God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

After weeks of silence..

After some time of silence and reflecting on the situation of the Roman-Catholic Church – reading through tons of articles, opinion pieces and so-called news I must admit that I am not so much surprised about discovering, that for quite a lot of prelates, bishops, priests and dignitaries their faith is rather formed by ideology and power play – I have seen and experienced too much in my own priestly life to not to know about the inner-workings of the church.  Living through a far too long pontificate of a Polish pope followed by brief intermezzo of a German one, trying to restore a church lived before the second Vatican council we were almost a paralyzed church when the “Buona Sera”of Pope Francis somehow gave a hint of a new dawn – and a new life-line for a cooled down church.

What surprises, even what I am nauseated by is the abuse of the abuse for power gains in my church today. The inability of the Roman Catholic Church to rid itself from the daemon of child abuse is hard to swallow. The inability to confront patriarchy and to deal with power and sexuality and the slow awareness that prayer, fasting and apologies are not good enough anymore takes its toll, but the keen abuse of this process to attack a pope and to resist reform is breath-taking.
Without shame those who under JP II and Benedict XVI have attacked anybody who dared to speak out or dared to voice concern about papal statements now have no problem themselves to ride one attack after another against the current pope.

Faith and religion seems for them to be an end in itself instead of a way to assist in fostering a relationship between humans and the divine – faith as a fixed and unchangeable instead of a fluent and intimate relationship, which needs the community of saints and sinners rather as a conduit. Or even clearer spelled out: church as a play field for exercised power and might instead of serving the needs of those we call faithful.

I guess like the world in general is at the end of an old area walking with all the challenges and somehow blindsided into a new chapter of human development, so also churches and especially the oldest player in the Christian field can not escape this shaping in the coming of the new dawn and realization what it means to be human and what is needed to tackle the challenges lying in front of us. So maybe the abuse of the abuse can be turned into a blessing in seeing clearer the mistakes and failures of the past and allow for walking forward with renewed trust that our lives have a meaning and that faith and religion is here to assist, to help and to allow the promised freedom, the magnificent freedom we are promised in the scriptures, to live a life to the fullest. Looking at it in this manner can be a liberation in itself and a starting point for a renewed church where tender love, endless hope and trusted faith as well as equality and dignity of all are at the forefront of what we believe in.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mandela Day

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

I never lose. I either win or learn.

Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely day dreaming, but vision with action can change the world.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.

 

Filed under: Africa, Reflection, South Africa, , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
more info www.hopegala.de and admin@hopecapetown.com

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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