God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

2018 National Senior Certificate results and false hope

Every year the same scenario: the results of the written 2018 National Senior Certificate exams (equal the German “Abitur”) are publicized and discussions erupt in South Africa about the real numbers. While the Department of Basic Education announces the pass rate of 78,2 % and celebrates achievements, others are pointing out that the figures are trumped-up – as more than 400 000 students never made it to the final exams and if calculated in, the pass rate would be lower than 40%. Also worries of manipulation of results are voiced as needed benchmarks are changed to create “more fairness” by those advocating the higher numbers while others see it more critically.

Looking at the lowering of standards to achieve the necessary results to be able to study foundation is laid for a lot of disappointment and complications. Having the certificate clearly does not prepare most students for university – but the for-said beautification of results gives lead to the impression of students being able and ready to attend university. Besides financial difficulties frustration is the consequence when students then discover that they are unable or not enough prepared to follow academic studies – and the breeding ground is laid for the unrest and violence we saw in the #feesmustfall movement in so many instances.

A broken basic education system leads to massive drop-outs in the process and for many others to unhappiness, anger and frustration for those who made it further. Add the frustration and expectations of parents and family and the perception that not missing preparation but “the system” hinders success of studies one gets the poisoned mix of entitlement and attitude, which is exploited by those who bring then the “race question” and “decolonization”to the toxic mix.

If politicians would be honestly concerned about society they would start fixing the basic education system, putting money into better schools, teachers training, cutting the wings of unions interfering and manipulation the education system and slowly built up a school system of excellence for all.  Then no quotas and no exam result manipulations would be needed and a fair chance would be given to everybody entering the education system.

And it should also be clear that academic study is not the ultimate goal for everybody – vocations in other professions are needed and qualifications in skilled craft and trades are equally important compared with a Bcom or a Master degree.

Lastly: transformation in this area is needed and needs time – and if South Africa would not have wasted now years falling into the coma of corruption, incompetence and cadre deployment, the country would be much more advanced as it is in our days. Blaming only the bad old times of apartheid only works for those less educated or being so ideologized that facts don’t matter.
Education is the basic requirement for entrepreneurship, equality and the willingness to work hard to achieve dreams in life – too many young people have been left behind or given the false impression of entitlement  – time to change course and give the younger generation the tools for a future of prosperity and the ability to contribute meaningful to society.

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

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

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

One of those days…

Preparing for my flight to Europe and the airline already now know that there will be a more than 4 hour delay. Nevertheless they insist of being at the airport and check in at the normal prescribed time. Not really enhancing the mood.
Following the news also does not help – the Khashoggi case seems to develop slow but steady – to imagine that in a NATO country an embassy is used to kill a journalist and then cut him in pieces is not only appalling but it was one of the things I could not imagine – like so many developments in our current world affairs. USA, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy – the amount of countries which seemingly fall into the trap of authoritarian rule or xenophobic attitude  – weakening democracy and darkening the horizon of the new dawn of freedom, liberty, human rights and decency among countries most of us have had in the beginning of the millennium – seems to be growing.
Social media and modern technology hailed to bring people together are dividing and causing anxiety on all fronts of societies – in the moment one has the impression that the negative effects of possibilities to connect are clearly winning the day. And so do all those politicians with simple populist answers knowing perfectly well that disaster is looming when they gather enough followers. Populism is self-destructive – history has proven it over and over again.  And social media are weapons of choice for trapping those who are vulnerable to propaganda and easy solutions.

Maybe that is the reason why I believe that beaming people via SKYPE and conference call and Whatsapp are not enough to really engage with each other. I prefer the surely more expensive and time-consuming way of meeting the people, share some time with them and discuss matters relevant in person.  It is then and there that real conversation is happening – encounter in the real sense of the world. And if you can’t hide behind a slogan or a screen or a party or an ideology but one is looking into the eyes of the person sitting opposite – real communication, real problem solving is happening – real understanding is given birth.

I am convinced we have to stop being computer screen warriors and instead really engaging with the world. Clicking “like”or any other emoji might give a feeling of having done your bit – but this is self-deception and fooling oneself. It is also the only way that we can stem the non-sense of populism, bad right-wing politics  and – in the case of the USA – anti-academic attitude like denying climate change. Otherwise we are playing with our future – but maybe Mother Earth is happy to continue to exist without human beings – maybe it is not a great loss if the human race is failing and fading away.

Be it as it be – I am preparing for flying out today and I am looking forward to meet all those in the next days and weeks who are part of the HOPE Cape Town family or interested to know about it and maybe join those spreading hope and engaging with real people. Real people, who want to live with dignity striving for decent prosperity and who want to create a future for the next generation to come.

