God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

History prevails – South Africa after the #NoConfidenceVote

There was hope, there were prayers, demonstrations on the streets to voice the displeasure – but even all the news about the Gupta’s and state capture was at the end not good enough to beat history:
the lesson that most struggle and liberation warriors cannot be transformed into democratic politicians – the gaps are simply to big and the mindsets are simply to different. Paired with the cadre deployment of often not very well-educated and trained people whose only credential are faithfulness to the party and the respective leadership with no own thinking makes it even worse. Add a leadership who still is in battle and sees an opposition as “the enemy” – the second miracle of the rainbow nation did not happen today. So the outcome was to be expected by those being realistic even when hope sometimes took over for some lucky moments.
History shows that those coming from the struggle first have to damage and hurt the liberated society almost to the point of no return before things can change. Countries in South America, but also neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe or Mozambique are good examples of what to expect.

Ideology trumps common sense – and if you have a streetwise clever president who uses the structures of the organisation to enrich himself and to escape justice – South Africa will have to learn that the Madiba magic was a once off and that there is nothing special about the country. The often-heard entitlement of young people – born out of the motion of being a special breed of people – mixed with the disappointment of the majority seeing that most of their own leaders are only looking for their own advantage –  will not prevail and fail the test of time. The “fat cats” promised not to be seen under an ANC led government according to Mandela now harvest the goodies while most people still struggle and the economic is spiralling down.

The Andiles and Malemas of South Africa are not helping either – and as long the terms of “white” and “black” are common weapons to attack each other – nothing will change, but society will play into the hands of those in charge and taking away the riches of the country or handing it over to an Indian family and other friends.

South Africa will have to come to grips with the fact that it is not at rock bottom yet – and that more pain and more suffering will come before there is a turn for the better. Yes, history prevails but this also means that after defeat comes victory – it also means that nothing lasts forever and that hopefully more and more people speed up the process of changing course for a better and more prospect South Africa. And for that reason – and for the sake of those suffering from their own brothers and sisters now in government – we have to continue working for a better and just society so that South Africa is seen again as an example of hope and healing for the whole continent.

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

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Every day is a Mandela Day for HOPE Cape Town

Every day is a Mandela Day for HOPE Cape Town, but this day where we commemorate in practical terms Madiba is indeed a special day. We do good and mourn at the same time that corruption and mismanagement has stopped many developments in South Africa, which would have brought even more positive developments into the lives of those living at the margin of our society. It was great to see a real picture of Rainbow Nation activities during this day – have a look at the pictures – and go to our webpage www.hopecapetown.com or our FB page https://www.facebook.com/HopeCapeTownAssociationTrust/ to learn more about the great work of the organization, but also learn about the marvelous people who helped to make this day a very special one.

But Blikkiesdorp is also a tough environment – you don’t watch out and things are mysteriously disappearing – and it remains unknown whether it is driven by pure poverty and need or a lack of understanding between the words “mine” and “yours”. But being reminded that 5 star hotels telling you that nowhere more is stolen than in upmarket hotels by wealthy people I guess on Mandela Day one shouldn’t worry too much if more is distributed than planned. South Africa is in a very difficult situation right now and politicians and political leaders as well as business people are not really always example of honesty and decency. So I have decided just to overlook it for today and take pride and joy in what HOPE Cape Town has done today under the leadership of Marlene Whitehead and with the help of so many great people – thanks for making a difference and putting a smile on the faces of so many people. And the promise is as said in the beginning that we from HOPE Cape Town will continue to make every day a Mandela Day for the time to come.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , ,

Decolonization

The word “decolonization” is in South Africa a buzz word – especially among students it seems to be the holy grail of changing and transforming universities and centers of study and learning. The suggestions how to achieve it are indeed very diverse – up to the point that students demand to abolish traditional sciences and start anew to discover that the world is not flat. Obviously such ideas are not helpful and mirror quite a limited understanding of the world for a student and even put into question if a person with such demands has the maturity to study. Also burning libraries or destroying paintings and university property does not help in reaching the goal of “decolonization”.
For me the word has a much deeper meaning – reflecting on the history of colonization and the madness of today’s political leadership as seen in a President Trump or President Zuma I see the word rather more broadly defining the transition of human civilization in this global village into a new area. The advent of social media and the consequences of instant information of today’s news and the readily available information about the past, the history and – if reflected and the dots joined – its dynamics shift us humans into a new understanding of who we are and how we can live and should live together. People like Trump and Zuma are representing history, representing a lost world – comfy for the ones who want to keep it desperately and painful for those who are trying to flee out of it by all means.
Decolonization is needed for both parties – because both draw their movements and ideas from a past gone and in fear of the unknown coming in the future. Decolonization is practical, economical, academical and mental – and I bid, that when the real South Africa gets a chance to decolonize without all the political pressure and violence and corruption, it could lead the way and Africa could be transformed from a lost continent into the beacon of hope for the world. We have to start a meaningful conversation without creating a battlefield.

