God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Still lots of questions…

Insanity is the word I am finding the most appropriate looking at the situation in the Ukraine – especially looking at the history. Helplessness and failure are following on place two and three.

Since Ukraine eight years ago – after a pro-European protest movement toppled a Kremlin-backed president – turned more to the West, the conflict is simmering between NATO and Russia on Ukraine.

We all knew that there was talk after the disintegration of the UDSSR that the western countries will not expand their military alliance towards the Russian borders; even if it was never signed off formally.
I am sure the elderly amongst us still recall the attempt of Russia to install rockets on Cuba in the sixties, and the threat of a nuclear war from then-president J.F.Kennedy, arguing that his country cannot allow such weapons close to the border reaching US territory.

Nothing has changed in this regard – and listening to Angela Merkel back some years stating, that Vladimir Putin lives in his very own world – indicating that this world was far away from any reality.

So my question after rightly condemning the attack with all arguments and emotions – also recalling my visit to Odessa and other Ukrainian cities and worrying about people I met – so my question would be how we can leave the black/white scenario and come to an honest analysis asking the hard questions:

When politics is the art of the possible – was it really necessary to flirt with the NATO membership of Ukraine – which, in fact, was years away?
When politics is the art of the possible – has nobody noticed the brutality with which Zar-like Putin tried to reconvene the “good old times” of a Great Russia – killing every dissent, allowing even for state sponsored murder outside Russia – completely ruthless and without hesitance?

Taking the Crimea was the next step of Putin to announce to the world that he will not allow for the expansion of NATO; and if we are honest, the soft reaction of the West – being dependent on energy from Russia – was rather an encouragement, as in his world, weakness will be used as a sign of reinforcement that he has the upper hand to do, what he feels is appropriate.

Of course, the Trump presidency weakened any hard stance on Russia worldwide – the earlier super-power, now in the grip of fake news and its own battle to remain white male dominant and partly living in a world which is as abstruse and far away from reality as the Russian leader’s one.

And for those really watching closer, the war against Ukraine has another danger for the future: look at China’s reaction: While standing with Russia, China still insists that borders should be respected – but we all know, that the country does not consider Taiwan a country – watch the space. A very unholy alliance is being formed by Russia and China – threatening the very fabric of human rights, civil liberties and the individual freedoms.

So what to do?
Sanctions are threatened and executed – and realising the money flows before the war started, Moscow has prepared itself for quite some time bringing money back into its country. Cutting the SWIFT link would be the sharpest sword, but looking especially at Germany and the Netherlands – it is doubtful that sanctions are called which hurts the own countries. So I guess it will again be those not so much hurting ones – obviously called different by politicians needing to reassure themselves. One has to sound harsh and determined. Too little too late?

So what to do?
Listening to Putin’s indeed on madness bordering speech ordering the invasion, it is clear that common sense will not work and that the limitations of politics as an art of the possible are very tight. As long as the USA flirts with another round of madman Trump and his fascist tendencies, love for fake news and adoration for dictators – like it or not – helplessness will remain the topic of the day.

As long as Europe is still struggling to understand what it really wants and to consequently lives it values and strengthen its determination to be a beacon of hope for democracy and the rule of law, speaking with one voice instead of bitching around and leaders often only trying to push through their countries’ agenda, there is always the gap people like Putin will abuse for own gains and for the own agenda.

While we experience worldwide more and more leaders being relentless and shameless in pushing through their agenda, one can observe on the other site those politicians without really a point of view and determined to be political correct, whatever this means. Most political systems allow meanwhile for people who never have worked, finished a training or study, and they would never survive in the real world, but the chance of being a life-long politician comes to the rescue. A combination which is simply not working on a long term.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it throws at us a lot of questions, a lot of challenges, a lot of question marks. And as painful it is, we have to stand up to all of it.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it triggers in us a lot of emotions, a lot of fear and anger, a lot of desperation, and it shows a lot of limitation of what we can do to stop it or deal meaningful with it.

War is always a defeat for humanity, a defeat for politics, and a defeat for the entire human race. It screams for healing and ethical answers.

I don’t have those answers, but all the questions should push all of us to dig deep into ourselves to find the bits and pieces contributing to an answer as societies which holds a meaningful future and limits the craziness of war and hostilities. Because at the end, war and hostilities make us all to be losers.

To read the mind-boggling speech of Vladimir Putin ordering war, please click here.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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, , ,

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