God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Create HOPE in the World

Rotary International revealed last week the motto for the Rotary Year 2023/2024.
Reflecting on this motto at the beginning of the new calendar year, indeed hope is needed. Looking around into the world in January 2023 one could be frightened.

The constant attacks of Russia trying to bring a neighboring country down by sheer bombing terror towards infrastructure and non-military aims has shown no letting down on ferocity.

Brazil and the USA, followed by Hungary and now Israel continue to show how democracy can be eroded on a continuous base, and it seems that a major part of the respective population supports the move into more anarchy and oligarchy.

China’s COVID-19 politics has shown how dictatorial states irrationally govern and at the end are bringing more suffering to the people solely through nonsensical decisions filtering down from top to bottom without being questioned.

And in the country I live, the blackouts give witness to the ongoing incompetence and corruption of the nationally governing parties; failing their very own people in basic matters.

So yeah, hope is needed, and fascinating is, that Rotary does not want to give hope, but indeed create hope. This sounds like a very active approach, and an approach which is the only way to go against the wave of hopelessness and despair, people experiencing on a daily basis.

And this despair brings lots of people to turn towards populists and conspiracy theories. Being told that there is only “black and white” and one is given a clear path to walk is often perceived as the most easy way to escape the amount of challenges the world is facing.

Creating hope means now to actively go against populism and all the other woes of modern society. It means to be on the ground and to work with the people concerned by developing alternatives, by voicing reason publicly and by simple leading and living by example.

For me, as the chairperson of HOPE Cape Town Trust, the new motto is also an encouragement to do more in this regard. It seems to me one of the best wishes for 2023. Not only because it is so desperately needed. But also because I know that millions of Rotarians around the world can make a difference, joining forces with all the NGO’s and civil society institutions already hart at work.

We need a coalition of the willing, a term we know from the Iraq war, but now meant in a very positive way of goodwill and enthusiasm. We need people who put their ideologies aside and first and foremost see the person and his/her needs. And we need people who understand human rights, human dignity and the portion of freedom and self-determination to be afforded to everybody.

Looking at the challenges the world is facing, creating hope means a hands-on approach. It means practicality at work and a mixture of grass-roots approach and policies giving reason and direction.

With this motto Rotary has set a scene giving hope – now lets see how the creation of this hope looks like in real life. As a Rotarian myself I am thrilled to be part of this creation.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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