God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beyond understanding

Beyond understanding and inhumane – certainly not wise nor in the tradition of the great religions of this world: the way certain countries deal with the refugee crisis. Instead of realizing the magnitude and desperation of the situation, but also the historical challenge, politicians in the USA and Europe trying to hold on a world which has long gone and hold no water anymore for the dire human tragedy in the times of a digital revolution bringing the pictures of good or cruel deeds onto the surface of social media – and consequently into the homes of everybody. And the reaction can be so different:

There are those who grasp somehow the magnitude of the challenge, who see the tectonic shift in how the world moves combined with the plight of human creatures yearning for a decent life without war and unrest or economical hardship giving their kids no chance in life. And there are those who – by all means – try to keep a world view up which is long gone – but in desperation they support a white, male, European and North American dominance ruling the world with an economic system which pays lip service to real development while cementing superiority of a white macho- first-world mentality with a degree of variations.

Added to this is a “trump-ish”style of “me and my country first”attitude making landfall also in Europe – really believing that the structures of country boundaries and societies are set in stone and have to be protected by all means necessary. Amazingly even studied people like academics and journalists seem to fall for a static world view. Ad a fascist tendency in some countries or the call for a strong man – believing that a political messiah like Orban in Ungarn, Trump in the USA or Kurz in Austria can rescue the little world view a loud minority holds against a silent majority and the mess beyond understanding is ready to rule lives. Not to mention the resurrection of the brown mud represented by the AfD in Germany or there-likes in Europe.

No, as long as only the next election is eyed for and populism replaces real politics – as long as a world order favors those who have and disadvantages those having nothing anyhow – as long as we don’t tackle the problems jointly and understand that we are meanwhile a global village having to learn to understand each other and live with each other – the circle of violence and war, of unrest and power play, the circle of winners and losers and the rule of a Western white macho male society will continue to dominate daily lives. And this costs lives every day.

It is time to understand that the way the systems work will not hold water under the bridge any longer – and that the attempt to keep an old world order in place at any cost will not only cost lives, but it will simply not work at the end. The longer we wait to understand this, the longer the suffering of those who remain at the bottom of the old order.

Steps into a new world order are needed:
A new world order which recognizes the failures and mistakes of the past, which recognizes history,  which understand the inter-connectivity of all people of the one and only human race and which puts the environment as a top priority on the political to-do-list. A new world order balancing the need for stability with the acknowledgment that nothing is forever and development means always also movement to new shores.
For that we need politicians and leaders with a vision – not “Kurz-sichtigkeit” or a view limited to the next election date or – like in the case of Donald Trump, decisions only made looking to please those who have elected him – without any appreciation whether this hurts the rest of the world or not.

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

Madness translated into perspective

I guess there are not a lot of people who are not worried about the madness politics is presenting almost globally: be it the constant onslaught of a self-absorbed fake news producer like Donald Trump, be it the raw emotions raving through Germany when it comes to the questions of refugees, be it the bizarre battle in Bavaria about crosses in all state institutions or the renaming of the Ministry of Home Affairs into “Heimat-Ministerium” – the list could continue endless.

All those madness is an expression of a somehow deep down felt insecurity of the human race looking into the future. It seems that most people experience an inner anxiety which translates into yearning for the “good old times” or the “strong man” , holding on to what is known while not being able to clearly seeing what will come.

And what will come is tremendous – it has consequences so far-reaching that those anxieties have to be taken seriously – even if it seems that politicians are yet not able to really grasp or understand the magnitude of changes coming. Or if they do, they are not honest with the people on the ground.

The digital revolution which is unfolding in front of our eyes will be much more profound than the industrial revolution or any other which has shaped human mankind. It completely changes the way we work, we feel, we act and we plan. It makes it necessary to look with completely new eyes how people are organized, how countries and states are functioning, how democracy or a dictatorship is working, how wars are battled out. Whoever has watched Mark Zuckerberg giving testimony in front of the US American Congress speaking about the Facebook Community which spans around the globe will have gotten a glimpse how mind-blowing social media and inter-connectivity of people in reality is. Additionally artificial intelligence will shape our path into the future in a way most ordinary people can’t imagine. And not only those with money will rule the world, but also those writing the algorithms on which we more and more base our decision-making process.

The “fake news” debate and the Russian interference – the bots in social media and the personalized streamlined news of Facebook with targeted advertising is the starting point of a manipulation spree which promises to intensify in many different ways. All the health and activity monitoring watches and gadgets slowly change the way you think and act and motivate yourself.

Ethical guidelines for those writing the algorithms and programming the computers are urgently needed to avoid what will make Orwells “1984” novel a cheap copy of reality.

This also means that the way, Africa is developing has to be seen in a different light – the argument you hear often that Europe is so developed in democracy and other portfolios because it took so much time to come to today’s state of affair will hold no water anymore for the emerging states on the continent as time has to be factored out as a necessary part for such development. Developments in the area of digital progress are too fast.  And there is something else:

The intensity with which the human race tries to destroy the very fabric of the planet and makes it inhabitable is mind-boggling – just watch how the USA in the moment turns the clock back on recent achievements. We might be able to kill ourselves and our environment before we even have a grasp and we are ethically on top of a digital development which just begun.

