God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

You are not guilty – transformation thoughts

“You are not guilty about what happened in the past, but you are responsible, that it never happens again” – this free translated quote attributed to Max Mannheimer, a holocaust survivor was an important message for those been born after the end of the “1000-jaehriges Reich”, which also meant the end of killing millions of Jews in that time of the Nazi regime. As a German born after World War II I can relate as even during my time as a child or adolescence there was always that cloud of “you are guilty” of what the older generation had done during the dark times of Germany. We were guilty by association – and traveling through Great Britain or France at that time meant to be verbally victimized at times from those having served as soldiers in World War II or lost loved once…

The quote of Max Mannheimer lifts this burden of attributed and perceived guilt – it transforms the burden of shame into a lesson for the future for all those who were yearning for a society where hate against Jews will never happen again. And it leads also to the distinction between criticizing Israel for its inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and questioning or belittling the holocaust. Israel has very effective played the game of the general guilt of a whole nation including those born much later.

I guess or better I am convinced the statement of Max Mannheimer would also help the South African society – it would stop the entitlement and racism we see also from many young black African people, the so-called “born free”-  holding everybody with the wrong skin color at ransom for what they have not even experienced.  The EFF, BFLF and parts of the ANC and others are playing the card as well – young political leader who have seen the first free election still in diapers or even born later abuse the narrative of apartheid, transformation and compensation for their own political gains.

Transformation in South Africa can only happen if we acknowledge the past without holding the new generation of born free hostage – be it with an ideology or with guilt. We have to draw a line in how we talk and what we demand – and that applies to all and everybody in this country.

We have the task to avoid any further injustice while transforming and compensating the older generation which really suffered. We have to give the new generation the skills within the years of basic education to dream and realize that only the sky is the limit – with knowledge and hard work or study and not corruption, stealing, entitlement – party- or skin-color association.

For this to happen we have to talk much more to each other, listen to each other – in person – not through the veil of social media – but looking each other in the eyes and understanding how it feels to walk in the shoes of the other person. This is not easy, this does not win an election per se, but it is the only way to reconcile, to transform, to create a new society without creating new injustices.

South Africa thought while having Nelson Mandela was president that it is special under the sun. It is not and the hardship and the struggle continues to be proof of it – but we could be becoming special when we – with the right political and social and religious leadership – turning the tide and start to work hard towards a non-racial society where everybody finds the place he or she deserves, because the environment is right to blossom…

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

If I would have a say…

2019 is election year in South Africa and those residing here can already sense the  unease with which political parties and organizations start to get into voting gear – it will be messy and surely deadly for some – violence, intimidation and promises never to be fulfilled will fill the airwaves and the headlines of the newspapers and media outlets.

Being a vocal critic of politicians and movements trying to govern this country I asked myself what would be my priorities if I would have a say – what does this country, this wounded society need in my humble opinion anyhow nobody important is interested in. Nevertheless, who criticizes must also know what he ideally want out of those he takes on – so here is what I think South Africa would need to get going again:

Firstly concentrate and throw lots of money and support into the basic education system while cutting the influence of the teachers union – having the best basic education and making sure that every learner has the best change to attend a school with competent teachers and satisfying facilities should be top priority.

Secondly an initiative to make every company in South Africa to add one employee to train and uplift – tax incentives and other perks could encourage even smaller companies to join such a drive – more people in work and up-skilled – what a benefit for those families and society in general.

A third important focus should be on maintenance – be it water, electricity or other infrastructure  – private-public partnerships and a heightened sense for the importance of maintaining constantly what is available and caters for the basic needs for all citizens.

The health system needs much more attention – not a NHI system which only distributes current failures to a greater audience – but fixing a broken system – health together with education are basics to build up societies and communities.

Entrepreneurship versus entitlement could be the phrase for another initiative to boost the economics already existing in so many suburbs and townships – there are so many clever people out there in the best sense of the word – there is so much goodwill – with the right tools much more could be done to boost economics.

Tackling the ugly face of racism and trying to right the wrongs of the past in a fair way should be high on the agenda – I strongly believe that we shout too much at each other, use social media to express our raw emotions without really listening and falling prey to those in politics abusing those emotions for political gains – places and town meetings for story telling – listening to each other – how much could churches and civil society organization as partners in this be of help in facilitating such story-telling-listening-deeply-events to bring people really together and allow for healing.

Land distribution in a fair manner is important – using also at length first all the land government posses – but acknowledging that most people don’t want to work the land as farmers but have the desire to live in or close by cities.

Together with zero tolerance to corruption, no cadre deployment, a fading out of BBBEE in the current form and strengthening police and the justice system this country could walk with hope into the next years – creating a positive narrative which spins the people and society as such into a gear of productive energy and allowing for dreams to be fulfilled.

Well, I guess this all remains a dream as long as the ruling political party maintains to own the right of ruling the country and others with younger followers abuse the plight of the elderly during apartheid to demand everything while giving nothing back; it is called entitlement or revolution. South Africa lacks in the moment politicians who are real servants of the people and for the people – but there is always the hope that things can change for the better and people with deep love and compassion for this wounded society come to the forefront. Never lose hope.

