God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Prayers needed! Really?

It seems that prayers are in high demand in our days:
In South Africa ANC representatives are making the round in churches and asking for prayers to get their house in order.
In the USA politicians are praying for the victims of Las Vegas and on Facebook and social media the call for prayers is all over, from Orlando to Paris and now back in the USA we are called to pray again. Prayers are needed indeed when one sees the state of affairs in many parts of the world, when one notices the despair of people and the craziness of terror and politics and sometimes it seems terror and politics are exchangeable in the sense that people are hurt, lives cut short and common sense buried.

Maybe it is time to mention that prayers without the appropriate action will fail to do anything good except comforting those trying to  escape responsibility. Contemplation and action, prayer and deeds are interlinked as human mankind is interlinked in the spirit of Ubuntu. Sending good thoughts only work when there is the reflection what I can do to change a situation.
We could pray for hours for the well-being of the ANC here in South Africa – as long as those in charge allow for corruption, state-capture and stealing in their own midst without acting against the perpetrators no prayer will heal this situation. We can pray for hours for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting but as long as those in charge in the USA refuse to take action against the gun lobby being able to do business as usual those prayers are empty and the expression of sympathies a blunt lie.

And it is not only those who are in office – those who have elected people into office are equally guilty if they only pray instead of making sure that those voted in power are doing their work correctly and making responsible decisions. No one, not even the ANC in South Africa has a privilege to be in power – and Jesus might come earlier than expected to Mr Zuma (my South African friends will know…)  – all those in higher offices are there for a time and with a responsibility. And in a democracy the power lies with the people.

Prayer can bolster this responsibility, prayer is making this responsibility more visible as it connects to the divine, to the source of humanity and to the foundation of why we have rules and regulations and a political and social system with certain values and ethics. It is not a fix for failures, the divine does not pop in to plaster over ignorance. But prayer can be the beginning of redemption and turning around a situation. It is certainly as a connection to all beginnings a means to reflect, if necessary repent and try to do better.
Let’s hope that is meant when politicians ask for prayers or pray themselves in the public space and in front of TV cameras. And that people asking for prayers on social media also turn into themselves to look where their responsibility lies besides sharing a call for prayers.

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

The broader picture…the deeper questions

It was quiet a quick process after years of discussions in society and political circles: two weeks ago the German Parliament decided to allow the marriage between two adults of the same-sex and with it all the rights and duties of a married couple. Obviously churches were not impressed and until the very last moment, arguments were exchanged and traded in an effort to hold the vote or to convince members of Parliament to vote either in favor or against it. It was an open vote – and a sign of mature democracy that everybody could vote openly according to his or her conscience. As a church we have to deal with realities, and obviously not only the majority of parliamentarians but also public opinion in Germany was in favor of marriage equality.
Historically the question of marriage and its value for the state has been again and again a question of fierce debate between state and church. Ulrich Sander from the FAZ (German Newspaper) summarized from his point of view this debate in Germany in a piece published on 11.07.2017 and here is a loose translation*:

