruption, state capture, dishonesty and simply stealing from the poor were again rewarded with leading the government. More than 10 million South African, mainly in rural areas where service delivery has collapsed or is in the progress of collapsing have voted for those responsible. Millions of grant receiver have still not understood that the grants are not given by the ANC but government. The myth of the liberation movement being the only capable party to lead South African and some major strategic mistakes of the official opposition party have surely also contributed to the result as has the lack of education in most regions of South Africa.  And politicians clearly guilty and contributors to state capture are still in the driving seats of the organization which is split to the core between those who have realized that things have to change and those who want to continue plunder without any sign of guilt or conscience.

If history will repeat itself then this election result confirms that a liberation movement turned political party will continue to govern till the majority of liberated are left with nothing while those in power reap what they can to enrich themselves. South Africa was told it is special, having Madiba magic in the beginning of the new democracy – it is working hard in the moment to dispel this myth.
Listening to SC of the ANC Ace Magashule who insists that only the party counts and not individuals and that MP’s are bound to the party but not their conscience it shows that there is no learning curve or new insight yet which could rescue the ANC on the long run – and with it South Africa.

Additional concern is that almost 2 million people voted for a man with fascist tendencies and a party which exploits the hopes of those unemployed and uneducated. The “Idi Amin in the making” Julius Malema showed stronger support in the most poor parts of South Africa – where people did not have anything to lose anymore.

The DA remained in power in the Western Province and this is indeed a blessing as the Western Province is doing much better as other provinces as shown by the congratulatory letter of the national parliament to Helen Zille, the outgoing premier, now to be replaced by Alan Winde. But their supporter base has lost votes to other parties – Musi Maimane is a very young leader and surely he would need more matured advisers not bound to party politics. Building a race-blind party is in the current environment a challenge and it will remain one for the foreseeable future.

Education, health and land reform as well as economical stimulus are the buzz words of the future deciding on the future of South Africa – together with the question who will lead the healing process of society and turning the tide of racism, which showed its ugly head again and again during election time. I hope and wish that churches will be much more prominent in this field – wouldn’t it be wonderful if churches, mosques and synagogues would become places of story telling, real listening and healing.

And obviously decisive will also be whether state capture can be ended and those responsible having their day in court. Having politicians involved campaigning for the party in the last weeks was indeed a pain in the neck and seeing some of them being in charge of the ruling party remains a disgrace and a big question mark on the way forward. Coming clean is never easy – but the only way to move on and develop in the right direction.

May we see the wonder that those elected to the new national and provincial parliaments are not listening to people like Ace Magashule and others but using their conscience and their love to the country and their dedication towards the well being of society. We need honest brokers guided by the constitution and nothing else to have a chance. We need people who can and will jump over party lines to do what is right for the people of South Africa. We need another Madiba moment like in 2004 where all are pulling in the same direction and where hope and trust overcome obstacles  – South Africa still has a future if those in power act in their majority with responsibility and love for the country.

 

 

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

Fake News – Lies and Politics

Traveling from Africa via Europe to the USA I can’t escape the impression, that on all three continents fake news and blunt lies from politicians and other socially high-ranking individuals seems to become a global norm.

In South Africa I do understand the reason why there are so many people in society and politics, when caught in action or corruption simply start to lie with a straight face – even if the evidence is overwhelming. I guess it has to do with the times of apartheid where those oppressed had to learn to make a straight face while lying to the oppressors. Like getting accustomed in those times as a liberation movement to get everything for free which translates today in shameless corruption, so it seems there is a history which translates into lying without regret or bad conscience – and looking at some of the younger generation it is to fear that it got transferred to those who only know from history books what apartheid looked like.

In the USA a completely self-absorbed, egocentric and mentally autistic president paired with a last stand of white macho-behavior and white male dominance creates the poison of fake news – being then adopted and refined by Russian entities in a way threatening democratic process in its core.

In Europe anxiety about refugees triggered in Great Britain one of the greatest lying campaign in living history – promising e.g. millions per month for the ailing health sector in the clear knowledge that this would never happen. Amazing how those who pleaded with those arguments for the Brexit after the vote tried to disengage and leave the mess for others to sort out.