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

It’s not only shameful, it hurts…

Having celebrated the Eucharist in the Diocese of Harrisburg and having worked with a colleague for some years serving in this diocese the reading of the 40th Statewide Investigation of the Grand Jury on child abuse in the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania makes one wanting to throw up. Putting aside the sensational headlines it makes me wonder how any superior or Bishop can cover up for somebody molesting a child in hospital or leaving a priest in a parish even if he asks for help. This is all beyond my comprehension.
Yes, the Roman Catholic Church has changed and merciless fires priests proofed to have molested children sexually – and yes, a cardinal has recently resigned from being part of this illustrious circle of earls of the church. But is that really enough? Having made John-Paul II a saint while knowing that he indeed also covered up or at least ignored makes a rigorous clear-cut with the past even more difficult. The whole question of who becomes a bishop and if piety Rome style and absolute obedience without interference of own conscience as it has been for many years under the previous two popes has to be looked at again. This system is still partly in place even Pope Francis has taken steps to change this.
In the real world, a complete overhaul of leadership would be the way to go – but that will not happen. The question of power and the inability to go further than paying lip-service to change  as the church never errs somehow (but can develop painstakingly slow).
Germany, Ireland and now again USA – some Asian churches haven’t even started looking seriously into abuse allegations – nor many East European churches. There is more to come and every time there will be the feeling of shame and hurt.

But there is another question: kicking people out of church after having protected them for longer time and leaving it up for society to prevent further damage – is this really fair to all concerned? We as a church have to do more than re-writing the rules of child protection. We have to confront mistakes in the system which are rooted much deeper in how church is working. We also have to confront e.g. the question of sexuality and power in the church. We shouldn’t wait to update ourselves with the newest academic discourse on sexuality like we have waited hundred of years to acknowledge Galileo Galilei was right. Time is of essence as developments are much faster now than 100 years ago. The famous word of Gorbachev “who comes to late will be punished by life”applies – but in our case innocent lives are punished for the failures of those in power.

I was told yesterday that 3 victims of those abused in Pennsylvania have committed suicide by now – and I can’t imagine the pain and horror other victims and their families now go through again while listening to the news and reading newspapers. It is not only shameful, it deeply hurts….

The redacted interim report is found here to read: Interim Redacted Report

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

World Aids Conference in Amsterdam

After a conference is always before a conference – but after attending this years World Aids Conference it remains to reflect on what was achieved and what does one take home?

World Aids Conferences are for me always places to listen – to step back from constantly producing or standing in front of an audience but to remain in the back of auditoriums and conference rooms to listen and learn. This year was not different, hearing how other organizations work and applaud their achievements and listen to their worries and concerns is indeed a much appreciated learning curve.

Not all looks good – so we learned in the five days: in over 50 countries worldwide the numbers of new infections are rising again and especially in the Ukraine and Russia but also the Near East we see numbers climbing. In South Africa the numbers seemed to stagnate when it comes to new infections – a situation known since years without a real explanation. There is less money globally to spend on HIV related issues and the 90-90-90 goal of UNAIDS is definitely at risk not to be reached.

On the good side we now know for certain that undetectable means no transmission possible. And it translates in more people tested and put on treatment equals less new infections. But if the laws of the land punish HIV positive people for sexual acts or even spitting with attempted murder – who wants to be open about his or her status? Ignorant governments denying a problem with HIV in their respective country or even countries which prosecute LGBTI people or sex workers can’t count on getting the people on treatment. Politics and law are standing in many countries in the way of testing and treating and with it fostering the circle of new infections. Stigma and discrimination, also in the health sector, add to the problems of not achieving a next generation of zero new infections.

So where does this leave us? First of all with lots of fresh motivation seeing and experiencing the other round about 15000 activists, researchers, doctors, community workers, lawyers; somehow confirming that one is not alone. It is great to mix and mingle and greet and smile and clap hands and feel inspired with all those fighting the same battle.

But it leaves us also with lots of continued and new challenges – the fight against HIV is not won yet, I guess some people were too sure claiming the end in 2030 – the virus remains a nasty challenge to the world and it will not give up easily.

So San Francisco will be next in 2020 – but even there is a question mark. Many activists felt and made it heard that Trump-land is not the ideal place to have such a conference. An ignorant world leader and lots of states with ignorant state laws might not be an ideal scenario for such a conference.

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2019

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 18th, 2019
62 days to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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