“The character of marriage and the family as a legally protected community of life is no longer adequately ensured by the present reform. “
This sentence of a Catholic bishop did not aim at the Bundestag vote of 30 June 2017 on the admission of same-sex couples to the legal form of marriage. It fell during the discussions about the change of the marriage and family law four decades ago, at the end of 1977 when the state divorce law was changed from guilt principle to the breakup principle.
The church protest had been even more severe when, in 1953, when the legal entity of the male as “head of family” (Familienoberhaupt) was abolished. Until then it had been stated in the Civil Code: “The man is entitled to the decision in all matters concerning the matrimonial life; He shall in particular determine residence and dwelling “(Paragraph 1354 of the Civil Code). Article 117 of the Constitution had given the legislator a period until 31 March 1953 to abolish or amend the legal provisions being in contrast of equality between men and women. The deadline passed without the legislator having sufficiently redrawn the marriage and family law. Thus, in December 1953, the Federal Constitutional Court stated succinctly that “since the expiry of the period laid down in Article 117, men and women were equally entitled to marriages and families.”
Prevent the destruction of the family
Representatives of the Catholic Church responded by proclaiming the “hierarchical assignment of women to man as their head” grounded in sociological and legal reasons. Although in the sphere of sexuality the husband and wife were equated with the permanent exclusive right to the body of the other, it was necessary to maintain the authority of the husband and father of the family in the sphere of life, for it was vested  in the nature of the conjugal communion.- And that this authority belongs to the man as the “first created” (before the woman): the first pages of the Bible contained – in its church official reading –  the doctrine of the irreversible, imperative dependence of woman on the man. To abolish this is not a legitimate equality of women, but “egalitarianism” and contradicts the divine natural law.
Episcopal commentaries saw the implementation of the basic principle of equality by the abolition of the male head of family as the destruction of the “Western order of marriage and family”. Therefore, the chairman of the Fulda Bishops’ Conference, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Frings, wrote to Federal Minister of Justice Thomas Dehler that the protection of marriage and family guaranteed by Article 6 (1) of the constitution would be undermined if the concept of equality was too much aligned to an individual understanding and so unequal was compared with equal. It is only when the equality of woman is limited to treat equal with equal, but unequal differently, then the destruction of the family can be prevented.
Marriage as a self-purpose
Theologically, such an objection was very ambitious reasoned: both revelation and natural law teaches the hierarchical model, and therefore fundamentally withdrawn from any legislature’s access. Friedrich Wilhelm Bosch, since 1950 full professor for civil law at the University of Bonn, saw now “anarchy” moving into the matrimonial home instead of the natural “hierarchy”. A glance into the “textbook of natural law or the philosophy of law” of one of his predecessors would have helped: “Natural law does not recognize an exclusive paternal power, although such a right is possible by natural law through positive law,” Clemens-August Freiherr Droste zu Hülshoff proclaimed as early as 1831 , Dean of Bonn University and nephew of the great poetess.
Similar argumentation such as 1953 is now introduced in the process of the implementation of the prohibition of discrimination with regard to sexual orientation in family law. “The equality law of the Constitution requires us to treat equality equal and inequalities unequal,” we read from the episcopal press. And the fact is stated that the marriage is not protected by the Constitution “because husbands stand in for one another and accept mutual obligations, but because they are designed to produce and educate children.” Thus the classical Catholic doctrine of marriage is made secretly a constitutional principle, but without its correction by the Second Vatican Council. Klaus Lüdicke, Professor at the Institute of Canon Law at the University of Münster since three decades, summed up the core of the transformation initiated by the Second Vatican Council: “Marriage needs no other purpose than to bind the lives of two people together. Marriage is an end in itself.

He ends of in asking what do we learn out of it – and he concluded that the term “nature” is a very expandable word. I guess there is more to learn if I take this question and bring it down to a more general debate, so the following thoughts are not arguing the case of marriage equality but underlying considerations:
Church has to engage with the modern world and its diversity in a constant and serious way. Church has to acknowledge and reconcile developments in academic research and teaching and faith – bearing in mind, that it was the very church now opposing or ignoring some of its findings has been historically the inventor and guardian and the driving force behind academics.
The world has become more complicated, the questions asked and debated through social media have been more demanding and rushed and time is of essence. On the other hand traditions are important – not so much the form but the content and the rush of the time can hurt the translation and passing on of core values to the next generation. It is a question of striving a balance between action and contemplation; it is a question of unveiling the inner core of a value and the finding of appropriate means to carry it over in changing times. It’s also acknowledging that an honest debate always sees all the grey attached instead of insisting in having only black or white. There will be matters ongoing and relentlessly debated: the relation between state and religion, the question of democratic decisions and liberties of faith communities. Those discussions must be robust, but with respect – while acknowledging the past the argument that it has been so since ages can’t be an argument anymore, but at the same time we have to have an awareness where we are coming from and where we are wanting to go and develop towards. Equality, human rights are never topics to be concluded, the mystery of human life, human love and the mystery of the divine demand that we continue to engage with each other, learn from each other, accept diversity amongst each other and allow for a tolerance and a legal framework which protects and celebrates love and life as much as possible and guarantees the liberties needed to live life to the fullest (John 10.10)

* Source: Katholischer Protest mit langer Tradition

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

Pentecost and Ramadan in exhausting times

 

 

 

 

 
Let’s be honest: our times are overwhelming in the moment – it is tiring to learn every day new scandals about our government, president and ministers and associates in South Africa. It is causing fatigue to see every day tweets and news from the US American president whose self-absorption trumps all his predecessors, adding to the complication of international politics. It is simply too much to watch the news and learn about new horrors of terror, killing sprees and war in our global village. And closing the circle and coming back to South Africa it simply creates sadness and incomprehension to read constantly about all the rapes and murders in a society having lost completely the moral compass.
“Enough is enough” one would like to shout and close eyes and ears to withdraw from all those stories, yearning for times of a “normal” life whatever it means for each and everybody of us.
Feeling helpless in the chaos of our times might be a normal reaction, but maybe such times remind us how important it is to know who we are and what we stand for. Maybe such times bring us closer together with those, who care, with those who mind more than their own business. Intact families and knowing the own values also helps as does speaking truth to power. Using whatever means one has to encourage each other and simply to do good, to do what has to be done and being a living example for others.
It is indeed difficult especially in South Africa to do so – the narratives of colored pain and historical entitlement versus prescribed guilt creates a sensitivity which is in danger to be the base for new injustices and for the time being complicates the ability to face all the challenges of life in our times.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost today – we believe that the divine spirit opens new doors and let people of different languages and faith understand each other. It is a reminder that our lives meant to be full of love, hope as well as tolerance and respect for each other. Pentecost opens a new dimension of faith being a tool to understand each other – it contrasts so greatly from those using faith as a tool of destruction or hiding place for their insults on the divine. Our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith celebrating Ramadan – a month of reflection and devotion to a God of Mercy. We should never forget in these trying times there is faith as a source of encouragement and rooting ourselves to withstand whatever is thrown at us. And not only to withstand, but to change and alter to the positive. The true meaning of faith: a source of hope…

