God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

No nation is criminal, and no religion is terrorist

In a message to an assembly of nearly 700 community organizers and social justice advocates in California, Pope Francis called on all people to become Samaritans and resist the “grave danger” in this moment to disown our neighbors amid a culture of indifference. “Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart,” the pope said. “You must become a Samaritan,” he said. His letter was delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson and a World Meeting of Popular Movements organizer, who read it together, alternating paragraph by paragraph from English to Spanish, to those gathered in Central Catholic High School gymnasium to participate in the U.S. regional meeting. (“Used with permission from NCRonline.org, a service of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.”)

To read more about this important issue, which surely resounds also on the background of South Africa’s society and challenges please check the following links:

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/unbreakable-world-meeting-justice-opens-california

http://www.lastampa.it/2017/02/17/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/no-people-is-criminal-and-no-religion-is-terrorist-BBpd3RREVg0dyWuggiUNXP/pagina.html

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Orlando

13407203_10154457792963643_1199818576249987981_nTraveling four weeks within the USA to establish HOPE Cape Town USA and visiting five states was quite a mission, but a wonderful opportunity to meet great people, to learn so much about this great country being plagued with so many problems from #blacklifematters, #stopHIVcriminalization to #prayfororlando.

I must admit that the latter really made me think and touched me in a way which I have not really fully understood. There is first the sheer unbelievable feeling to wake up to news of a mass shooting in Orlando – a single perpetrator killing 49 people and wounding another 25 before being shot himself. That alone makes you think about the gun laws in the USA, the unhealthy relationship between the freedom to carry a weapon as a constitutional right and a symbol of independence. The chocolate “Kinderueberraschung”, the chocolate egg with the surprise for kiddies is not allowed in  the USA because it is deemed dangerous for children, but you can buy an assault riffle without any problem. And to make this whole story even more confusing: people on a terror warning list are not able to fly with any airline in the USA, but they are allowed to purchase any weapon they desire. Logic is left in the dark and common sense seems to have disappeared.
But in Orlando, there are more layers – it was in a gay club where people were killed. A presumed safe place where LGBTI folks could relax and feel loved and appreciated amongst themselves turned into a deadly trap. An anyhow marginalized community received another deadly hit again and I must admit that the outpouring of condolences left a somehow bitter taste. Being it politicians or religious leaders voicing shock and condolences – I can’t help but notice the bigotry in their words having words of comfort for those they normally judge and put in a corner of sin and  wrongdoing.
I also learned about the story of “Pulse”, the club hit by this hate crime. The name is a reminder of a person having died from Aids related complications – the sister opened the club to remember his life and to create a place of joy and safety for the LGBTI community mostly hit in the USA from the HIV pandemic.

It is said that the perpetrator has pledged is loyalty to ISIS which brings me to the third and forth layers I am contemplating in the moment. The radicalization of people and the darker flip side of social media. It seems that the world becomes more radical, be it on governmental level or in social life: if you don’t get what you want or you disagree with your neighbor it seems that violence is the way to go for most people. Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq are examples but also looking into Africa, into South Africa where the local elections are due in August: how many counsellors and politicians have been killed in recent weeks and months, just as a result of power play – even within a party? Paris and Brussels and now only yesterday in England MP Jo Cox,  violence and killings mark more and more the political or ideological battle for minds and hearts.

And social media play their part in this big times. How easy is it to bring graphic contents into the world and to distribute it to every corner of it. How easy is it today to sit at home and being radicalized by watching violent videos almost like bloody reality shows. But would censorship be the alternative like the SABC, the South African National Broadcaster having decided to ban all violent protest from airing in the news?

A last layer (of many more in my mind) to mention is the realization that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly. An old wisdom newly internalized after a trip where everywhere I go there is gun violence and innocent bystanders are in danger. So life is precious and should be lived every minute up to the fullest.

The last four weeks have indeed triggered a lot of contemplation and reflection on how the world ticks in the moment and how much I want to tick with this world in the same tune – or even not. I can even sense a mild form of radicalization, not violent at all but being more conscious about who I am, what I stand for, what is important in life. And that is not only due to all things mentioned but also thanks to the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet or to meet again: our newly appointed directors of HOPE Cape Town USA: Stacie, Shirley and Joe; Dan and Claudia in New Jersey, Veronica, Inga, Khadija, Tim and Rebaux in California, Rev Neil from the Cathedral of HOPE in Dallas/Texas; Bruce and Diane in Chicago and all those who came to the meet & greet event in Dallas/Texas.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog: HOPE Cape Town USA is established and we file now for the federal tax exemption status. If you want to know more, please visit http://www.hopecapetownusa.com

