God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Asking hard questions

Looking at the social-economic & political consequences worldwide of the Russian attack on Ukraine, there comes a point, where the removal of Putin by all means possible and any means necessary must be ethically discussed.

The UN writes about the global impact of the war in Ukraine:

“The war in Ukraine, in all its dimensions, is producing alarming cascading effects to a world economy already battered by COVID-19 and climate change, with particularly dramatic impacts on developing countries. Recent projections by UNCTAD estimate that the world economy will be a full percentage point
of GDP growth lower than expected 1due to the war, which is severely disrupting already tight food, energy, and financial markets. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are among the world’s breadbaskets.
They provide around 30 per cent of the world’s wheat and barley, one-fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil2. At the same time, the Russian Federation is the world’s top natural gas exporter, and second-largest oil exporter. Together, neighbouring Belarus and the Russian Federation also export around a fifth of the world’s fertilizers.”

The world is factually a global village and the digitalisation has contributed strongly to interconnect the economies. This means that the unfolding war will bring not only hardship, but also hunger and additional poverty, and with it premature dying of people worldwide.

The full report of the UN titled “Global impact of war in Ukraine on food, energy and finance systems” is available here

Besides looking at the ethical possibility to remove a leader violating with his actions the dignity of millions of people, the current situation has also made it very clear again, that the UN mechanisms, created after the second world war, are not carrying any more the weight needed to send a clear-cut message to those violating international laws and committing war crimes without even making the attempt to hide it.

Looking at other challenges like energy needs and climate change it becomes, especially after Covid-19 and now the attack of Russia on Ukraine crystal clear, that human mankind has to change tune if it wants to survive as the human race. We are not essential to the universe nor to our planet; if we want to live and thrive and create a future for the next generations in peace and dignity, we better get our acts together.

Looking into our world with the mounting numbers of fake news and outright lies, of unashamed violence and exploitation, those ethical questions of how to respond need a new reflection and answer for our time. Philosophers and religious institutions are challenged to come up with guidelines when it comes to political and social actions determining the future of humanity and the human race on this planet.

And to clarify: No, the war in Europe is not really special, as war governs constantly parts of the world. But I believe that suddenly also Europe woke up to this truth and after Covid-19 there is a kind of sensitivity towards challenges. People have woken up to think the unthinkable – a good moment in time to push for deeper reflections.

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

Another period of silence…

Weeks have passed since the last blog entry – and while the world is debating Ukraine forward and backward, trying to identify what went so terribly wrong in the years before, the fact is: nothing is forever, not even a long period of peace in Europe. So many hopes are dashed, and especially the elder generation suddenly has a déjà vu of their experience during World War II.
Blogwise, I kept a period of silence – withstanding the urge to hammer my convictions into the world. I was witness during my last travel how our friends of HOPE in Germany simply started supporting those fleeing their home country: Bringing people to safety and delivering medicine and food back into Ukraine.

Practical help – urgently needed. Discussions for later. But this “later” is coming, and I have, like so many others growing up in an open and peaceful period of Europe to acknowledge, that the aspirations to be able to create a more peaceful world has its human limitations. Obviously, living in Africa for the last years has given me the advantage to know, that peace and living peacefully next to each other must be attempted and accomplished every day anew.

Still, Covid-19 and now Ukraine – the question remains has human mankind not learned anything – are we sentenced to go through the circles of peace and war, unrest and living tolerant next to each other till the universe swallows our universe one or the other way?

Normally, churches are the carrier of hope and positive aspirations. Covid-19 has shown in many parts of the word that organised religion is not really system relevant. In many countries, people had to live without this carrier of hope, be it out of rules limiting worship, be it out of anxiety – or be it out of being occupied with itself like in parts of Europe and certainly Germany.

So my period of silence was like a cushion for all the questions bombarding the heart and soul of a human being: What gives me hope? What sustains really my being? On what can I count when systems fail to support me as usual?

And more: what is it in human beings that brings up war, torture, brutality, lies and fake news, racism and exploitation as a necessity at times?

I still believe that most people simply yearning for a decent life and a better one for their kids. So where are going our human systems fundamentally wrong? Does it remain a mystery? What is your answer?

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

Signs of the times for the Roman-Catholic Church

I am not sure how to explain the feeling when convictions, you are holding deeply in yourself suddenly are voiced officially and formally in the church, you are serving since more than 30 years. It is not even a triumphant feeling – that would anyhow be much too early, looking at the universal Catholic Church – but it is a relief that thoughts, you were punished for, ideas which were forbidden to speak out lout (like the ordination of women priests under John-Paul II) are not any more only whispered in the dark corner of the church.