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

Corrective rape and murder

Lerato Moloi from Soweto / South Africa seems to be the latest victim of the so-called “corrective rape” , defined as a hate crime in which one or more people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The word “murder” does not need any further explanation. An explanation is indeed needed why South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world – including “corrective rape” used to “cure” lesbian women of their homosexuality.
It seems that in a country having lost the moral compass and moral leadership a longer time ago the ugly head of homophobia trends against one of the most advanced constitutions in recent history.
Added to this is surely also the message of religious institutions labeling same-sex love as not natural or intrinsic evil. Evangelical Christian Talibans from the USA adding the word “un-African” to this toxic mix and at the end people are hurt or die because they just live out their true identity.
It is time to stand up, as a society, as a church, as an individual and to get vocal against hate crimes, against violence specifically in connection with gender identity or sexual orientation.
A democratic society lives from the baseline that all its people have the rights stipulated in the constitution and that no ideology, no faith, no own opinion gives the right to violently “correct’ or “kill” the life, the lifestyle, the love, the commitment of the fellow neighbor. Where ever it happens we have collectively stand up, defend and at best prevent such incidents.
This is indeed also a call towards the police and courts in South Africa to act with decisiveness and not to delay or even shame those who fall victims to such horrendous crimes.
I am grateful to the Catholic Jesuit Institute – belonging to my church – that they are not silent on the crisis unfolding for our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters and all the vulnerable women and children falling victim to this crisis. Please read their statement here:

Press-statement: South Africas gender based violence-crisis/

Such topics need a presence in the media – here another recent article on the topic:

Corrective-rape-The-homophobic-fallout-of-post-apartheid-South-Africa

 

 

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

Prolonged Good Friday and hopefully Easter in South Africa

Tomorrow Christians around the world are celebrating Easter – feast of the resurrection. It feels odd to me on first sight as South Africa seems to “enjoy” a prolonged Good Friday experience – crucified by corruption, downgrading, political ignorance, state capture and witnessing an agonizing dead of a liberation movement trying to turn into a political party. And not only on the level of politics and society but also on an personal level Good Friday continues: poverty, lack of food security, high crime rates, xenophobia – maybe this inner connect of a religious celebration and reality brought so many people to churches all over the country yesterday; the sense and recognition of despair and sometimes the knowledge that alone one can’t stem the wave of all this negativity. And South Africa is not alone in this prolonged Good Friday experience when we look around in the global village.

For that very reason the message of Easter, the message of resurrection, the message of hope carried by more than a billion Christians is so important in our days – Easter does not negate or take away the pain of the past or the pain of the present times but it holds the promise of a turnaround and a better future. And more: it speaks not only of a promise but for us Christians it manifests a reality that this turnaround is possible not only in a far away future, but that Easter, that resurrection can and will happen in our days if people just find the courage to act on it, simply to live it.
Easter is not so much the promise of a life after death – it is the promise that things can be turned today – the bible tells multiple stories of people encountering the risen Christ, e.g. on the way to Emmaus and always after such an encounter life is not the same anymore.

Understanding the deeper meaning of Easter frees from many anxieties – it also brings to the forefront that we are at the end all part of one,of the divine – we call it in human language we are brothers and sisters in one family. There is no race except the human race being inter-connected in the divine mystery. The day people understand that we are part of one creation – as the Apostle Paul puts it – still developing through space and times – is the day we will move forward and that will be the day Africa will be rising within the global village.

Easter, the religious message of Easter holds so much for the situation South Africa is in today – and I hope and pray that those attending the Easter celebrations in any of the churches not only are filled with hope but also filled with the energy to heal and transform our South African society for the better – ambassadors of a reality ignited in the midst of darkness.

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

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
8 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
6 months to go.

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