God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A _________ New Year

What should we wish for the year 2021? Should we wish for a better 2021 – or a healthier one? A more successful or a normal one?

At the end of 2020 I guess we all are sitting with a variety of feelings and emotions and trying to find words adequate to end this extra-ordinary year and to envision our wishes for the new year rising up at midnight. We have lived through a year which will ones be marked in history books as a year of the Covid-19 pandemic – and people will read the figures of death like we read and studied it in history about the black plaque or the Spanish flu. All, what remains from the suffering of people, of tears and fights for life will be numbers and cold facts. And life has moved on….

So what to wish for 2021?
Maybe that whatever we learned in 2020 might influence how we live the rest of our lives and that we pass it on to the next generation?
Those paying attention learned certainly in practice how fragile life can be and that all the promises of politicians, faith leaders and our own convincing of stability can fail in a split second. We all knew it in theory, some have experienced it in their own life, but as a global society it was a first for many.
We also learned that our political systems failed their people badly:
China, Communist and dictatorial governed failed the world in containing the virus – the system did not allow for bad news to spread and forced people to hide the truth. Even now in the aftermath, journalists who exposed the lies and cover up are sentenced to prison for years.
The capitalistic systems and democracies also failed their societies – in the USA, the system of the people for the people had produced an egomaniac sexist white old leader making lies fashionable and in his orbit the virus was marginal at best – ignored most times with horrendous consequences for people. In the European Union in March suddenly every country ran amok and the “union” part of a common response was thrown out of the window in no time. The political culture of thinking only in election cycles hindered and hinders till this very day a plan lasting longer than the next election. Visionaries are rare in our times when it comes to parliamentarians.

We also learned that anxiety and fear creates conspiracy theories and that a small minority can get a grip on media and social media, making a rational approach almost impossible. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Covid-19 failures are in part also products and results of the negative side of social media; Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp need ethical guidelines and controls. If one thing is clear at the end of 2020: human mankind is not that advanced it thought it was – and maybe this knowledge may assist us in another dilemma we face: earth warming and environmental question.

We are part of the ecological system called earth – and we need all the layers and fine-tuned working mechanisms of nature to survive – our 2020 fragility might be the last warning sign for the human race to hold in and reverse course, to become a bit humbler again in how we see and approach our environment.

Coming back to the original question what to wish for 2021:

May 2021 be the year of reflection and turning our lives and lifestyles around, may the vaccine not be the entry door to going back to the normality we left in 2020, but a positive booster which not only fights a virus, but our questionable attitudes towards ourselves, our societies, our environment and our world as such.

May 2021 bring us next to physical health the mental health we need to clearly see our interconnectivity on so many levels. May it bring prosperity based on considerateness for those around us and the ambience we are living in.
May this prosperity be a shared one.

May 2021 the year of practical realisation that we are all in this together, as one human race starting to create a world without racism, starting to heal what has to be healed in this regard so urgently.

May 2021 be a year of more humanity, more decency, more considerations and more true life for all.

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

Human Rights Day

The world is celebrating Human Rights Day today – and just listening to Amnesty International and other human rights organisation we can learn, that the question of human rights seems to be in deep crisis.
The “black lives matter” movement in the USA, the pictures of immigrant kids being separated and being hold in cages in the land of the free, the GLBTI free zones in Poland and developments in Hungary indicate that this year, we not only see the usual suspects when it comes to violation of human rights, but an expansion to members of the European Union and the USA, which ones was partly seen as at the forefront in the fight for democracy and human rights.
The question of immigration policies in Europe and the USA, but not to forget SE Asia contributes another dark shadow on the promise to uphold human rights in our global village. The killing of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the non-consequences for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) highlight the demise of basic international understanding what constitutes human rights – and by the way human decency.

Social media and fake news are definitely also a thriving force behind the advent of more and more human rights violations and while the so-called “West” is busy with itself, China appears more and more keen to demolish any trace of human rights within their territory as clearly to be seen in Hong Kong.

What is shocking how in the open and without shame those violations are taking place and how little resistance can be seen countering it. Human rights often seem to become a sheer whisper in the arena of politics when countries deal with each other. Trump era and Covid-19 seem to have ignited a wave of shamelessness and blunt disregard for this topic.

This has to change; otherwise we will lose all what was achieved when it comes to human rights worldwide. It was a long way of ongoing battles and compromises – we are in danger to plunging back into the dark Middle Ages….