Reading social media coming from the AfD party and other right-wing organizations it seems that people learn quickly how to turn the truth around or how to mix truth and fiction in a way that distorts facts and leaves the reader at best confused. The way to see reality only through one pair of glasses and to refuse to walk in the shoes of others makes it even more militant and anti-democratic.

For me – the anxiety of a world to complex for most minds and anxiety for a foreign, emotionally not-known danger coming via strangers at the shores are the root source for those falling prey to all the fake news and even voting for those who lie without blushing and the question is: where are we heading? Is there no redemption or turn-around possible? Is there no way out or what will be the end of it all?

I am convinced that churches, religious organizations and NGO’s are here the first to stand up against fake news and falsehood – there are values not bound by denomination or creed which can be used to stand firm against a distorted world view made of fabrications – to call a spade a spade and to withstand the temptation to despair or give up or give in the current situation. I have to acknowledge that some churches e.g. in the USA support the current president, but looking closer one sees that faith has turned ideology and only the shell is called a denomination of faith.

Taking away the anxiety, taking away the fear and giving a meaning and sense to what is happening is the utmost duty of any faith – being ambassadors of hope and warriors against xenophobia,, fake news and violence is a natural consequence of working for the good of mankind. In this sense those entities play a far more important role within society than just the one limited to their respective chosen tasks.

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

Thoughts before a trip…

The evening before my first major trip this year – and as always going through the program I am tempted to anticipate how things will work out – and questions popping up like “whom will you meet on this journey?” and “will there be that kind of connection needed to really encounter each other?”.

The first part will bring me hopefully without delay from Cape Town via Munich and Frankfurt to Bremen, a city I have never visited before. Last year march a delegation from the Federal State of Bremen visited South Africa and Cape Town. Having been able to introduce most of the more than 70 wo-men strong delegation to Blikkiesdorp and HOPE Cape Town I am now invited to learn about this Federal State. Meetings with politicians, clergy, students, refugees, press and social worker / activists are part of the program. I am indeed looking forward not only to meet those introduced to me in Cape Town but also lots of new faces for an exchange on different topics ranging from politics to economics, from trauma to HIV counseling and all in between. Not to forget a bit of culture to understand the great history of this important city.

Via Frankfurt I will then continue my travel to Dallas where I not only hope to meet with some Directors of HOPE Cape Town USA but also able to engage with the impressive Cathedral of Hope, a congregation which has so much to offer and is also willing to engage with the South African HOPE Cape Town organization. Brian’s House, our second partner is definitely on the lists of visits as other organizations. Not to forget the participation in the Dallas South Aids Walk and the baptism of the youngest member of the HOPE family – the son of Stacie and Josh. It will be a real honor to christian the young man. The stay would not be complete without meeting Rev Ted coming all the way from New Mexico – lots of good advice is on the way.

A drive to Houston will complement impressions I gather every time I visit Texas learning more of the spirit of the people living here.  Then flying off to Puerto de Vallarta, where my duties as the chaplain to see for the MS Amadea during the last days of lent and the Holy week commences. Jamaica, Panama, Mexico are some of the stop-overs and finally end April going in Miami from board to catch a flight from Fort Lauderdale via Washington, Frankfurt and Johannesburg back to Cape Town.

What will I bring home from all this travel? Lots to tell I guess, tons of new experiences and certainly more people to feel connected with. Hopefully also some more people interested to join the HOPE family. Whatever it will be – there is always a change, a growth connected to travel – there is always a broader view on the world and its possibilities and challenges achieved. All these can be a blessing and a curse when you come home where life is so limited to a certain frame of customs, experience and expectations. Traveling the world can make a person sometimes very lonely but traveling the world with a mission will always counter this and make sure that the balance is right.

And there is more: Traveling and meeting at first complete strangers shows also how much more talking is needed to understand the realities behind the words used to communicate with each other. Using the same language does not mean to understand each other, describing situations does not mean to get the point across – upbringing, culture, politics and socialization determine the use of language and one quick realizes that the “global village” needs quite some push to become reality in the madness of the world today.

