God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

I don’t know how you want to pull this through…

A new and fresh year has started – and while the world as such is still in combat mood regarding Covid-19 admittedly in different stages and variations around the world, also other challenges have not changed because a new yearly chapter has been opened.

Building a holistic campus like “The Nex – Indawo Yethu” in such times was and is a challenge in itself; looking at how South Africa is perceived by many currently adds to the woes. Besides all praise for doing what HOPE Cape Town is doing in the various townships of Cape Town in the last 20 years, there are a lot of nagging questions we face on an ongoing base:

How can you build in a notorious violent township, a place nobody wants to go?
How can you dare to think, that you can change a place riddled with desperation?
And more general questions and statements:

South Africa is doomed – how can you invest time and energy in a lost cause?
Are you not dreaming of a pie in the sky – believing in values while corruption, cadre deployment, empty promises and betrayal of “our people” governs daily life in South Africa?

Yes, maybe I am a dreamer; maybe HOPE Cape Town is taking on more than it can handle. Maybe I have too much confidence in our partners and their ability to walk the talk and to show the world, that change – positive change – is possible.

But in my view, this is the only way to get out of the doomsday vision and the self-fulfilling prophecies of decline and retrogression. Believing in people, in partnerships, and trusting in the ability of people to join and work together towards a better future is what creates positive development. And this is not only a humanistic or religious motion.

Africa will be soon to have the youngest population in the world and with it one of the biggest markets and opportunities. South Africa remains the gateway for quite a part of it. The whole environmental questions currently discussed are a challenge for African countries, but if done right, they will be on the forefront of a new reality which is not determined by Covid-19, but ambience needs bringing humanity in line and in tune with the preservation of environment simply for survival of human mankind.

South Africa is not doomed but deserves every effort for upliftment. The world, being currently in discussions and battles of all sorts and manners about the history of colonisation, racism, male dominance and asking critical questions about how the world economics is run and dominated warrants much more patience and determination to get it right.
South Africa has still the possibility to become again a beacon of hope for the world, showing how diversity can be an asset and how the own history can be a teacher for future generations.

“The Nex – Indawo Yethu”, the holistic campus in Delft and the work of HOPE Cape Town in general will continue to contribute to this vision of a better world and a decent future for South Africa and the people living in it. It understands itself to be one little building block – offering to partner with whoever is walking the same talk – dreaming big and walking little realistic baby steps at the same time.

And coming back to the question of how to pull through with the project?

I don’t know – HOPE Cape Town walking with the local people and not having all answers means the adventure of development, based on trust and the confidence, that doors will open at the right time, people will join at the right time and that together we will – despite all bumpers and rollercoasters on the way – succeed in creating a better future for all.

That does not mean that there are no plans and strategies, that there are no aspirations and wishes, but not prescribing a way but discerning a way together with those living in Delft – a participatory process – means no fixed road to walk but landmarks on the way. Agility would be the word in the business world used.

Despite what we read in the newspapers and on social media every day – the majority of people – also in a township of Delft and in South Africa – are prepared to work for the common good. And that willingness, together with all the partners joining, should be enough to pull it through.

Filed under: Africa, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, The Nex - Indawo Yethu, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Compliments of the Season

Ein frohes und gesegnetes Weihnachtsfest und einen guten Rutsch in das Neue Jahr 2022
verbunden mit Dank für alle Unterstützung in herausfordernden Zeiten.
***

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year;
thank you for all support in challenging times.
***

‘n Geseënde Kersfees en ‘n gelukkige nuwe jaar;
dankie vir al die ondersteuning in uitdagende tye

Filed under: General, South Africa, The Nex - Indawo Yethu, Uncategorized, , ,

2021: Vaccinated, boostered and recovered

Looking back at 2021 shortly before Christmas, I can’t say, the year was boring or uneventful. 2021 started with the hope that Covid-19 might be overcome during the year and a sort of normality would come back into daily life. Little did we all know that hope can be a stretched from January to December – not lost, but wearing thin at times.

Travel restrictions continued for most of the year in one or the other way, forcing me to cancel a lot of meetings in person and to combine necessary travel in two big chunks for up to 9 weeks at a time. I could write books about the May to July travel, where the German way of doing business simply ended up in the madness of changing rules on a daily basis, on a location basis – and on a “We have our own rules” basis. Besides the anyhow difficult situation and anxieties meeting somebody from the – at that time – South African mutation, it challenged all my creativity to navigate through constant changes in the set program.

Exhaustion and frustration were my constant companions – and for the first time it was difficult to understand my fellow German brothers and sisters. Nevertheless: meetings made possible were rich and felt good – meeting again in person, looking each other in the eyes and catching body language and facial expression directly and not through a camera – simply a human need.

This was also the time to get my first Covid-19 vaccination shot – followed by a second and – by chance even a third one, today called booster – already in July 2021. I assume I was the first in Germany in this regard; my attempt to get the third vaccination registered on the German vaccination app was met with astonishment in various pharmacies: The system did not allow for it….

Those vaccinations triggered a bit of a change in mindset – I felt more free, more safe, more alive again – and I guess, this mental push should definitely not be underestimated when it comes to the health of the human mental faculties.

The several times postponed HOPE Gala concert took place – and despite all the Covid-19 regulations being adhered to – the sheer fact to be able to celebrate an event again – the sheer fact that you – vaccinated and tested dared to hug a person again – it was an evening with a taste of normality which did everybody attending so good. And add the musical program of this open air event – it was simply great, enjoyable and some hours of liberation from an otherwise so threatening world. I take my head off for the organizers, who until the very end did not know it was possible to run the event, but still put all energy and love into the planing and finally executing of the great Charity Concert.

