God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

In between – NGOs in the times of war and pandemic

I guess nobody would argue against the statement, that NGOs are living through a difficult time. During the pandemic, those in the sector of health, nutrition and social support spend considerably more money than the agreed budgets provided. And those who had not put away some money for difficult times stood quickly at the brink of inability to pay due to overspending.

And no, neither in South Africa nor in Germany the state would consider support in the times of Covid – only companies, only economic entities were able to claim support from the state coffers. Looking at South Africa and seeing what NGO’s had achieved in supporting those left alone and in some instances still waiting for the state sponsored food support, it is clear: the situation would have been much dire without their work. In Germany, the food banks called “Tafeln” also were under strain because of the higher demand versus less support.

Generally, supporters and sponsors worldwide are more cautious in spending and granting support. Nobody really knows what is next and how to survive the possible next economic onslaught. It is understandable, but it hurts the ability of NGO’s to function.

Now the war in Ukraine rages on and as a result everything is getting more expensive while budgets, especially those fixed for some years via a grant, remain the same. Again: trouble is looming when not planned and forward-looking kept house.

The way forward? Not sure, but it is important to point out the in-between position of non-governmental organisations and their value for society and economy. Social interventions and economic development are going hand-in-hand. Development aid has always something to do with economical relationships. Both are important for the good and well-being of countries and societies.

Maybe after Covid and while the war is raging it is time to put those relationships but also the development agencies of countries on the test bench to have a sharper look what serves the purpose. The world is changing, and so the ways we do business – not only in the economical world.

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

Democracy is under threat

Looking around the world in our days, the observer cannot but realize that democracy is under threat in many parts of the world. And there are reasons for this:

You will have noticed that since quite a time persons not only buy but also bully and lie their way into higher offices without having any intention others than serving their own interests. Bolsonaro, Trump, Johnson; the list is getting longer by the week. Currently, it seems fashionable to vote for those who serve the fantasy of a strongman getting it right, or a clown to entertain, or playing with the yearning of a person running the show with his own set of rules. The anxiety triggered by COVID-19 and now the war in Ukraine, the insecurities of the economic and social climate seems to override common sense.

There is another threat to democracy coming from China, even more so after Xi Jingping got his third term in office. So-called Social Harmony versus human rights, human dignity and civil liberty is indeed challenging the Western democratic systems. Surveillance Society, controlling each step of every citizen and openly punishing offenders via a social point system, is the antipode of the values of democracy.

Another reason why democracy is in danger is because a lot of democracies don’t deliver any more or never have, like in many African countries. Societies have forgotten to upgrade democracy and to make the systems fit for the 21st century. Winston Churchill once said: “(It) has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time; but there is the broad feeling in our country that the people should rule, and that public opinion expressed by all constitutional means, should shape, guide, and control the actions of Ministers who are their servants and not their masters.” Indeed, he certainly has a point, but people must feel that the system is holding them, that politics is supportive and beneficial to all concerned. And in a rapidly changing world, democratic structures must adapt to fulfil the mandate of serving the people. When it comes to empty promises, South Africa is certainly an example where hopes were dashed that the new democratic South Africa brings prosperity and economic freedom. Looking at the South African national Parliament, many MP’s playing according to the book but fail terribly to understand the meaning of democratic rules on that level.

So, democracy is under threat on many levels. And for those cherishing their freedoms, their civil liberties, their human rights and human dignity it is time to take a clear point of view. And not to let the bots and paid lout voices on social media, those anonymous keyboard warriors spreading lies and manipulating opinions; the algorithm of faceless social media running the show.

Democracy allows for everybody to be voted into office; still, when only money or manipulation determines the chance to be voted in, then there is something wrong in the system. It has to be fixed and developed.

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

Blackouts in South Africa

Driving through the Northern Cape last week made me aware of the trouble which the renewed and extended blackouts do have to the people in the towns of rural South Africa. And driving to the vast areas of virtually meeting nobody for hundreds of km, I also realize the extent of the political neglect of possibilities like solar power and wind.

It again shows how cadre deployment, corruption and incompetence paired by ideological blindness has hurt the all spheres of society in this country. Bringing a world-class entity to the brink of collapsing can be called a negative masterpiece. Trying to solve the problem to create another state-owned enterprise, as the responsible minister proposes it, is then the cherry on top of madness.

Since 2014 now President Ramaphosa was most times as Deputy President in charge of turning ESKOM around. Promises were made – as too often in the political sphere of South Africa, it remained hot air.

Having said all that, it does not serve a purpose to lament and to leave it at that. The crisis could be a trigger for a renewable energy drive also bringing the much-needed jobs for South Africa.

End 2021 13 million people worked in the field of renewable energy worldwide – and experts expect the number to triple till 2030.

So there lies a chance in South Africa’s woes – but it needs the willingness of the respective role players to act decisively and the political will to make it happen. The latter presents itself in the form of the respective Minister rather as a problem giver than a solution seeker.

But there is always hope in the ability of South Africa to also overcome this man-made disaster and to rise again as the beacon of hope for the African continent. There is so much expertise in the private sector to assist when politics is willing to change from being part of the problem to being part of the solutions presenting themselves naturally in this county.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Only those who live the Torah… observations from a sommer study

Summer academy in Tabgha and Jerusalem – refresher course on bible history, Islam and Judaism and as always something new to learn.

