God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Pentecost and Ramadan in exhausting times

 

 

 

 

 
Let’s be honest: our times are overwhelming in the moment – it is tiring to learn every day new scandals about our government, president and ministers and associates in South Africa. It is causing fatigue to see every day tweets and news from the US American president whose self-absorption trumps all his predecessors, adding to the complication of international politics. It is simply too much to watch the news and learn about new horrors of terror, killing sprees and war in our global village. And closing the circle and coming back to South Africa it simply creates sadness and incomprehension to read constantly about all the rapes and murders in a society having lost completely the moral compass.
“Enough is enough” one would like to shout and close eyes and ears to withdraw from all those stories, yearning for times of a “normal” life whatever it means for each and everybody of us.
Feeling helpless in the chaos of our times might be a normal reaction, but maybe such times remind us how important it is to know who we are and what we stand for. Maybe such times bring us closer together with those, who care, with those who mind more than their own business. Intact families and knowing the own values also helps as does speaking truth to power. Using whatever means one has to encourage each other and simply to do good, to do what has to be done and being a living example for others.
It is indeed difficult especially in South Africa to do so – the narratives of colored pain and historical entitlement versus prescribed guilt creates a sensitivity which is in danger to be the base for new injustices and for the time being complicates the ability to face all the challenges of life in our times.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost today – we believe that the divine spirit opens new doors and let people of different languages and faith understand each other. It is a reminder that our lives meant to be full of love, hope as well as tolerance and respect for each other. Pentecost opens a new dimension of faith being a tool to understand each other – it contrasts so greatly from those using faith as a tool of destruction or hiding place for their insults on the divine. Our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith celebrating Ramadan – a month of reflection and devotion to a God of Mercy. We should never forget in these trying times there is faith as a source of encouragement and rooting ourselves to withstand whatever is thrown at us. And not only to withstand, but to change and alter to the positive. The true meaning of faith: a source of hope…

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

Going to hell…

We at HOPE Cape Town have people of all faith working for us and it has been for me not a problem at all as I believe doing good deeds bring people together. I am actually always interested in questions of Interfaith and this week, two events were taking place regarding this topic. The AGM of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative was held at St. Marks in Cape Town and it was wonderful to see how the representatives of different religions were eager to work together. I am thrilled to continue working on the board of this fine organization contributing towards peace and understanding in the mother city.
The other event took place at Herzlia Secondary School in Cape Town where I was invited to be part of a panel, discussing with students from different schools about the importance of religion for young people in the 21st century. Quite a strong debate and I learned amongst others that I – unfortunately – will go to hell. How comes?
In one of the group discussions there was the question of friendship between a Muslim and a Christian and after lot of debate, I was told by one of the students that indeed friendship can be developed between a Christian and a Muslim, but that the friendship between two Muslims are always have a more intense meaning. The word “brotherhood” was used to describe this more intimate friendship. I also learned from my young discussion partner that a Muslim has the duty to bring the Christian onto the right path – meaning: the right religion and that he should never give up till the end. Which triggered my question: And what happens if I die without converting? He was very sorry – and one could see it in his facial expression, but he told me, that unfortunately I have to go to hell then.
I found that discussion amazing, because normally at such occasions we try to be nice to each other and avoid touchy subjects like “going to hell”. The honesty of this student made me think how much is still to learn from each other and to accept where there remain differences. But I am lucky, I don’t have to be sorry for my Muslim friends, because in my Christian heaven there is space for everyone – even those who call God “Allah”. And for the rest, I strongly believe that the mercy of God will do the rest. So no worries, but the acknowledgement, that the work of an Interfaith Council is very important. Then there are more questions than just the future of unrepentant Christians – another discussion group got on me about my interpretation of “Adam and Eve” …. but that we leave for another blog. 🙂

But I am grateful for such evenings of discussions with young people and I appreciate their frankness and honesty. We need such robust exchanges to know, who we are and what we stand for in our faith.

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

Bidding farewell to IAM

We all are learning to bid farewell at times, it is like a repeated rehearsal for the big farewell of dying.  Today I bid farewell to IAM where I was for 6 years on board as a trustees. IAM stands for Integrative Affirmative Ministry and deals with the question of inclusion of gay and lesbian and transgender people into the mainstream churches. It is an amazing bunch of people, straight, gay and lesbian, priests, reverends and bishops are taking seriously the situation of the gay and lesbians who are part of the churches, but most times are not welcomed. Take my church: Homosexuality is intrinsic evil, so I have read – but being a homosexual is ok – well, as long as you don’t live it out. Not even in a committed partnership. It’s one of the most contradictory teachings in the church: Your God-given sexuality is not allowed to be practised, you are sentenced to a life in chastity to be certain to go to heaven… So they think or so some think.. Not sure what God thinks.. But I am sure that his unconditional love allows more than the church’s teaching. Other churches are fine with homosexuality – as long as it is not the pastor. Some are fine with a homosexual pastor – but not that the boyfriend or partner is living in the parish house. And vividly I remember the fight in the Anglican church when the first openly gay living bishop was ordained. What kind of threats from African and US Anglicans wanna – know – it – better – what – is – God’s – will…

The churches teaching is based on the scripture – well, the scripture did not know about committed relationships, it did not know about sexuality as we do – but what St. Augustin and others thought to know some hundred years ago – nothing has changed for the official church. Or has it? The permission of a bishop in Vienna to allow for a gay parish council chair is a light at the end of a very long tunnel. But the fight continues about the issue – and we often forget that we talk about brothers and sisters in Christ – this is not an academic study or reflection. I personally believe that we should leave it to God and the people concerned what happens between two adults in a bedroom as long as it is consensual and committed.