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May days and US blues

It is the time of the year – May and the prestigious Ball of HOPE is on again – this year with Nevio Passaro as a special guest coming from Germany to entertain those lucky to have a ticket. A sold out event is always a dream for the organizers and also this year we are indeed full to capacity. The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and HOPE Cape Town celebrating 15 years of the Ball of HOPE, 15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association and 10 years of HOPE Cape Town Trust. Time is indeed flying and it seems yesterday when we started humbly with opening the ward G7 at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital. Was it at the beginning important to have a ward dedicated to infectious diseases and to administer treatment – in those days government were battling anti-retrovirals as poison – so is the scenario now completely different. The mother to child transmission rate is down to 5% but could be pressed further down to under 1%. People on anti-retroviral treatment are staying healthy longer and longer – but still HIV is a major contributor to the death toll of South Africa. All the prevention work has not cut down the new infection rate the way it was expected – so the status quo of HIV in South Africa is still remaining a mixed one.
15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association also means 15 years of support from so many different people, some being members of the HOPE family since interception of the project, others have come and gone and many are joining in our days. They are all a blessing for those HOPE Cape Town is able to assist in getting a life back with the possibility of a good future.
But “balls” are not falling from heaven – preparation is hard work and bringing together great entertainment, good food and all the logistics coming with it seems every year to be a never-ending story. That the AGM of the HOPE Cape Town Trust is the very same day of the Ball of HOPE makes this day even more challenging.

If you live in South Africa welcome to watch Expresso Show on SABC 2 Friday, 6th of May in the morning and watch Katlego Maboe, our HOPE Cape Town Goodwill Ambassador performing with Nevio Passaro from Germany. So you get a glimpse of what to expect at the Ball of HOPE 2016.

But May is not only marked by this local event, HOPE Cape Town is adding a new sister entity called “HOPE Cape Town USA” which was founded in Dallas Texas some weeks ago. I will fly to the first directors meeting mid May and if you read this blog and live in or around Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or New Jersey and you want to help, assist, meet up – just let me know and we will get in touch. The HOPE family is growing and being a HOPE ambassador is a worthwhile cause. Spread the word, make connections, support those living here in South Africa with little hope for a bride future. HIV, TB and related illnesses, connected with poverty, unemployment, weak education is a recipe for disaster, not only in a personal life but at the end for a society as a whole. You can make a difference in the life of others – count your blessings and pass on some to those without/.

 

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DOMA ruling and the Catholic Church

Much is written and spoken about the ruling of the US American Supreme Court from this week regarding the question of “Defense of Marriage Act” and a question related to a vote in California. With amazement I have seen the reactions as expected by people and supporters for or against the so-called “gay marriage”.  As somebody who does not like the phrase “gay marriage’ as it confuses terminology for most people, I was tempted to write an article why I think the church has lost its battle against equality on the state’s terrain defining marriage and it’s benefits. And why the church should stop fighting an already  lost war but concentrate on its portfolio and support functional families as much as she can. Then I came across the National Catholic Reporter and an OP of Michael Sean Winters named “Marriage, the church and the Supreme Court”.

It is a very honest analysis of the situation and consequences of the ruling and starts like this:

“The Supreme Court’s twin decisions in the battle over same-sex marriage on Wednesday were momentous, to be sure. But Wednesday was not “tragic,” as the statement from the USCCB stated. Nor were the court’s decisions victories in what Harvey Milk’s nephew unfortunately termed the “defining civil right issue of our time,” a claim that was downright offensive coming within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s far more objectionable decision to gut the Voting Rights Act. Turns out, old-style civil rights remains the defining civil rights issue of our time. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The state’s power in defining marriage is of central relevance to this case.” Indeed. And there is the rub for me. I do not understand why some people, including some bishops, are all worked up about same-sex marriage when the fact that the state, not the church, has the power to define civil marriage is well-established in American legal culture, and it was so long before anyone ever talked about gay marriage…”

For me the piece gives some insight in US American thinking, in US American Catholic thinking and it inspires to think deeper about the challenges behind the obvious battle of minds, one sees first. And so I do provide the link to the whole article and hope, that this inspires people new to think about the question, not along the usual “party lines” for or against it. There is nothing in this world only black or only white – but many shades of grey are involved. Let’s look at these and find ways not to go over board in fighting each other but finding common grounds like the happiness of people, like the love and commitment of people, the exclusivity of a relationship, which by the way when it comes to HIV and AIDS is of great importance for the containment of the virus.

Who is interested into church life in Germany has surely followed the publication of the Lutheran Church in our days also about marriage and it’s definition. As for a Luther the marriage is a non – sacramental issue, obviously the sister church in Germany comes to complete different assessments about values of this issue. The debate is on, and one has to find the common grounds but also the parts, where parties defining society differ in their approach to the topic of marriage.

The link: Marriage, the church and the Supreme Court – NCR

Enjoy reading!

Filed under: Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
20 days to go.

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