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , ,

Flatten the curve?

“Flatten the curve” is the slogan to be heard all over the world – and South Africa was following the stringent measurements which keeps society at bay in so many countries. But instead of balanced measurements South Africa opted for the more Chinese approach clamping down as at many movements as possible even prescribing in detail what items could be sold or not when venturing out to go shopping. Police and military was sent out to enforce the lock-down, and they continue to try to stop any unnecessary travel of citizens.
Having a day when death by police brutality wins against the number of death through the Coronavirus certainly tells a story on its own. There are many questions whether physical distancing is working in the high density townships of South Africa, even more whether the ban of cigarettes or fresh air and some exercise really make sense.
But there is another question lingering in the air which is of equivalent or even more important:

Does the “flatten the curve” approach is feasible in a country which just was downgraded to junk status; a country economically falling apart, unemployment on a very high scale, more people on social grants than in work and a national debt exceeding 3 trillion Rand and going up to 4.5 trillion in the next years?
How long can a country, after years of state run corruption and the current constant lingering in no-man’s land of real decision-making in this regard flatten the curve before it is economically and socially broken beyond repair in the lifetime of those anyhow currently struggling?

Virologists tell us that without flattening the curve the death toll would be very high but the virus run out of steam in a couple of weeks while flattening the curve will save thousands of lives and prevent the collapse of the anyhow weakened health system. South Africa has seen in the Aids Pandemic what it means to lose people on a daily base in their hundreds. It can vouch for the tears and pain of an almost lost generation and the ignorance of a government towards its people. This time no one can complain about any ignorance – being prescribed what you can buy is the opposite of ignorance – one almost has the impression, there is never a middle ground in South Africa.

So the question is how to balance all this in a way which makes the most sense? How to take the people with on the journey beating the virus without destroying the future of the country economically?
The Covid-19 pandemic and how to react is a question in the crossroads of economic and ethical questions, it wonders our approach to life and meaning of life. And it certainly makes unmistakable clear that human mankind is not the master of the soil but part of something much bigger, part of the lot which we call the universe.

This is obviously not only a question for South Africa but the world as such. Nevertheless, in a country with its very unique and painful history, its still open wounds of the past and its attempt to walk as a democratic society, the challenge to balance remains.
Authoritarian solutions like in China are not adequate nor copies of the sophisticated European systems – we South Africans should have “ubuntu” as the baseline to find our own way to deal with the curve.

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

Shadows of the digital age

I am not sure how you felt when you first got acquainted to a computer, a laptop, a cellphone or opened your first Facebook Account and discovered the 24/7/365 open world of connectivity and news. It was exciting, it felt that a new dimension was added to life and a window of opportunities, better understanding and freedom was knocking on the door.
I don’t know how much has changed for you, but meanwhile the flood of information, the stress of the constant music making gadgets, wearing headphones or earpieces and talking loud ahead while eating, walking, working and running around adds rather to stress than to the delight of being. Permanently being available – always knowing what happens across the globe can develop in a burden rather than a blessing. Because like in the newspapers: bad news travel fast, radical opinions making headlines and very often all the drama of the world popping up in front of the eyes masking the greatness and joy of real life.
Politics has changed dramatically and with more or less unrestrained possibilities to lie and cheat and fake news a new breed of politicians is turning the possibility of broad communication into a weapon of disinformation and manipulation.
And not only this: looking at the USA: being exposed by social media of often racist and macho white attitude, a new cult emerges bending laws and human decency to defend indefensible actions and by doing so destroying values most people thought we had secured for the future. Lots to digest for the normal human being, either forced instinctively to run with the crowd or withdraw into a little private world to avoid despair. Fencing the own little word creates its own discriminations and dehumanizations.
Another way out of those shadows of the digital age is absolute control like China tries to enforce it for their citizens. But giving the power to decide what I am allowed to now and then finally to live for is surely not compatible with the civil freedoms and the human dignity, many fought for through the ages.
There are lots of shadows of the digital age – the world transforms in a massive way and challenges the ways we humans perceive reality.
Interesting times, challenging times, times not for the faint-hearted, but we will be only able to create a future for all if we realize and confront the shadows now and don’t allow a group of people to not only match, but outperform Georg Orwell’s 1984.

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

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

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

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Charity Dinner in Berlin / Germany 2021

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