God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Thoughts before a trip…

The evening before my first major trip this year – and as always going through the program I am tempted to anticipate how things will work out – and questions popping up like “whom will you meet on this journey?” and “will there be that kind of connection needed to really encounter each other?”.

The first part will bring me hopefully without delay from Cape Town via Munich and Frankfurt to Bremen, a city I have never visited before. Last year march a delegation from the Federal State of Bremen visited South Africa and Cape Town. Having been able to introduce most of the more than 70 wo-men strong delegation to Blikkiesdorp and HOPE Cape Town I am now invited to learn about this Federal State. Meetings with politicians, clergy, students, refugees, press and social worker / activists are part of the program. I am indeed looking forward not only to meet those introduced to me in Cape Town but also lots of new faces for an exchange on different topics ranging from politics to economics, from trauma to HIV counseling and all in between. Not to forget a bit of culture to understand the great history of this important city.

Via Frankfurt I will then continue my travel to Dallas where I not only hope to meet with some Directors of HOPE Cape Town USA but also able to engage with the impressive Cathedral of Hope, a congregation which has so much to offer and is also willing to engage with the South African HOPE Cape Town organization. Brian’s House, our second partner is definitely on the lists of visits as other organizations. Not to forget the participation in the Dallas South Aids Walk and the baptism of the youngest member of the HOPE family – the son of Stacie and Josh. It will be a real honor to christian the young man. The stay would not be complete without meeting Rev Ted coming all the way from New Mexico – lots of good advice is on the way.

A drive to Houston will complement impressions I gather every time I visit Texas learning more of the spirit of the people living here.  Then flying off to Puerto de Vallarta, where my duties as the chaplain to see for the MS Amadea during the last days of lent and the Holy week commences. Jamaica, Panama, Mexico are some of the stop-overs and finally end April going in Miami from board to catch a flight from Fort Lauderdale via Washington, Frankfurt and Johannesburg back to Cape Town.

What will I bring home from all this travel? Lots to tell I guess, tons of new experiences and certainly more people to feel connected with. Hopefully also some more people interested to join the HOPE family. Whatever it will be – there is always a change, a growth connected to travel – there is always a broader view on the world and its possibilities and challenges achieved. All these can be a blessing and a curse when you come home where life is so limited to a certain frame of customs, experience and expectations. Traveling the world can make a person sometimes very lonely but traveling the world with a mission will always counter this and make sure that the balance is right.

And there is more: Traveling and meeting at first complete strangers shows also how much more talking is needed to understand the realities behind the words used to communicate with each other. Using the same language does not mean to understand each other, describing situations does not mean to get the point across – upbringing, culture, politics and socialization determine the use of language and one quick realizes that the “global village” needs quite some push to become reality in the madness of the world today.

Filed under: chaplain, chaplain to sea, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ball of HOPE – 18.05.2019

Join us again for this prestigious event
and
play a significant role
in the lives of many needy children
and
their families
in the Western Cape.

Invitation Ball of HOPE 18.05.2019_Page_1Invitation Ball of HOPE 18.05.2019_Page_2Invitation Ball of HOPE 18.05.2019_Page_3Invitation Ball of HOPE 18.05.2019_Page_4

Registration open – please download info and booking form:

Invitation Ball of HOPE 18.05.2019

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Medical and Research, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Catholic Church: mysticism and reality in the times of the abuse scandal

abuseA lot is written about the meeting of bishops in Rome on the topic of child abuse – and the reactions were as diverse as people seeing the problem with different eyes:
for some the conference was a milestone as for the first time the Catholic Church took on the monster of child abuse head on admitting the cancer spreading since a long time within its ranks. For others it was more of a talk shop and they would have expected clear-cut rules and regulations how to deal with the past, the presence and the future. Obviously the topic was and is also used by those wanting either to preserve or yearning for change in the church: for the latter, child abuse is only a consequence of clericalism and a hierarchy which seems to have a meaning in itself while for those wanting to preserve the might and power of the Catholic Church homosexuality within the clergy is the core element of triggering abuse.

For me there is no question that the exaggeration of heavenly powers for those up the hierarchy, the wish of protection of the good name of the church, the failing to acknowledge that mysticism of faith has to be based in the realities of the people, the choosing of bishops and cardinals who would just go blindly along with everything said and done from the top without hesitation, the neglect of the synodality of the church in favor of a medieval rigid papal and curial system as promoted by John-Paul II has fostered a climate where child abuse was condoned, covered up and for some even encouraged as the most what could happen was to be moved to another place with ample opportunities to continue the horrible deeds. Child abuse is the consequence of a church system which gave rise to clericalism in all forms and shapes.

It seems that not all got the message – looking at statements from Cardinal Burke and Brandmueller and judging by other statements of right-wing and so-called conservative people within the church child abuse is taken as the scenario to fight modern ideas. And obviously the all-present fight against homosexuality which seems to be the pinnacle of all woes the church is in according to this fraction of the church. Being in an almost all-out war for the direction of the Catholic Church for the years to come, the abuse of the abuse is a convenient tool to fight for the return of the “Holy Mother” to the good old times where hierarchy was clear and the laity obeyed without doubts. And that would leave us with some misguided priests – rotten apples – to be forced to leave so that  church business can continue as it has been since ages.

As much as I can understand the yearning for an environment clearly defined in a world which is so confusing; as much as I can understand the insecurity of so many brothers and sisters in this mad world of so many choices and fast developments – we as church have to be at the cross-road of mysticism and reality.

The reality is that life is developing as is our understanding of the world and of the meaning of life – church can only be relevant if it keeps up with this development by at the same time preserve the mystical and inner core of its message:
This world has a meaning, we are part of a divine plan which is so much bigger than we can think of. It means to keep the fire burning in our hearts and minds towards a future we only can believe in without knowing all the facts – love, hope and faith are the components of this mystical inner yearning which promises to make at the end sense of our journey on earth.