If we want to succeed as the human race we have to pull on one string when it comes to cut down on destroying the planets resources – and we have urgently start to rethink the way we organize ourselves – how we want to keep up the core elements of democracy, good governance and social achievements globally. We need to develop ethical guidance in the digital mine field we are about to enter.

And we need to understand in Africa, that looking too much into the past we miss the train into a future where this continent should play a major role instead of chasing a history which is needed to learn lessons, but not to get stuck in. A fine balance where once again too many emotions will not help the cause.

Donald Trump and there-likes are the last stand of a chapter in human history – white male dominant racist – which comes to a close and nothing will change that – except when we continue to allow further destruction of human decency, academic wisdom, religious tolerance and all the parameters needed to keep our planet breathing.

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

Moments of reflection


Traveling through the world for the last 5 weeks has given me the opportunity to see so many different landscapes – from Corsica to the South of France and the South of Spain – not to forget Bavaria with blue skies and the snow-covered Alps in the background –  the Garden State of New Jersey and finally New Mexico with the desert coming from Colorado with the Rocky Mountains.

Nature can be a blast – it can lift up the mood and it can almost trigger a certain way of talking with each other or even being silent in the presence of each other. Nature, an incarnation of the divine somehow tells you the story of all created being part of something much bigger, much serener, much more enchanted and connected then the good old bible story of  Adam and Eve being told by God to be masters of the world.

Even speaking over death and dying suddenly gets another meaning and a lightness is felt on this heavy thoughts of own mortality as if the comfort of the natural cathedrals changes the tune and mood of those engaging in such talks.

And one suddenly wonders whether the talk of man as the crown of creation is really the adequate language to use or whether this tribal expression coming from the good very old times has outlived its meaning and even damages our understanding of creation and the divine.  And how all is connected and inter-connected in a mysterious way and often only discovered listening to the guts and the feelings and the spirits guiding us.


And then suddenly there are more questions about how we talk about God, the universe and us – there are creeping questions into the conversation whether we got it really right thinking that there is a God somewhere sitting in the heavens – or now better universe or beyond the boundaries of all the known and unknown galaxies?
And whether the thinking of the divine as an opposite of mankind does still make sense or whether we need another language bringing our knowledge of modern science and the core elements of the biblical story into singing one tune.
Discovering ourselves as part of an universal conscience developing – the creation which is according to Paul still in labour – and all existing part of this process evolving more reflective.


Lots to reflect about, alone and together – as I said in a earlier blog – traveling is an adventure and we come home as changed persons – hopefully somebody will notice.

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

Racism – the original sin one cannot escape?

Visiting the Duke University with its vast history of racial divide and coming together there can’t be any evening meal with lecturers of history without at some point touching on the question of racism in the USA. Stories told about black movements on Duke campus – and those experiencing equality and black conscience movements in Montgomery and in other parts of the South States of the USA – for a German living in South Africa an intense evening of sharing the pain and questions arising from history and the challenges future will hold.

While it seems that my US American friends have made peace with the fact that as a white man, one cannot escape the original sin of racism purely by being born from a white mother and father -I still grapple with the fact whether it is fair to be again and again put in the structural and personal white privilege and somehow racist corner – no matter how engaged or involved one has been in healing the racial divide.

Recognizing the past, acknowledging structural privilege is one thing – making it the Cain’s mark of every white person for the foreseeable future is another. My question was on this eve and still remains whether talking in the same “termini” our forefathers have done will assist in overcoming a racist past and leading into a non-racist future. While under Obama and Trump here in the USA seemingly the topic is discussed much more prominent and controversial – so different from the usual US American way of being nice , shallow on this subject and avoiding conflict – we also going in South Africa and I guess in many parts of the world through a renewed debate on this topic. Yes, maybe it is true that we on all sides have to speak out and speaking out might even hurt – not only the listener, but also the speaker acknowledging truth we can’t allow for this seemingly original sin to linger and therefore darken the future of future generations.

Maybe the debate, the pain ,the accusations are a necessary redemption to be in the future saved from the evil of racism – maybe the revolution of social media taken note of all the racist acts and laying in bare in the public to see, to judge, to mourn, to decry – maybe all this is necessary in the development of a human civilization, which at the end only knows one race, the human race – later looking back on today’s debate and yesterdays history in sheer non-believe that racism was even a possibility to entertain for so long in history.

For me, this question remains after this eve as painful as ever – and the question-marks keep nagging how to approach a seemingly original sin which keeps on poising societies in our times. My experience at Duke University was a reminder how much had been done, and how much still has to be done – and how many circles we have already run without really moving in-depth forward on this question.

Filed under: Africa, General, HOPE Cape Town USA, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
71 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

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

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