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

The broader picture…the deeper questions

It was quiet a quick process after years of discussions in society and political circles: two weeks ago the German Parliament decided to allow the marriage between two adults of the same-sex and with it all the rights and duties of a married couple. Obviously churches were not impressed and until the very last moment, arguments were exchanged and traded in an effort to hold the vote or to convince members of Parliament to vote either in favor or against it. It was an open vote – and a sign of mature democracy that everybody could vote openly according to his or her conscience. As a church we have to deal with realities, and obviously not only the majority of parliamentarians but also public opinion in Germany was in favor of marriage equality.
Historically the question of marriage and its value for the state has been again and again a question of fierce debate between state and church. Ulrich Sander from the FAZ (German Newspaper) summarized from his point of view this debate in Germany in a piece published on 11.07.2017 and here is a loose translation*:

“The character of marriage and the family as a legally protected community of life is no longer adequately ensured by the present reform. “
This sentence of a Catholic bishop did not aim at the Bundestag vote of 30 June 2017 on the admission of same-sex couples to the legal form of marriage. It fell during the discussions about the change of the marriage and family law four decades ago, at the end of 1977 when the state divorce law was changed from guilt principle to the breakup principle.
The church protest had been even more severe when, in 1953, when the legal entity of the male as “head of family” (Familienoberhaupt) was abolished. Until then it had been stated in the Civil Code: “The man is entitled to the decision in all matters concerning the matrimonial life; He shall in particular determine residence and dwelling “(Paragraph 1354 of the Civil Code). Article 117 of the Constitution had given the legislator a period until 31 March 1953 to abolish or amend the legal provisions being in contrast of equality between men and women. The deadline passed without the legislator having sufficiently redrawn the marriage and family law. Thus, in December 1953, the Federal Constitutional Court stated succinctly that “since the expiry of the period laid down in Article 117, men and women were equally entitled to marriages and families.”
Prevent the destruction of the family
Representatives of the Catholic Church responded by proclaiming the “hierarchical assignment of women to man as their head” grounded in sociological and legal reasons. Although in the sphere of sexuality the husband and wife were equated with the permanent exclusive right to the body of the other, it was necessary to maintain the authority of the husband and father of the family in the sphere of life, for it was vested  in the nature of the conjugal communion.- And that this authority belongs to the man as the “first created” (before the woman): the first pages of the Bible contained – in its church official reading –  the doctrine of the irreversible, imperative dependence of woman on the man. To abolish this is not a legitimate equality of women, but “egalitarianism” and contradicts the divine natural law.
Episcopal commentaries saw the implementation of the basic principle of equality by the abolition of the male head of family as the destruction of the “Western order of marriage and family”. Therefore, the chairman of the Fulda Bishops’ Conference, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Frings, wrote to Federal Minister of Justice Thomas Dehler that the protection of marriage and family guaranteed by Article 6 (1) of the constitution would be undermined if the concept of equality was too much aligned to an individual understanding and so unequal was compared with equal. It is only when the equality of woman is limited to treat equal with equal, but unequal differently, then the destruction of the family can be prevented.
Marriage as a self-purpose
Theologically, such an objection was very ambitious reasoned: both revelation and natural law teaches the hierarchical model, and therefore fundamentally withdrawn from any legislature’s access. Friedrich Wilhelm Bosch, since 1950 full professor for civil law at the University of Bonn, saw now “anarchy” moving into the matrimonial home instead of the natural “hierarchy”. A glance into the “textbook of natural law or the philosophy of law” of one of his predecessors would have helped: “Natural law does not recognize an exclusive paternal power, although such a right is possible by natural law through positive law,” Clemens-August Freiherr Droste zu Hülshoff proclaimed as early as 1831 , Dean of Bonn University and nephew of the great poetess.
Similar argumentation such as 1953 is now introduced in the process of the implementation of the prohibition of discrimination with regard to sexual orientation in family law. “The equality law of the Constitution requires us to treat equality equal and inequalities unequal,” we read from the episcopal press. And the fact is stated that the marriage is not protected by the Constitution “because husbands stand in for one another and accept mutual obligations, but because they are designed to produce and educate children.” Thus the classical Catholic doctrine of marriage is made secretly a constitutional principle, but without its correction by the Second Vatican Council. Klaus Lüdicke, Professor at the Institute of Canon Law at the University of Münster since three decades, summed up the core of the transformation initiated by the Second Vatican Council: “Marriage needs no other purpose than to bind the lives of two people together. Marriage is an end in itself.

He ends of in asking what do we learn out of it – and he concluded that the term “nature” is a very expandable word. I guess there is more to learn if I take this question and bring it down to a more general debate, so the following thoughts are not arguing the case of marriage equality but underlying considerations:
Church has to engage with the modern world and its diversity in a constant and serious way. Church has to acknowledge and reconcile developments in academic research and teaching and faith – bearing in mind, that it was the very church now opposing or ignoring some of its findings has been historically the inventor and guardian and the driving force behind academics.
The world has become more complicated, the questions asked and debated through social media have been more demanding and rushed and time is of essence. On the other hand traditions are important – not so much the form but the content and the rush of the time can hurt the translation and passing on of core values to the next generation. It is a question of striving a balance between action and contemplation; it is a question of unveiling the inner core of a value and the finding of appropriate means to carry it over in changing times. It’s also acknowledging that an honest debate always sees all the grey attached instead of insisting in having only black or white. There will be matters ongoing and relentlessly debated: the relation between state and religion, the question of democratic decisions and liberties of faith communities. Those discussions must be robust, but with respect – while acknowledging the past the argument that it has been so since ages can’t be an argument anymore, but at the same time we have to have an awareness where we are coming from and where we are wanting to go and develop towards. Equality, human rights are never topics to be concluded, the mystery of human life, human love and the mystery of the divine demand that we continue to engage with each other, learn from each other, accept diversity amongst each other and allow for a tolerance and a legal framework which protects and celebrates love and life as much as possible and guarantees the liberties needed to live life to the fullest (John 10.10)

* Source: Katholischer Protest mit langer Tradition

Filed under: Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
33 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
7 months to go.

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