God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Human Rights Day

The world is celebrating Human Rights Day today – and just listening to Amnesty International and other human rights organisation we can learn, that the question of human rights seems to be in deep crisis.
The “black lives matter” movement in the USA, the pictures of immigrant kids being separated and being hold in cages in the land of the free, the GLBTI free zones in Poland and developments in Hungary indicate that this year, we not only see the usual suspects when it comes to violation of human rights, but an expansion to members of the European Union and the USA, which ones was partly seen as at the forefront in the fight for democracy and human rights.
The question of immigration policies in Europe and the USA, but not to forget SE Asia contributes another dark shadow on the promise to uphold human rights in our global village. The killing of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the non-consequences for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) highlight the demise of basic international understanding what constitutes human rights – and by the way human decency.

Social media and fake news are definitely also a thriving force behind the advent of more and more human rights violations and while the so-called “West” is busy with itself, China appears more and more keen to demolish any trace of human rights within their territory as clearly to be seen in Hong Kong.

What is shocking how in the open and without shame those violations are taking place and how little resistance can be seen countering it. Human rights often seem to become a sheer whisper in the arena of politics when countries deal with each other. Trump era and Covid-19 seem to have ignited a wave of shamelessness and blunt disregard for this topic.

This has to change; otherwise we will lose all what was achieved when it comes to human rights worldwide. It was a long way of ongoing battles and compromises – we are in danger to plunging back into the dark Middle Ages….

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

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

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

The attack in Nice and the choice of words

Language is a powerful tool and language creates realities. That is the reason why how we talk about events and things is critical.

The terror attack in Nice that killed three people last week left France increasingly unsettled and once again, the phrase Islamist extremism or Islamist terror was used.

While all religions without doubt have also a violent past, human mankind has moved forward and recognized that religion per definition can’t be violent, but must be a peace enhancing force for good. And this should reflect also in the way we talk about such brutal violence which the perpetrator tries to put into a religious context. We simply should not allow for this any more.

Killing innocent people is simply terrorism – and we should not grace any such act with an association to any religion. We should not allow in our vocabulary to link ideology with faith. Our news headlines should not indicate that murderers and terrorists are allowed to justify their violence with religious terms; we should reject any attempt to create a space where others could have a sense that violence can in any circumstances be connected to religion.

Terror is terror, terrorism is terrorism and ideology or political madness should in our language have no bearing on religion. Not allowing this association is an important tool to diminish such awful acts and to make it clear that in our times, religion and violence never ever go together again. Period.

Language is an underestimated tool in the fight against terror and violent ideology.

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

Roma locuta and other anxieties

Roma locuta causa finita – Rome has spoken, the discussion is over, so goes the proverbial attitude within the Catholic Church pointing out that the final verdict in the Roman-Catholic church always is a Vatican located one. Rome is speaking a lot in our days – be it about the synodal process in Germany, be it about the Synod of Trier and its decisions, be it on valid baptisms and other theological matters.
And looking also across the aisle into the political and social arena to the floods of words on social media, spearheaded by a twitter-happy Donald Trump, the armies of automated bots and paid pen or keyboard holding soldiers, one can drown in the flood of words and verdicts, of opinions and analysis being encountered opening the email box, social media or news outlets.

And in so many cases, be it Roma or the warrior behind the keyboard, it seems that whatever is said or voiced carries often the smell of eternal truth, to be defended and backed up either with dogma or ideology depending on the arena it plays out. Strength and power are on display, conviction and verbal muscle play.

I don’t know, but in a world battling to understand the blessings and curse of a digitally connected world and a human race being challenged to either develop or to disappear, I see tons of anxieties hidden behind the just described scenario of current times. And this in turn leads to the yearning for leaders who clearly define black and white, good and bad, right or wrong to make it easier to navigate through a time when nothing seems to be fixed and everything flowing.

And it does not matter which arena you look at: the religious, the political or the social; be it values or certainties of the past: the philosophical concept of Heraclitus called Panta Rhei seems scary to most fellow humans. And Covid-19, the invisible small little bug has doubled down on those personal, social and political uncertainties, fears and anxieties. It has led to more conspiracy theories, which in turn have garnered more disciples from all walks of life and killing rational thinking and common sense on its way.

The human race is at the moment running in a proverbial hamster wheel fuelled by all those anxieties, refusing to stop in its track and just taking a breath and break. And maybe even pay attention to a writing, which was signed in Assisi last week: Fratelli tutti, the third encyclical of Pope Francis which is much more than a letter to only the faithful. Together with Laudato Si and the Abu Dhabi declaration on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together there is a treasurer of wisdom to be found to escape all those anxieties and grandstanding and false religious and political prophets and rabble-rousers of current times. I would add to this the world ethos concept of Prof Hans Küng to cover most aspects of what has to happen to give the human race a fair chance for survival on the long term.

There are many voices of reason – even some coming out of Rome – the question is: will they succeed in being listened to?

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

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

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

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