God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Turn of an era?

We are living in interesting times; we also could say we live in dangerous times or exciting times. However, one defines emotionally current times, it is increasingly becoming clear that humanity faces difficult decisions to make on a variety of questions flocking together in one moment in time.

The Coronavirus has brought us the message, how quick our big and small seemingly stable world can crumble because of a small little virus taking over the world. The way we densify areas to accommodate more people in spaces and the way we extend our habitat into the last pockets of real nature should be reflected on if we as the human species want to have a future on this planet.

Add to this the climate change which becomes increasingly dramatic looking at the so-called eternal ice, the glaciers, the weather patterns which will not go away while elected or authoritarian politicians try to make sense of it – always having in mind that the sacrifices must be on the other site of the fence.

The Ukraine war has shown the people on the “island” Europe the realities of the rest of the word, where violence and war is a much more frequent occurrence. But it also shows how interconnected the world is now and people all around the world are suffering because one leader runs amok for reasons one can analyse, but it does not mean they make sense.

Trump, Johnson, and their likes have brought a culture of lies and fake news to the table. Amplified by social media and as predicted by warning voices, that the amount of information and communication will overwhelm our brains, we have created the best environment to create a fictional reality besides the real reality. And millions, overstrained and anxious, flee into the madness of such fictions. Looking at the USA and its current affairs – the plan of the Christian right together with those wanting to keep the white macho monopoly comes dangerously to conclusion: racism, the upcoming decision “Roe v Wade” has ramifications far beyond the USA. A country and society which is at war with itself and therefore giving rise to others like China, which is posing the biggest threat to human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

Looking at the overall politics, many democratic systems need an overhaul to arrive in the 21st century, but it is impossible to do with the culture of professional politicians who would never survive in the real world and who have mostly their re-election at heart instead of the people. Our democracies are a shadow of what it meant when the idea was born. It is still often the best we can, but it will not be sufficient to move forward in the next years to come.

And this applies also to international organisations like the UN, being stuck in a post II World War idea and clearly not being able to develop into a tool needed in our times. Alone the fact, that a country, being the aggressor and committing war crimes has a veto power is on all imaginable levels simply wrong.

Social media and democratic structures are also more and more in competition – reading Elon Musk’s announcement that he most likely will unban Donald T from the newly purchased Twitter, looking at the power of a company like Facebook to determine what you are allowed to say or not, the logarithm and AI increasingly and often silently starting to manipulate our lives: we are at a point in time when we collectively need to come to decisions how to proceed as human beings and what values we put first.

There would be so much more to list – the role of religious institutions and their failures, questions of how the global economy is working, questions of the interaction of so-called “developed / developing” countries in relation to the so-called “first world” – whatever that really means when looking at it more in detail.

We need to have more conversations – and when I say conversations I mean really engaging with each other, listening to each other and recreating a culture of engagement. Social Media should assist and stop creating millions of keyboard warriors and bots pushing their point of view in a way which defies the word “communication” and triggers rather aggression and violence.

We need to realise that putting average or professional politicians on pedestals because there are no better ones, or because they have a specific gender, sex or skin colour does not really help but often obfuscate the wanted outcome.

The world of our days offers so many tools and possibilities to reach out and connect; we need to make more out of it, and we have to learn to use it wisely if we really want to come out with a perspective for us humans as part of this world we are living in. We owe it to the next generations that we turn this obvious transition time into something which is worth living.

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Asking hard questions

Looking at the social-economic & political consequences worldwide of the Russian attack on Ukraine, there comes a point, where the removal of Putin by all means possible and any means necessary must be ethically discussed.

The UN writes about the global impact of the war in Ukraine:

“The war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is producing alarming cascading effects to a world economy already battered by COVID-19 and climate change, with particularly dramatic impacts on developing countries. Recent projections by UNCTAD estimate that the world economy will be a full percentage point
of GDP growth lower than expected 1due to the war, which is severely disrupting already tight food, energy, and financial markets. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are among the world’s breadbaskets.
They provide around 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil2. At the same time, the Russian Federation is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter. Together, neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation also export around a fifth of the world’s fertilizers.”

The world is factually a global village and the digitalisation has contributed strongly to interconnect the economies. This means that the unfolding war will bring not only hardship, but also hunger and additional poverty, and with it premature dying of people worldwide.

The full report of the UN titled “Global impact of war in Ukraine on food, energy and finance systems” is available here

Besides looking at the ethical possibility to remove a leader violating with his actions the dignity of millions of people, the current situation has also made it very clear again, that the UN mechanisms, created after the second world war, are not carrying any more the weight needed to send a clear-cut message to those violating international laws and committing war crimes without even making the attempt to hide it.