To speak about Israel is a minefield, especially for a German. The Holocaust lingers constantly over all discussions, and the trauma somehow continues. To criticise Israel, whose politicians have cleverly conjoined the State of Israel and the Jewish faith, is consequently made difficult. How easy is it to be called an antisemite while criticising Israel’s politics towards the Palestinians.

The wilful ignorance towards the original plan to keep Jerusalem under UN administration has added to the woes. The trauma of the Holocaust has obviously also caused Israel to use massive force against Palestinians in a way which clearly hinders any political solution and kills also innocent bystanders. The violence on the part of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups does not help either. It is a poisonous circle of violence, madness pure and not leading to any solution.

Visiting a Jewish service in a synagogue to welcome the Sabbath is touching, observing the ritual joy of welcoming the day of rest. It is admirable to see how traditions are kept and hopes are lived while having endured so many changes in their history from the deportation to Babylonia, the destruction of their sacred temple via the murderous crusades till the Holocaust and all the Antisemitism growing again in our days.

Having Jewish lecturers for the topic of Judaism, it was interesting to be reminded, that ultra-orthodox Jews oppose the State of Israel. A man-made state is not acceptable because at the end only God can establish the new Israel.

Besides this, we learned that the promised land is from a religious point of view only for those who live the Torah – and looking at the modern Israel on a Sabbath shows that Israelis are not per se living according to their holy books.

Another observation is that obviously the stretch of land has a history before the promised land was occupied by Jewish clans – and there are historians indicating that the people led by Moses originally have been from the same background as the Canaanites they battled.

Living in South Africa, there comes the same thoughts: What a beautiful country, and how magnificent could it be if only the people living there would keep peace. My stay here has reminded me how intertwined the problems of trauma on both sites of the fence are. Judging becomes a difficult task, but there is something I believe in:

Jerusalem, the holy place for the three major monotheistic religions, should be an open city under the UN, belonging to nobody than human mankind – to be a witness for the peacefulness, all three religions somehow claim. It is a failure of the UN not to have followed the original plan; and it is a failure of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faithful not to create a location where love, hope, tolerance, goodwill and peace are liveable and touchable in this space and place.

Shalom, Salam and Peace

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

Roe v. Wade – unfiltered thoughts…

Newspaper announcing the 1973 decision

The Republican Party, the right-wingers and those deeply entrenched in a specific way of thinking are jubilant – and my Roman-Catholic Church officially lauds the decision: “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world”

I am holding my breath – and no, I am not convinced that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position. Polls tell the opposite.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without abortion – but also without unwanted pregnancies and with programs supporting single moms and difficult social situations. We all know, that this is not happening; that there is a lot of lip service.

Secondly, this is not a decision born out of democracy: It is an almost fascist takeover of a democratic institution essential for justice served in a democratic society. The USA has lost since Donald Trump many facets of a functioning democratic system. Radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken over the reins at the Supreme Court and forcing their ill convictions onto society. Candidates for the Supreme Court bend the truth under questioning in their confirmation hearing – one could also say there were lies and deceit in the run-up to confirmation. We also heard about sexual harassment and more by one of the now elected judges – and we know that Mich McConnell abused the system to avoid an Obama proposed candidate. Politics instead of justice as a matter of fact.

No, the end never justifies the means – and the hijacking of the American democratic experiment by white macho evangelical and Catholic hardliners is one of the greatest dangers to Democratic means in the USA; it is a great danger to long fought for liberties and civil rights. Fake news, lies and outright criminal activities against the laws of democracy as the hearings in Washington bring to light cannot be the base of a juridical decision of the highest court of the land.

I can’t and I will not celebrate an attack on the values of democracy. I am appalled to know that the reality is that poor women will bear the brunt and consequences of this decision – there will be illegal and dangerous options with deadly consequences. The writing is on the wall – see Alito and Thomas opinions – that other basic rights will be on the chopping block in the future.

Abortion is in civil societies a much debated issue – and obviously the sanctity of life is at stake. But so is the sanctity of life attacked by the death penalty, by wars and certainly by current gun laws. The obvious schizophrenia of evangelical fundamentalists to pick what is convenient and to ignore or even promote the opposite of the rest is breathtaking.

Once again: The end never justifies the means – celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision is ill-advised. It brings more chaos and more division to society; and more danger towards the democratic institutions in the USA. It will also cost lives.
Obviously, religious institutions and faith based groups can and should have an opinion and also participate in the public debate. But there are rules and ethics when it comes to how decisions in a democratic system are made.

If we are honest, we all have to admit: abortion will not disappear by a court decision, but by an openness of society to discuss sexuality, by means of avoiding pregnancy and by politics supporting children, single parents and families. All things, religious fundamentalists and evangelical hardliner, but also organized religion are not known for to put into practice.

Convincing people in a democracy to do the right thing (whatever that is…) is always a process of words and deeds, but also carries the freedom of those we try to convince to say “no”. We people of faith are part of this process, but in my humble view we can never support supreme decisions which are based on lies, deceit, political gambling and hardly covered intentions born out of private religious fundamentalist convictions.

The decision in the matter Roe v Wade is at the end a dis-service to the aim to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to acknowledge realities; it will polarize and militarize those in favor or against it, and it brings in disrepute the standing of one of the most important institutions in a democracy. And the victims in all this are at the end again: women.

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

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