God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , ,

Change in the world in lightning’s speed

We have to be honest: The world has changed now twice in the last two years with the speed of lightning, and what was considered normal is now the good – or not so good – old times. And most people struggle to run behind and catch up with what’s happening.

There was first the Covid-19 pandemic – lockdowns, limitation of movement, the advent of virtual meetings as a new normal, civil liberties put on hold and countries punished and isolated because they were considered a threat – often more a gut-feeling of politicians or anxiety of political decision maker.

The threat for the human race already lurking in form of the climate change at every corner humanity passes, got an add-on in a small little virus, who loves the density of humans living closely together and expanding into nature in a speed unimaginable 100 years ago.

Now the bloody war against Ukraine – and our world-view changed overnight again:

Looking at Germany or the EU:
Having had a hard-line approach against immigrants and refugees coming from East Europe; looking down at that time on Ukraine as almost a failed and corrupt state with a comedian as president – rather only interested in certain aspects pertaining to the country – we now celebrate the bravery of the Ukrainian people and even sending buses to get as many refugees as possible for free into the European Union.

And suddenly the Johnsons, Orbans and all the other questionable politicians are out of scrutiny; such crisis situations lift suddenly even average politicians and the realisation of the political ignorance towards Russia in the past overrides finding the time for proper analysis and judgement.

Add to this the feeling of powerlessness of people including politicians and their emotional state coming out of a pandemic, we have to watch out not to miss out the balance between what is needed to be done and what is needed to be avoided in the future.

The changes of stopping a mad-man like Putin are slim or almost non-existing. The naivety of the EU (or better wanting to keep and eat the cake at the same time in respect of Russia) and obviously the poison of the Trump years and the downfall of the USA as the world policeman with dark shadows triggers more questions of how international relationships will be governed and organised in the future.

Looking at China’s hunger for power and its relationship with Taiwan, the next big drama is waiting to unfold. And there is Africa with all the aspirations and projected failures in the years to come while being one of the biggest economic markets in the future. Not to forget the reorganisation of the UN – the order established after World War II is coming to an end. The veto powers of some nations will have to be abolished in the current system – and this will not go without a fight.

So more dramatic changes are on the horizon. We have just to watch out, that we can digest as people and as societies what is happening. And not lose hope on the way to other new normals. An one encouragement in this respect is certainly the overwhelming willingness to help the victims of Russian aggression, as seen almost everywhere around the globe.

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

After two years we are happy to announce:

More info: trust @ hopecapetown.org

Filed under: 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, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, The Nex - Indawo Yethu, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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