Looking at other challenges like energy needs and climate change it becomes, especially after Covid-19 and now the attack of Russia on Ukraine crystal clear, that human mankind has to change tune if it wants to survive as the human race. We are not essential to the universe nor to our planet; if we want to live and thrive and create a future for the next generations in peace and dignity, we better get our acts together.

Looking into our world with the mounting numbers of fake news and outright lies, of unashamed violence and exploitation, those ethical questions of how to respond need a new reflection and answer for our time. Philosophers and religious institutions are challenged to come up with guidelines when it comes to political and social actions determining the future of humanity and the human race on this planet.

And to clarify: No, the war in Europe is not really special, as war governs constantly parts of the world. But I believe that suddenly also Europe woke up to this truth and after Covid-19 there is a kind of sensitivity towards challenges. People have woken up to think the unthinkable – a good moment in time to push for deeper reflections.

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

Another period of silence…

Weeks have passed since the last blog entry – and while the world is debating Ukraine forward and backward, trying to identify what went so terribly wrong in the years before, the fact is: nothing is forever, not even a long period of peace in Europe. So many hopes are dashed, and especially the elder generation suddenly has a déjà vu of their experience during World War II.
Blogwise, I kept a period of silence – withstanding the urge to hammer my convictions into the world. I was witness during my last travel how our friends of HOPE in Germany simply started supporting those fleeing their home country: Bringing people to safety and delivering medicine and food back into Ukraine.

Practical help – urgently needed. Discussions for later. But this “later” is coming, and I have, like so many others growing up in an open and peaceful period of Europe to acknowledge, that the aspirations to be able to create a more peaceful world has its human limitations. Obviously, living in Africa for the last years has given me the advantage to know, that peace and living peacefully next to each other must be attempted and accomplished every day anew.

Still, Covid-19 and now Ukraine – the question remains has human mankind not learned anything – are we sentenced to go through the circles of peace and war, unrest and living tolerant next to each other till the universe swallows our universe one or the other way?

Normally, churches are the carrier of hope and positive aspirations. Covid-19 has shown in many parts of the word that organised religion is not really system relevant. In many countries, people had to live without this carrier of hope, be it out of rules limiting worship, be it out of anxiety – or be it out of being occupied with itself like in parts of Europe and certainly Germany.

So my period of silence was like a cushion for all the questions bombarding the heart and soul of a human being: What gives me hope? What sustains really my being? On what can I count when systems fail to support me as usual?

And more: what is it in human beings that brings up war, torture, brutality, lies and fake news, racism and exploitation as a necessity at times?

I still believe that most people simply yearning for a decent life and a better one for their kids. So where are going our human systems fundamentally wrong? Does it remain a mystery? What is your answer?

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

Change in the world in lightning’s speed

We have to be honest: The world has changed now twice in the last two years with the speed of lightning, and what was considered normal is now the good – or not so good – old times. And most people struggle to run behind and catch up with what’s happening.

There was first the Covid-19 pandemic – lockdowns, limitation of movement, the advent of virtual meetings as a new normal, civil liberties put on hold and countries punished and isolated because they were considered a threat – often more a gut-feeling of politicians or anxiety of political decision maker.

The threat for the human race already lurking in form of the climate change at every corner humanity passes, got an add-on in a small little virus, who loves the density of humans living closely together and expanding into nature in a speed unimaginable 100 years ago.

Now the bloody war against Ukraine – and our world-view changed overnight again:

Looking at Germany or the EU:
Having had a hard-line approach against immigrants and refugees coming from East Europe; looking down at that time on Ukraine as almost a failed and corrupt state with a comedian as president – rather only interested in certain aspects pertaining to the country – we now celebrate the bravery of the Ukrainian people and even sending buses to get as many refugees as possible for free into the European Union.

And suddenly the Johnsons, Orbans and all the other questionable politicians are out of scrutiny; such crisis situations lift suddenly even average politicians and the realisation of the political ignorance towards Russia in the past overrides finding the time for proper analysis and judgement.

Add to this the feeling of powerlessness of people including politicians and their emotional state coming out of a pandemic, we have to watch out not to miss out the balance between what is needed to be done and what is needed to be avoided in the future.

The changes of stopping a mad-man like Putin are slim or almost non-existing. The naivety of the EU (or better wanting to keep and eat the cake at the same time in respect of Russia) and obviously the poison of the Trump years and the downfall of the USA as the world policeman with dark shadows triggers more questions of how international relationships will be governed and organised in the future.

Looking at China’s hunger for power and its relationship with Taiwan, the next big drama is waiting to unfold. And there is Africa with all the aspirations and projected failures in the years to come while being one of the biggest economic markets in the future. Not to forget the reorganisation of the UN – the order established after World War II is coming to an end. The veto powers of some nations will have to be abolished in the current system – and this will not go without a fight.

