God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , ,

Delft – a possible hub in the Greater Cape Town Area

Delft @googlemap

Delft, a township near Cape Town in South Africa, makes often headlines for the wrong reasons: violence, crime, gangster, rape, drugs, guns – you name it, Delft is in for it.

Looking a bit deeper, it appears that Delft has all credentials to be the opposite: a beacon of hope for the new South Africa and a promising place for what should be the norm for aspiring communities.

Delft is not only located close to the airport – an economic hub which should provide for jobs and upliftment of a community, the township also has excellent schools, all necessary infrastructure and a mix of people from all walks of life mirroring the diversity which should be the norm in South Africa.

There is indeed no reason for Delft not to rise from the ashes of lost hopes by violent crimes and high unemployment towards a really confident hub within the greater Cape Town area where people live, earn and spend their money and participate in the economic development provided by the expansion of the airport.

The question is what it takes to ignite the pride of the residents and the energy needed to move from a place of fear and partly hopelessness to being a crown jewel and an example of successfully turning a township around towards prosperity for all.

HOPE Cape Town has set a mark of uplifting with the decision to settle its home in Delft and to concentrate on this area with holistic services and the intent to walk the talk with the community, building on years of work within the community of Blikkiesdorp and services rendered at the health facilities.

It might sound more like a dream to turn around the township of Delft into an area of peace and prosperity, but every real action starts with the imagination of a dream. Obviously nobody can do it alone, but together with all parties concerned and putting aside for a while the egos and rivalry, much can be achieved for a better life for all in this area.

Lots of ideas and initiatives are already in place – but the joined effort and the synergies possible if those efforts are coordinated would promise faster results and more possibilities in a feasible timeframe. Political will and the buy-in of the people would be the base for such synergies.

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

The SA time bomb of 46.3%

“According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate as per the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 0.6 of a percentage points to 43.2% in the first quarter of 2021. The official unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 34 was 46.3% in first quarter of the year”, so the City Press on 14th of June 2021.

This is a result of an education system failing since years the learners and students and creating applicants not fit for the job market. Add a BEE system which is open to abuse by those enriching themselves anyhow while not really assisting those in the mainstream, then you have the toxic mix which was amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It becomes a sense of urgency to tackle this; especially after the recent riots have shown how quick violence and looting can become the order of the day while the state is not capable to protect its citizen or even has at times and in parts not the willingness to do so.

It also does not help to sugar coat the current situation in a country, where more people live on state sponsored grants then are in employment and the portion of substantial taxpayers is rather shrinking.

But there is also no reason to call it a doomsday and put the heads in the sand. The solution is to tackle it head’s on – leaving behind the political Sunday sermons and the put-up-to-failure ideology of parts of this nation’s ruling party. It entails to seriously engage in give and take between government, industry and the NGO sector, focusing solely on the task ahead and not the feathers to win or the political vision prone to override common sense. It also entails to have a sharp look at the educational sector, cut down on union’s power in this sector and put money into the uplifting of teachers and other educational staff.

Nothing is lost, but the clock is ticking; we already lost one born free generation to the inability to master the task – it is questionable whether society will allow that another generation will be sacrificed by political ideology and cadre deployment which translates in incompetence on levels which matter.

South Africa had always shown the ability to stand on the edge of the abyss and not to jump but to turn around and make it to safety. I am convinced this is also possible in current times. The amount of goodwill and preparedness to work together and to create positive synergies is palpable. Leadership is needed to harvest these synergies and to create a situation of excellence in the education sector and in the job market for our young and aspiring people.

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

“Trotzdem” – Hell no!

I guess those living in South Africa feel the rollercoaster of emotions having experienced not only the continuous lockdown related to Covid-19 but also the looting and burning and destruction which marred KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, leading to a breakdown of public order for a couple of days. A state who definitely failed to protect its citizens and only late intervened; ministers who simply displayed being clueless and not up to the task and incompetent added to the concerns many have about the state of affair in South Africa.

From all is clear, that the fight within the ANC party can and will spill over to society and that party politics simply don’t care about the country, willing to hurt and destroy for the sake of winning the battle of fractions within this party.

And even looking at the latest shuffle of ministers in national government – it is playing musical chairs within the governing party but not the coup starting to liberate South Africa from the claws of corruption, incompetence, cadre deployment or their likes.

For somebody building a campus in the midst of a township offering health and education on a developmental path, the question arises once in a while whether this is worth the effort. What can one achieve in a country, where government and ruling party is in battle with itself, where wannabe revolutionaries steer the flames of racism and clearly advocate violence as a political tool; and where frustration, failed education systems and hopelessness lead to more violence, service delivery protests and actions out of anger and bitterness.

The answer to the question is not easy. On one hand, one could pack and walk away. Another possibility is to stay and reason your efforts with the German word “trotzdem“.

At the heart of “trotzdem” is the word “trotz”, which surely is very German; a harsh word meaning defiance; it triggers the feeling and action of “Hell no!” – I will not do it!
It is basically a somehow stubborn or holy resistance – a resistance to accept the doomsday scenarios while at the same time standing up and offering an alternative way into the future. I personally think it is also a theological word, looking how in the bible – especially in the Old Testament – God is described who never gives up on human mankind.

So building the campus “The Nex – Indawo Yethu” in the township of Delft – a place featuring high on the scale when it comes to crime statistics, unemployment and like often in South Africa a lack of decent education – together with many partners and collaborators and investing in vocational training and health holistically is a social, political and theological statement of “Hell no!”

And strongly believing that it is never too late to turn the tide, to stop cutting the corners of development, to cease cadre deployment and corruption and to liberate society from racism and other woes impeding progress and healing. And a perspective for every decent South African who deserves to live in freedom and security. It needs a network of all those small little places of hope and confidence that life has more to offer than what may experience on a daily basis being kept dependent on handouts and charity.


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

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