Participation of laity when it comes to the election of Bishops, gender equality within the church – and yes, it means all genders; ordination for women, celibacy as choice. A clear jump to overcome the Middle Ages and to arrive as the pilgrims finding their ways through the times into the 21st century.

Obviously we are not there yet, but knowing that German theology had always an impact and is indeed well reasoned and studied, there seems to be suddenly light at the end of a very dark tunnel. There will be now a forceful stand-off of those wanting to remain in the past. And there will be a decision to be made whether the universal Catholic Church allows for a synodal way forward which also strengthen the local churches and gives them the leverage to own decisions on certain levels; or whether the institution is imprisoned in the thought that all must do the same. Diversity in Unity would be the catchphrase; and the Orthodox Church gives us examples of this diverse unity based on baptism and creed.

While the dirty truth about child abuse continues to rage in the church, especially in the German church currently, it opens the view clearly on structural sins of power, male dominance and tons of “brothers in the fog” as the late Cardinal of Cologne described the priestly abusers he and others covered up. Many countries have gone through the discoveries of abuse and many churches in Africa have not even started to look deeply into their own backyards; the German church might be the one which later will be attributed the courage to name and shame the wounds and draw the necessary consequences.

There will be lots of oppositions within the church; there might be more splits and division, but this is part of the process of transformation. There will be the exposure of big gaps between different theologies and pastoral practices when it comes to Europe and Africa. We should not be afraid of all of this. The Catholic Church has waited too long to walk the talk about the values of participation, democratic rule, gender equality being advocated for others but internally rejected those values for their own institution.

Let’s be clear: this is not a German revolution. Think of the Amazon Synod, which also was thought-provoking in their requests. It is about taking seriously the sensus fidei , which was also highlighted in the German Synod text about the framework of its own reflections. It is about taking seriously the synodal church as envisioned by Vatican II; being somehow covered up and almost made forgotten in the times of Johannes-Paul II and Benedict XVI. In many ways, we now start to understand and try to explore the deeper sense of what was said in the sixties of the last century. And if Paul VI would not have forbidden certain discussions, the church would have moved certainly faster into the realities of the 21st century.

Another clarification: All discussions don’t touch on the essential of the good news: the unconditional love for all people, the promise of a meaning in life and the certainty that we are part of a much bigger and divine picture we constantly have to discover anew. The bible is full of stories of people exactly doing this: discovering that understanding and pictures of the divine changes, that the divine touches their lives in ways unexpected; the bible is a book of transformation from Abraham till Jesus. The “word of God” as it is liturgically often called, is not set in stone, but it is set in the hearts of a diversity of humans, we in the church call ‘the sons and daughters of God’. And the church as an institution and a living entity should encourage this living and developing connection between the world and divine. This can be scary at times for many, but diving in the deepest question of existing is not for the faint-hearted.

I often in this day’s think of the first apostles and specifically Peter, who had also to learn that the spirit of God showed him, that his understanding of how things should work, was thrown out of the window. Think of Acts 10:44-48, or think of what we call the first council in Jerusalem.

We live in exciting times for the church, we live in painful times too and in uncertain times. And exactly this uncertainty tends to support the motion to keep the known and to not jump into the unknown. I am convinced that we don’t have a chance but to move if we want to remain relevant as a church. We don’t have to move all in the same speed as a church and within the church, but we have to walk, sooner or later, to keep meaning to our message for this world. Otherwise, we will become a self-serving institution with no relevance for humanity.

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

At the end of the year….

I guess, most of us agree: this was a specific difficult year for societies and in politics. Looking around in our world, there seems to be little hope for 2022:

In the USA, we see a country struggling to keep democracy alive and fight off a sort of white male fascism driven by a Republican Party not ashamed to base politics on lies and deception.
In Great Britain, the Brexit promises have failed in a big way and the current Premier seems to have difficulties with truth and honesty, let alone clear policies.
In Russia old demons of power and might through military means aka Putin style becomes dominant and endangers world peace looking at Ukraine.
China demonstrates its willingness to go the extra mile to kill everything which smells like civil rights; only look at Hong Kong.
Europe throws part of its values into the Mediterranean Sea by letting people drown in exactly this sea and looking at Covid-19, the switching on and off of parts of Africa without common sense does not give the impression that values are universal.

The corruption in South Africa continues, and those fighting within the ANC for power are still pretty safe of prosecution. Even the admission of the President that state coffer money was used for party politics does not draw any consequences – business as usual.

Covid-19 and the vaccine story has divided families and societies – and the virus laid open the impossibility for the human race to act jointly and with common sense in a complex world.

Environmental questions remain to be answered with urgency if the human race wants to survive and have a future.

