God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Sheer irrational government decisions

It happened again – yesterday a court came to the rescue of millions of South Africans trapped into regulations partly defying any common-sense or logic. The North Gauteng High Court declared the rules and regulations of level 4 and current level 3 irrational and set aside – giving government 2 weeks to change the way they conduct business in the Covid-19 crisis.

For somebody, who has questioned sharply the thoughts and authoritarian behaviour of Cele, Mbalula and Dlamini-Zuma, but also other ministers and governmental bodies in the last week it comes not as a surprise, but still as a relief that judges share the sentiment, that many of the rules are arbitrary and serve nothing else than a hidden agenda – but not the fight against Corona or the protection of people.  “Sheer irrational” were the regulations when it came to Corona – sheer rational when you look at it as a tool to satisfy ideology and the temptation of power.

This all adds to the advice of the medical advisory council that our current level does not serve any further health purpose and as Dr Gray spelled it out, even before many rules were simply not justified at all.

The state capture of a different nature we witnessed in the last weeks has been brought to a hold – one day in the future, people will realise how much they own the courts to uphold the constitution and protect them against politicians who with all their greed for power and their feeling for entitlement on so many levels, keeping the masses depending on their handouts.

The new South Africa will only start to prosper when old mechanisms and ideologies are left behind and the ruling party starts to understand themselves as a political party amongst others and not as the masters of South Africa’s destiny with a birthright of power because they contributed heavily to the freedom of all in the country. Truth is: Many forces came together – many sacrifices were made in so many ways – many lives lost – and the greatness of liberators is not measured in the power they keep but the humanity and humbleness with which they serve the people and with the openness for changes in a democratic political system where there is no enemy but a struggle of minds within a clear set of constitutional rules.

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

Covid-19 and the temptation of power abuse

There is a lot of praise for the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in South Africa and in the exuberance of most South Africans it is almost a sacrilege to voice concern or criticism or ask question.
If you do so or continue to balance this avalanche of accolade with questions on social media you are asked why negativity seems to be your friend in current times.

We celebrate Freedom Day tomorrow here in South Africa and indeed I feel obliged to voice my concerns and to point out signs which threaten the very freedom we are celebrating in some hours. Crisis always also shows character and ability – the heavy-handed approach of Minister Cele is only one example of clear overreach and his lust to tell people what to do and what not to do. After weeks of draconian measures to combat a virus President Ramaphosa called almost all available military onto the streets before addressing South Africans. There are concerns  by some constitutional law experts that he ignored some constitutional duties while doing so – but be it as it be: on the background on their heavy-handed approach, accusations of overreach and methods defying the bill of rights and the dignity of people it is a worrying sign to watch carefully. Telling in his latest televised speech about the new stage-approach to an end to lock-down he failed to mention the sudden nightly curfew applied; only revealed by Minister Dlamini-Zuma days later.
The promised sale of alcohol from Friday disappeared also within this time frame – and in a manner which would make proud every kindergarten teacher the aforesaid Minister addressed the people of South Africa telling them amongst others, that if they don’t behave, all little perks allowed under level 4 lockdown will be revoked. Followed by Minister Patel who seems to think, that industry and companies can be switched on and off like the switch of a bedside lamp. Again and up to detail South Africans are told what to do and not to do, always under the threat of revoking privilege. Confusion reigns about personal sports activities which ones again were promised – last time from the Minister of Health and voided by the Minister of Police – this time from the President, but put again in question by his minister.

What really triggers concern is the term “Radical Economic Transition”, the president used in his speech, which gave rise to the assumption, that the crisis will be abused for political gains and scores. Listening to and reading news about the Finance Minister now suggesting that Spaza Shops should be run be South Africans only and that restaurants, which don’t have a 50+% of South African employees will not be allowed to open after the lockdown the term ‘new economy’ becomes a dangerous shape. Adding to this is the insistence of the Minister of Tourism, that BEE is the marker for who receives government help in these times of hardship. It seems to me that there is a palpable danger that the Covid-19 crisis is abused for a political agenda.

This would not be unique as we see the same in Hungary, the USA and other countries. Uncertain times and the anxiety of people are a great tool to push through agendas without lots of resistance. In times of crisis, people are so fixated on the threat that they accept the exceptional as the new normal just to get out of the situation. And if the soul of society is looking for rescue, voices of objections or concern are labelled negative, unconstructive or even unpatriotic.