At all times the church has tried to spell out this hope, which for us Christians become human and manifest in Jesus, with the tools and the knowledge available at that time. Looking back in history the church was often at the forefront of academia and developments but it is human nature that success can make one getting more slow and luscious and often also unwilling to accept new insights which would contradict its chosen path. So we have to catch up on reality and insight – living and preaching within the realities of life today without losing this mystical component of our human inner being –  in our days often is seen in the spirituality of people lived outside of official churches.

Keeping the divine fire burning in every human being while traveling in the modern world with all the new knowledge and the constant changes in possibilities is an art  – but the only art possible to survive as a church. And it means to acknowledge, expose and correct the wrongs of the past and to work openly and transparent on the new way forward.

For the question of child abuse it means to look honestly and without any reservation at the crimes committed or allowed to be committed, to hold those having failed responsible without regard to position or standing in the church and to make sure that this never happens again. There is, besides the deeds of single people a systematic failure we also have to acknowledge which means that we have to re-work aspects of the “system”church without betraying the core message of unconditional love of God which allows for life to flourish and develop. The questions of how we deal with sexuality in all forms and equality of man and woman are only some of the questions we have to tackle here and now to make sure the evil of child abuse has been brought to an end.

 

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

The gloves are off

Election year in South Africa – and already since the beginning of the year it shows that the gloves are off and the usual South African chaos becomes the norm of daily life. the reaction of the State of the Nation Address of the President Cyril Ramaphosa was instant: a day later the country plunged into darkness with Eskom announcing load shedding stage four – signaling that the country is short before being brought to its knees. A surprised president who seemingly has not noticed in the long years of being the vice-president and now leading the country how bad the situation is with the State owned enterprises including Eskom as he also had not noticed the state capture happening under his co-watch. Billions of Rand’s siphoned from the State coffers to individuals and, now revealed through the Zondo commission, millions in bribes have gone unnoticed by the politicians who seemingly never read newspapers which disclosed this information ages ago.

The miracle of blind spots continues until today – and it was also present at the debate about the address of the President yesterday, where the opposition parties tried to hammer home this fact in a diversity of ways. But there was something else creeping into the debate – the question who sold out whom during apartheid times: a clear sign that the gloves are off and the nerves are blank and a sort of desperation sets in before the 8th of May, the election date.

And so it seems South Africa falls in line with the rest of the world where decency and real considerations are the exemption but pure reaction to crisis and activism and populism is the norm of today’s politics – paired with the given impression, that ethics or honesty have no say anymore in today’s political, social and environmental challenges.

The dream, that the human race is able to find to each other and jointly overcomes the challenges of today’s world has faded away – ideology and the lust for fights and bullying one another has won for now – but hopefully it is not the final verdict.

The gloves are off in so many ways and in so many spots of this world that one could despair – but there is always hope, there are always pockets of common sense, there are always people who don’t give up to work for the greater good of society and there is always the chance that those pockets are network and together form the safety net for societies, so that the madness of politics don’t destroy the very fabric of those societies. Most non-profit organizations, most volunteers, most good people can attest to it. May they succeed.

 

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

You are not guilty – transformation thoughts

“You are not guilty about what happened in the past, but you are responsible, that it never happens again” – this free translated quote attributed to Max Mannheimer, a holocaust survivor was an important message for those been born after the end of the “1000-jaehriges Reich”, which also meant the end of killing millions of Jews in that time of the Nazi regime. As a German born after World War II I can relate as even during my time as a child or adolescence there was always that cloud of “you are guilty” of what the older generation had done during the dark times of Germany. We were guilty by association – and traveling through Great Britain or France at that time meant to be verbally victimized at times from those having served as soldiers in World War II or lost loved once…

The quote of Max Mannheimer lifts this burden of attributed and perceived guilt – it transforms the burden of shame into a lesson for the future for all those who were yearning for a society where hate against Jews will never happen again. And it leads also to the distinction between criticizing Israel for its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and questioning or belittling the holocaust. Israel has very effective played the game of the general guilt of a whole nation including those born much later.

I guess or better I am convinced the statement of Max Mannheimer would also help the South African society – it would stop the entitlement and racism we see also from many young black African people, the so-called “born free”-  holding everybody with the wrong skin color at ransom for what they have not even experienced.  The EFF, BFLF and parts of the ANC and others are playing the card as well – young political leader who have seen the first free election still in diapers or even born later abuse the narrative of apartheid, transformation and compensation for their own political gains.

Transformation in South Africa can only happen if we acknowledge the past without holding the new generation of born free hostage – be it with an ideology or with guilt. We have to draw a line in how we talk and what we demand – and that applies to all and everybody in this country.

We have the task to avoid any further injustice while transforming and compensating the older generation which really suffered. We have to give the new generation the skills within the years of basic education to dream and realize that only the sky is the limit – with knowledge and hard work or study and not corruption, stealing, entitlement – party- or skin-color association.

For this to happen we have to talk much more to each other, listen to each other – in person – not through the veil of social media – but looking each other in the eyes and understanding how it feels to walk in the shoes of the other person. This is not easy, this does not win an election per se, but it is the only way to reconcile, to transform, to create a new society without creating new injustices.

South Africa thought while having Nelson Mandela was president that it is special under the sun. It is not and the hardship and the struggle continues to be proof of it – but we could be becoming special when we – with the right political and social and religious leadership – turning the tide and start to work hard towards a non-racial society where everybody finds the place he or she deserves, because the environment is right to blossom…

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2019

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

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