But back to the farewell – after six years of serving on board of this fine organisation I retired today from service and it was a touching moment. I really learned a lot about the Afrikaans culture, about LGBTI, about church and Christian communities – it was a humble experience and an eye opener in many instances. Judith, Peter, Retha and all the rest: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love, your friendship and the joined efforts. David, who also left today after 8 years of service: Have a great sabbathical, bishop and keep your friendly and welcoming attitude…  And yeah, we all keep in touch…

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

Interview

Interview with a journalist from the WDR radio – and once again I am reminded how different the situation is in Europe and in Africa. Once again I count all our blessings but also have to list all our challenges: more people on treatment but definitely a growing risk of resistance due to the fact, that medication is not taken as prescribed or discontinued for a while. And yes more people know about the pandemic, but knowing does not mean that they act accordingly. Knowing about HIV does not prevent unprotected sex in many instances, having HIV/AIDS in the curricula of schools or NGO’s or other institutions and companies does not mean that the stigma is going away.
People are still killed or silenced or kicked out when they reveal their infection – people still think it can only be the others but not my partner who is infected. People still go for a test but disappear before the result is revealed. We still have the pre-test counselling which might be a nice way of giving unemployed people a little stipend or allowance, but does it really make sense to scare the willing people off or to have badly trained counsellors – some of them also infected – projecting their fears on the poor client?

“treatment for all ” is still the TAC request – but what would happen to the health system if all are treated? I guess, it would collapse before we achieve the goal; not sure we should accept promises which cannot be fulfilled – and we know it beforehand. Let’s be honest with giving hope rather than creating disappointment.

We have come a long way since Mbeki’s stance of denial, but we still are living in a somehow tribal organized society where the chiefs are having the say – and our chief preaches protection, but handles his own affairs differently.

Somehow during this interview I once again realise how different the realities are on the different continents, and even on one continent, there is a diversity which must lead to different approaches in the same question. What is good for South Africa might not be good for Uganda or Mali.

And this obviously also applies to the handling of matters in my church – no interview without the special questions about church and prevention and my own struggle within this institution. And also here I try to explain that there are no universal solutions fitting to each and very situation – and that the protection of life in all it’s shade must be priority. No ideal, no ideology, even a Christian one, can replace facing the realities of life. Here and now, with the people in front of me, with all their challenges and weaknesses and possibilities I have to work.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , ,

17.01.2010 “Allah” = God?

Yesterday evening I watched a discussion on Asia News about the question, whether the word “Allah” may only be used by Moslems and not by Christian believers and others. In the studio a politician of an opposition Moslem party, a liberal Moslem woman and the representative of an Moslem Youth organisation which leads the protests against the use of the word “Allah” by non-believers.

One has to know as a background, that all Malay people in Malaysia have to be Moslems, so faith is bound to race in this country and the since more than 40 years leading party advocates this. One also has to know that the word “Allah” is used as the word for God since a long time without any problems. The word “Allah” exists before the Moslem faith was founded and means only “God”.

Listening into the conversation I have to say, that if someone would be cynical, he would have said that the arguments of the representative of the youth were pure rubbish – there were no arguments besides a Fatwa ruling from an organisation, which seems to be at best dubious. Otherwise no argument – pure racism and ignorance as well as intolerance came out of this persons mouth.
As I don’t want to be cynical, I think one has to say, it was an example per excellence to show, how faith can turn into an ideology. An ideology one blindly follows even if the there is no logical reason for it. This is indeed very dangerous – and the petrol attacks on churches in Malaysia have shown that this ideology don’t care about lives when it comes to push through their blind thinking.

I admired the two other partners in this discussion, who tried to bring some seriousness into the debate. No chance – ideology is blind to all arguments, but as they both have been Malay and Moslems, they had to put a brave face to it.

Turning faith into ideology is the temptation of every religion and we as Christians are also not free from it. Surfing some so-called “catholic websites” there is no difference between this Moslem youngster and those publishing the aforesaid websites along a line of ideology, which contributes the devil to everything, which is different from their strict believe system. To confuse ideology with faith is indeed a temptation of this time – as many feel, the well-known basics of life disappear and instead of asking, what this means for our religion, they cling to the old and known one and so turn faith into ideology.

This can be dangerous because it suddenly brings a black and white scheme into our world which does only exists in the minds of people. This world is not black and white, was never black and white and will never be black and white. Religion has always to do with all the grey areas – and it has also always to do with translating the core elements of faith into the language of today. People must understand what they believe in – there is no magic in turning back, in creating barriers in who is belonging to God’s flock or not.

There is also no merit in telling people what words to use, or to tell them, whom to worship and how to worship. Faith is always also an individual story between God and the single person – it is an intimate story – a personal story. And only those, who have understood this, who are knowing that they are indeed also in search of God, can show humility and tolerance towards others.

All would not be so difficult, when ideology, blind ideology turns people into crusaders who ignore the personal relationship of somebody with God. Often force is used to bring another person into a system of believe he or she likes it or not. And this force does not has to be a corporal one – there are so many ways to force and manipulate somebody against his will.

The danger faced by all world religions is that they want to survive as an organisation – and that the temptation is there to prove this with “the will of God” or the will of the founder figure. I am convinced that believer of all faiths have to be aware of this and that is indeed our duty to resist such temptations. God is always bigger than what we can comprehend as humans, and for this little bit of openness which we can find in any religion we have to stand in, again and again.

For Malaysia I hope that race will be separate from religion and that reason wins over the hearts and minds of the people there. For us in the rest of the world it is again a lesson to be aware, how fast it can happen that faith can serve an ideology  or turn into an ideology which blinds people.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 5th, 2018
8 months to go.

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