So more dramatic changes are on the horizon. We have just to watch out, that we can digest as people and as societies what is happening. And not lose hope on the way to other new normals. An one encouragement in this respect is certainly the overwhelming willingness to help the victims of Russian aggression, as seen almost everywhere around the globe.

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

Still lots of questions…

Insanity is the word I am finding the most appropriate looking at the situation in the Ukraine – especially looking at the history. Helplessness and failure are following on place two and three.

Since Ukraine eight years ago – after a pro-European protest movement toppled a Kremlin-backed president – turned more to the West, the conflict is simmering between NATO and Russia on Ukraine.

We all knew that there was talk after the disintegration of the UDSSR that the western countries will not expand their military alliance towards the Russian borders; even if it was never signed off formally.
I am sure the elderly amongst us still recall the attempt of Russia to install rockets on Cuba in the sixties, and the threat of a nuclear war from then-president J.F.Kennedy, arguing that his country cannot allow such weapons close to the border reaching US territory.

Nothing has changed in this regard – and listening to Angela Merkel back some years stating, that Vladimir Putin lives in his very own world – indicating that this world was far away from any reality.

So my question after rightly condemning the attack with all arguments and emotions – also recalling my visit to Odessa and other Ukrainian cities and worrying about people I met – so my question would be how we can leave the black/white scenario and come to an honest analysis asking the hard questions:

When politics is the art of the possible – was it really necessary to flirt with the NATO membership of Ukraine – which, in fact, was years away?
When politics is the art of the possible – has nobody noticed the brutality with which Zar-like Putin tried to reconvene the “good old times” of a Great Russia – killing every dissent, allowing even for state sponsored murder outside Russia – completely ruthless and without hesitance?

Taking the Crimea was the next step of Putin to announce to the world that he will not allow for the expansion of NATO; and if we are honest, the soft reaction of the West – being dependent on energy from Russia – was rather an encouragement, as in his world, weakness will be used as a sign of reinforcement that he has the upper hand to do, what he feels is appropriate.

Of course, the Trump presidency weakened any hard stance on Russia worldwide – the earlier super-power, now in the grip of fake news and its own battle to remain white male dominant and partly living in a world which is as abstruse and far away from reality as the Russian leader’s one.

And for those really watching closer, the war against Ukraine has another danger for the future: look at China’s reaction: While standing with Russia, China still insists that borders should be respected – but we all know, that the country does not consider Taiwan a country – watch the space. A very unholy alliance is being formed by Russia and China – threatening the very fabric of human rights, civil liberties and the individual freedoms.

So what to do?
Sanctions are threatened and executed – and realising the money flows before the war started, Moscow has prepared itself for quite some time bringing money back into its country. Cutting the SWIFT link would be the sharpest sword, but looking especially at Germany and the Netherlands – it is doubtful that sanctions are called which hurts the own countries. So I guess it will again be those not so much hurting ones – obviously called different by politicians needing to reassure themselves. One has to sound harsh and determined. Too little too late?

So what to do?
Listening to Putin’s indeed on madness bordering speech ordering the invasion, it is clear that common sense will not work and that the limitations of politics as an art of the possible are very tight. As long as the USA flirts with another round of madman Trump and his fascist tendencies, love for fake news and adoration for dictators – like it or not – helplessness will remain the topic of the day.

As long as Europe is still struggling to understand what it really wants and to consequently lives it values and strengthen its determination to be a beacon of hope for democracy and the rule of law, speaking with one voice instead of bitching around and leaders often only trying to push through their countries’ agenda, there is always the gap people like Putin will abuse for own gains and for the own agenda.

While we experience worldwide more and more leaders being relentless and shameless in pushing through their agenda, one can observe on the other site those politicians without really a point of view and determined to be political correct, whatever this means. Most political systems allow meanwhile for people who never have worked, finished a training or study, and they would never survive in the real world, but the chance of being a life-long politician comes to the rescue. A combination which is simply not working on a long term.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it throws at us a lot of questions, a lot of challenges, a lot of question marks. And as painful it is, we have to stand up to all of it.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it triggers in us a lot of emotions, a lot of fear and anger, a lot of desperation, and it shows a lot of limitation of what we can do to stop it or deal meaningful with it.

War is always a defeat for humanity, a defeat for politics, and a defeat for the entire human race. It screams for healing and ethical answers.

I don’t have those answers, but all the questions should push all of us to dig deep into ourselves to find the bits and pieces contributing to an answer as societies which holds a meaningful future and limits the craziness of war and hostilities. Because at the end, war and hostilities make us all to be losers.

To read the mind-boggling speech of Vladimir Putin ordering war, please click here.

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

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