So 2022 starts with an exceptional package of “needs to be addressed” – and if we would only look at the big picture we could fall into depression.
But there is always our small world within the big picture. There is always the magnitude of kind acts, of friendly and supportive smiles, of acts of goodwill, and if the late Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu is to believe – all those acts will at the end form the safety net rescuing and changing the world to the better.

There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t wait for any divine force to make it happen here on earth, we have to do it ourselves with our hands and our hearts.
Let’s be honest:
the world will exist even when the human race disappears – the world, our environment and the universe does not need us – we need to relate to all of them in a healthy way. And we only can do this, if we learn much more to understand each other as one human race only being able to thrive and survive if we limit ourselves not only in the amount of human beings living at the same time on earth with limited resources, but also much more share common values not only in theory but in practice.

We have to be much more attentive to this – and we have in church, politics and society to understand much more, that being a leader is not about a career and power play but service; we have to examine our systems of governing and our structure of living whether they serve life and well-being of all or only an elite. We have to understand ourselves as a part of nature, and our fellow brothers and sisters rather as a support system we depend on within our environment. Furthermore, we have to watch out, that our systems and AI are not so perfect, that they don’t allow any more for the diversity human mankind represents. Perfect systems, or rather almost perfect systems, are endangering individual lives and livelihoods.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; there is the prospect of a good future, there is the constant dream not only of a rainbow nation, but a rainbow world, a rainbow human race – a unity in diversity – a connectivity which can be felt when one is attentive and open to it. We can’t leave the world to the doomsday activists nor to the Querdenker or those using and abusing the world and humans for their own advantage only.

Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and hearts but also knowing that the majority of people of goodwill have to connect more to advance humanity, decency and civil freedoms carried by joined values for all.

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

A human “mea culpa” needed – and then action

Hurricanes, heat-waves, fires destroying big chunks of nature and habitation in California, Turkey, Greece, Russia and so many more parts of the globe. And looking at Germany, the big floods still are making headlines, destroying the livelihood of so many while having killed others in their way of destruction.

In all the tragedies, with all the sympathies and with not stopping to help and assist those in need and those having suffered or mourning the loss of a loved one or their sheer existence; we have to ask the hard question about responsibility in particular cases and wider scenarios.

I recall as a youngster, scientists left no doubt that the way we treat nature, the way we get closer to the rivers while at the same time straightening them out to serve our purpose, will hit back. We know since ages, the way we live is unsustainable; we know that climate change is happening and will, if not tackle, destroy us as the human race. Earth will not care about it – the small little ball within the universe will continue without us until our solar system will change dramatically in ages to come.

Additional, there is a clear limit to what earth can take on human population – the verse in Gen 1,28 of the bible “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” might find a line drawn into the sand now.

We not only have allowed to continue our path of destruction – millions of people elect and support politicians and leaders worldwide, who simply deny climate change – who simply ignore the well-being of nature for greed and power reasons. And this ignorance is entangled in the whole question of white male dominance, which makes it even harder to tackle. Add to this the birth control debate within, for example, a church with 1.2 billion faithful: then you get a full picture of what we are facing.

Much of it applies to Covid-19 and other virus related incidents, where transition from animal to human occurs. We are all aware that nature has its own life full of bugs, not really hurting their animal hosts. We come closer, we destroy their habitat and ignore their rightful place in our world and force them to find another place to live – with deadly consequences.

We as humans are our own worst enemies – no other creature in this world is more destructive, more ignorant and more willing to go the extra mile on a path which will end with a new dawn without human beings. Those who have the most maybe will survive a bit longer – but all money, all greed, all power of the world will not prevent the final outcome.

The alternative is really to change course dramatically and radically – but not naive, as one hears it sometimes from younger activists who mean good but don’t overlook always the whole picture. But the mix of young and not so young activism with the wisdom of more matured and experienced professionals can open a new chapter for humanity. It can end the “keep it up” strategy and turn lots of words and promises from political and economical leaders into meaningful actions.

We are as humanity in this together – no country can go it alone, no government can solve it alone – which also means to strengthen political bodies like the UN and other international entities. We need a universal “mea culpa” and the intelligence to choose our leaders wisely in this respect. Furthermore, we can’t afford to have those proclaiming their country first, we can’t allow for those more concentrating on stealing from the public purse, and we can’t allow any more for those in charge, who prefer ideology and “the party is always right” instead of a public discourse allowing all meaningful voices to be heard.

And we need the buy-in of churches and religious institutions – make no mistake: Most of them are more involved in the economic deals of current times than we want to admit and acknowledge. Amassing wealth is certainly an important goal of many so-called “prophets” and prosperity churches; and also the mainstream churches are not immune when it comes to investments. Here also, a “mea culpa” would be appropriate and a new outlook needed.

Whatever the future will hold: nobody can say, we have not been warned many times.

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

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