Back in South Africa there was the constant demand triggered by the construction of The Nex – Indawo Yethu Campus in Delft – so much preparation since 2019 and finally the move into the first buildings: Administration Building, Bavarian House and Resource Centre as well as “La Maison de Christoph”, the holistic preventative health centre. The joy of occupying a new building but also the challenges of a snag list longer than the river Jordan while at the same time starting the first programmes like vocational training / duale Ausbildung in logistics, entrepreneurial skills’ development programs and other education courses constituted a roller coaster of feelings. We had days with more than 200 students on the partly finished campus while next Phase 2, the Early Childhood Development Centre was and is currently in construction. Those who called my idea of this campus a crazy one, a not possible one had finally to admit, that the sky is the limit if you believe in something and one has the right partners creating synergies. Because you can’t do it alone, the HOPE Cape Town team, VPUU and all the other collaborators from government, NGO’s and civil society as well as the Bavarian State Chancellery were all essential to walk the talk and to bring another ray of hope to Delft.

Finally, the last months with the second trip, three charity dinner in Berlin, Dresden and Munich and many personal encounters with sponsors and partners. And still the upcoming 4th wave in the back of your mind constantly threatening travel plans: nevertheless most was possible to achieve, but it took more energy out than anticipated.

Back in Cape Town beginning of December there was no rest for the restless as the official opening of the Bavarian House and the anniversary of 20 years HOPE Cape Town were due to be celebrated. And while we missed our Bavarian friends, who could not travel due to Covid-19 travel restrictions – and the arrival of Omicron – Saturday, 4th of December was a day of joy and celebrating achievements – not in a big way, but the day stood out and felt good. I am still grateful for all who made this day happen!

Now we are before Christmas – and as the headline indicates, there is one item missing: recovery. There was a time in between of flu-like symptoms where I quarantined, not wanting to give the flu to anybody else – nothing really dramatic, just a bit of cold and cough, quickly gone. It turned now out that this was Covid-19 – and my natural antibodies are now skyrocket high next to the ones triggered by the vaccine.

So yes – it looks like this year was really full of challenges but also islands of joy. There were moments of frustrations, but also of deep gratitude and happiness. Covid-19 has created many obstacles on my way and certainly did not help to fundraise and cut the possibilities of expansion of my network. It showed clear limitations of activism, but it also triggered creativity and the determination to achieve set goals even in the midst of a pandemic.

I am going out of this year more humble and more grateful – I count my blessings more carefully. And I am determined to welcome 2022 with open arms willing to make again the best out of what is possible.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Punished – and some general thoughts…

Let’s face it: South Africa has very good genomic sequencing capacity and capability – within a year, twice it made the world aware of a mutation of concern – and twice the world thanked it with shutting down air traffic and simply ignored the fact, that discovery does not mean it originated in the country of discovery; and also take into account that livelihoods and lives are destroyed.

Countries of the EU, a community of values, as they proudly proclaim, hoard medical resources, make sure that vaccines come first in high volumes to their citizens – even knowing, that a pandemic can only be beaten or influenced if and when all human beings have the chance to be protected. There is no protection for one country.

They also set the rules – switching economies of countries on and off – in this case tourism in South Africa, as they see fit. But what can you expect from a community of values, which let refugees drown while fighting amongst each other what to do and how to solve the problem.

Covid-19 has in so many ways changed the perspective: human mankind is not that advanced as we thought, ethical behaviour or concern for the next or the society one lives in does not matter for quite a portion of humans, “Querdenker” and those believing in all the fantastic myths when it comes to vaccinations show clearly that stupidity has no ceiling and irrationality no limitations. Listening to one of this “Querdenker” proclaiming that every vaccination is an injection to kill the person leaves every decent person wondering.

Of course, governments have their share in contributing to confuse people.
In Germany, for example, trying to be political correct and avoiding clear statements and rules gave oxygen to those militant vaccine opposition forces. Having ignored the pandemic during the last phase of national elections brought the country to where it is currently.

In South Africa, the president himself welcomed the first 1.2 million AstraZeneca vaccines, only to kick them out of the country and entertain the certainly weaker alternative of J&J as a trial phase. This did not create trust in a society which anyhow does not trust government in general. Also here, during local election time all rules were relaxed for the sake of political events.

Where from here?

Firstly, we have to acknowledge that we are all in it together – tribes or countries can not do it alone.

Secondly, we cannot continue to punish excellence, and we have to balance risk and livelihood. Knee-jerked reactions are not helping. We have to learn to live with the virus – and it is the nature of the beast that mutations happen every day.

Thirdly – vaccinations are the only real way forward – the longer governments wait and entertain all the anti-vax nonsense, the longer the drama continues.

Fourthly, a comment regarding churches: there is a lot of space still to be occupied in taking a stance pro vaccinations.

Fifth, let’s face it: our systems are not holding for the challenges we partly created ourselves in overpopulating the planet and thinking, we are the masters of the universe. The advances in IT, social media and AI have changed dramatically the way, people feel and feel connected. The ways democracy works are partly not equipped to face modern times challenges. Our path of living outruns our ability to understand and react. The interconnectivity of matters is partly so complicated, that we lose oversight.

It is time to reflect and come to senses: be it Covid-19, be it climate change, be it the relationship between Africa and Europe. Because if not, there is one certainty: this world and the universe can easily exist without the human race.

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

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