Filed under: chaplain, chaplain to sea, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The gloves are off

Election year in South Africa – and already since the beginning of the year it shows that the gloves are off and the usual South African chaos becomes the norm of daily life. the reaction of the State of the Nation Address of the President Cyril Ramaphosa was instant: a day later the country plunged into darkness with Eskom announcing load shedding stage four – signaling that the country is short before being brought to its knees. A surprised president who seemingly has not noticed in the long years of being the vice-president and now leading the country how bad the situation is with the State owned enterprises including Eskom as he also had not noticed the state capture happening under his co-watch. Billions of Rand’s siphoned from the State coffers to individuals and, now revealed through the Zondo commission, millions in bribes have gone unnoticed by the politicians who seemingly never read newspapers which disclosed this information ages ago.

The miracle of blind spots continues until today – and it was also present at the debate about the address of the President yesterday, where the opposition parties tried to hammer home this fact in a diversity of ways. But there was something else creeping into the debate – the question who sold out whom during apartheid times: a clear sign that the gloves are off and the nerves are blank and a sort of desperation sets in before the 8th of May, the election date.

And so it seems South Africa falls in line with the rest of the world where decency and real considerations are the exemption but pure reaction to crisis and activism and populism is the norm of today’s politics – paired with the given impression, that ethics or honesty have no say anymore in today’s political, social and environmental challenges.

The dream, that the human race is able to find to each other and jointly overcomes the challenges of today’s world has faded away – ideology and the lust for fights and bullying one another has won for now – but hopefully it is not the final verdict.

The gloves are off in so many ways and in so many spots of this world that one could despair – but there is always hope, there are always pockets of common sense, there are always people who don’t give up to work for the greater good of society and there is always the chance that those pockets are network and together form the safety net for societies, so that the madness of politics don’t destroy the very fabric of those societies. Most non-profit organizations, most volunteers, most good people can attest to it. May they succeed.

 

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

You are not guilty – transformation thoughts

“You are not guilty about what happened in the past, but you are responsible, that it never happens again” – this free translated quote attributed to Max Mannheimer, a holocaust survivor was an important message for those been born after the end of the “1000-jaehriges Reich”, which also meant the end of killing millions of Jews in that time of the Nazi regime. As a German born after World War II I can relate as even during my time as a child or adolescence there was always that cloud of “you are guilty” of what the older generation had done during the dark times of Germany. We were guilty by association – and traveling through Great Britain or France at that time meant to be verbally victimized at times from those having served as soldiers in World War II or lost loved once…

The quote of Max Mannheimer lifts this burden of attributed and perceived guilt – it transforms the burden of shame into a lesson for the future for all those who were yearning for a society where hate against Jews will never happen again. And it leads also to the distinction between criticizing Israel for its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and questioning or belittling the holocaust. Israel has very effective played the game of the general guilt of a whole nation including those born much later.

I guess or better I am convinced the statement of Max Mannheimer would also help the South African society – it would stop the entitlement and racism we see also from many young black African people, the so-called “born free”-  holding everybody with the wrong skin color at ransom for what they have not even experienced.  The EFF, BFLF and parts of the ANC and others are playing the card as well – young political leader who have seen the first free election still in diapers or even born later abuse the narrative of apartheid, transformation and compensation for their own political gains.

Transformation in South Africa can only happen if we acknowledge the past without holding the new generation of born free hostage – be it with an ideology or with guilt. We have to draw a line in how we talk and what we demand – and that applies to all and everybody in this country.

We have the task to avoid any further injustice while transforming and compensating the older generation which really suffered. We have to give the new generation the skills within the years of basic education to dream and realize that only the sky is the limit – with knowledge and hard work or study and not corruption, stealing, entitlement – party- or skin-color association.

For this to happen we have to talk much more to each other, listen to each other – in person – not through the veil of social media – but looking each other in the eyes and understanding how it feels to walk in the shoes of the other person. This is not easy, this does not win an election per se, but it is the only way to reconcile, to transform, to create a new society without creating new injustices.

South Africa thought while having Nelson Mandela was president that it is special under the sun. It is not and the hardship and the struggle continues to be proof of it – but we could be becoming special when we – with the right political and social and religious leadership – turning the tide and start to work hard towards a non-racial society where everybody finds the place he or she deserves, because the environment is right to blossom…

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2019

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 18th, 2019

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