Freedom is hard-earned, democracy is hard work, balancing the values of freedom and democracy against protection and the duty of care of a state is a delicate mission. South Africa is still in transition, the minds of many are not deeply rooted in the new democracy – lots of hearts and minds have still to be convinced that this form of government brings the most advantages for the lives of people.
Also, our government and Members of Parliament often show a contempt to democratic values or playing the rules in a way desecrating them. The ruling party still has to learn that power in a democratic society is no birth right but hard-earned in serving the people as part of a system of separation of powers.

So the temptation of power abuse is real and the warning voices against this temptation are indeed necessary, and they should grow louder in our days. Fear is never a good adviser and mass hysteria neither. Covid-19 reminds us that the human race is not on top of the world but part of the endless battle of evolution within this universe – really nothing new under this sun – new is maybe that this dimension of existence is written into our lives in a digital age much more wittingly than ever before in the history of human mankind. But that can’t be a reason to give up the blessings and freedoms of a democratic society.

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

South Africa on the edge – and why NGO’s are in this time so important

We have to be honest: Corruption, the inability of freedom fighters turned politicians, sheer greed and no time to develop proper political and social leadership under the pressure and expectations of the new dawn – all those factors have brought South Africa on the edge of disaster – painted nicely in very dark colors yesterday with declaring “Stage 6” of load shedding. A very nice word for mismanagement as well as non existing or minimal maintenance by Eskom officials and the result of a transformation policy kicking out institutional knowledge and beefing up manpower far more than the operations necessitate.

It is felt like a time of crisis, a time of anxiety and a time where people and society feels left alone fighting forces on a daily base they can’t influence – being at the mercy of irrational SOE’s and broken services deliveries and somehow a very bleak future.
In such times the power of NGO’s and civil society organizations are coming to the front: they are often the rescue net for many ordinary citizens – they are able to give hold and a perspective for those feeling powerless, they are passing on the small flame of hope – in the darkness of load shedding a small flame has indeed the power to light up and guide the way.
In such times it becomes clear that politics alone can’t solve a countries problems or cover all the missteps done in the past. Non-governmental organizations, volunteers and all those forces for good are the stabilizing factors making sure that the social fabric of society is not completely broken.

Such times may be a wake-up call for the future that politics recognize more than ever before the need to develop a culture of cooperation, of reliable partnerships to strengthen the service delivery people are deserving on a daily base. In South Africa this culture is still in its infancy – often one has the impression that NGO’s are gap-filler or paid cheap sub-contractors of state entities not living up to the promises of past elections. It is time to elevate those relationships onto an eye-to-eye level.

At the end state entities and NGO’s are serving the same people – they are called to support the dignity of every citizen and enable him / her to live life to fullest as guaranteed by the constitution and the Bills of Rights.

NGO’s can’t replace government run services, but they complement and at times like ours even cushion lack of service and soften the anxiety and fear attached to it. In doing so they also cushion and influence the picture, in this case South Africa is giving to the rest of the world. All a reason more to realize how important NGO’s are in our times.

 

Filed under: Africa, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Email service used by Snowden shuts itself down, warns against using US-based companies

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civ...

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not about HIV and AIDS. This is about freedom of expression, entitlement to privacy and the right use of power given by the people. It’s about social media, we all use to promote our cause. It’s about the very civil rights, our forefather fought and suffered for… It’s about the environment we are able to work as citizens of the world. And if the “greatest nation on earth” , as they like to proclaim themselves, the beacon of democracy, as they see themselves and the country almost all our email traffic touches in one or the other way – then it’s time for everybody, regardless in which field one is working to stand up and say “no” and “stop it”. Maybe even the word “resistance” against those abusing their mandate and making a joke of democracy and liberty has to come into play.

roger hollander

Roger’s note: Sorry to repeat this story so soon, but this article expands  on the issure in an important way.

 

Edward Snowden: ‘Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, and the rest of our internet titans must ask themselves why they aren’t fighting for our interests the same way’

 

 

A Texas-based encrypted email service recently revealed to be used by Edward Snowden – Lavabit – announced yesterday it was shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret US court orders to provide government access to its users’ content. “After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations,” the company’s founder, Ladar Levinson, wrote in a statement to users posted on the front page of its website. He said the US directive forced on his company…

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

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