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

Prolonged Good Friday and hopefully Easter in South Africa

Tomorrow Christians around the world are celebrating Easter – feast of the resurrection. It feels odd to me on first sight as South Africa seems to “enjoy” a prolonged Good Friday experience – crucified by corruption, downgrading, political ignorance, state capture and witnessing an agonizing dead of a liberation movement trying to turn into a political party. And not only on the level of politics and society but also on an personal level Good Friday continues: poverty, lack of food security, high crime rates, xenophobia – maybe this inner connect of a religious celebration and reality brought so many people to churches all over the country yesterday; the sense and recognition of despair and sometimes the knowledge that alone one can’t stem the wave of all this negativity. And South Africa is not alone in this prolonged Good Friday experience when we look around in the global village.

For that very reason the message of Easter, the message of resurrection, the message of hope carried by more than a billion Christians is so important in our days – Easter does not negate or take away the pain of the past or the pain of the present times but it holds the promise of a turnaround and a better future. And more: it speaks not only of a promise but for us Christians it manifests a reality that this turnaround is possible not only in a far away future, but that Easter, that resurrection can and will happen in our days if people just find the courage to act on it, simply to live it.
Easter is not so much the promise of a life after death – it is the promise that things can be turned today – the bible tells multiple stories of people encountering the risen Christ, e.g. on the way to Emmaus and always after such an encounter life is not the same anymore.

Understanding the deeper meaning of Easter frees from many anxieties – it also brings to the forefront that we are at the end all part of one,of the divine – we call it in human language we are brothers and sisters in one family. There is no race except the human race being inter-connected in the divine mystery. The day people understand that we are part of one creation – as the Apostle Paul puts it – still developing through space and times – is the day we will move forward and that will be the day Africa will be rising within the global village.

Easter, the religious message of Easter holds so much for the situation South Africa is in today – and I hope and pray that those attending the Easter celebrations in any of the churches not only are filled with hope but also filled with the energy to heal and transform our South African society for the better – ambassadors of a reality ignited in the midst of darkness.

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

As 2016 winds down…

As the year 2016 comes to a close, there is the usual time of reflection. On first view 2016 was indeed for the global community a very sad year: populism was triumphant, in the USA a self absorbed womanizer was elected to be the next president and as even history shows that you can’t run a country like a business as Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy clearly showed – the US system granted victory to the next failure with dire consequences to be seen if I may add. The human race is not learning nor is it able to master and digest what modern science and social media throw at them. After creating the global village and interconnecting with each other – humans are back to nationalism, patronism and guidance by anxiety and promised simple solutions.
In Germany, my home country this all reflected in the drama unfolding regarding refugees, the strengthening of the right-wings, the clash between those following in the footstep of reborn Neonazis and common sense and the uphold of human rights. A battle endangering the European Union symbolized in the Brexit and in the high amount of votes in the Austrian presidential elections. It seems that balance is lost and panic rules.In South Africa 2016 was the year of the Zuptas, the state capture, Nakandla, the SABC8 – and if conspiracy theories to capture a state are known in fiction, it shows reality in the Gupta’s attempt with the help of a president, who surely would have been a great village elders but he is completely out of place as a leading statesman. The mixture of tradition, corruption, brutality, streetwise cleverness is breath-taking and dangerous. And it hurts those suffering the most: the poor people of South Africa.
In this context the systems human mankind created to organize itself are not only abused in a constant way from those in power, but they also develop a perfection which makes them inhumane to its core. The spirits we created are taking over and it seems that compassion, seeing every situation as what it is, indeed a special one, as an impossible undertaking.
An example is the ongoing discussion in the Roman-Catholic Church about Amoris Laetitia: it shows a great example that people are resisting to except that there is no black and white, or in the computer language “zero” and “one” – systems have to be clear cut and judgements have to follow this rule. The law, which is an expression of mercy is seen as a threat to order when applied with the component of conscience and judged situation recognized as unique.
All in all the complexity of life and the interconnection with the possibilities of social media and constant news updates of all sorts seems to overstrain most humans and counter the believe in globalization – the pendulum is going into the opposite direction with a dire outlook into 2017. Anxiety and populism are governing our global village and both are used and abused to keep all afloat for the benefit of a few.

In this scenario the work of NGO’s and community based initiatives like HOPE Cape Town and millions of others are mere drops in the ocean – but those drops seem to me the only hope we have to survive the waves of inhumanity serving those aforesaid few. Those drops are the basis to conquer the negativity and abuse happening in our days, be it religious, social or political – those drops will make sure that 2017 will see rays of hope, rays of faith, rays of love reaching those suffering under the systems which try to maintain the status quo of this world.

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

There is no free education

It is amazing for me to hear again and again about “free education for all” as this slogan misses completely the point. Listening to some of the students commenting on this drama unfolding in South Africa in the moment, I have to ask myself whether they are indeed students. Students should have at least an initial ability of how to understand and analyze a problem which seems to be non-existing in most statements. They sound learned, repeated, memorized like a matric exam. No own thinking needed.

Education is never free – even if tuition fees are falling there are always people picking up the bill for the studies – it will be the taxpayer having this role. To be able to do so for those students not to effort a study, there should be enough taxpayers and less corruption to begin with. So if students want to bring change, they should demand from those in political power to demand circumstances allowing for this dialogue to happen. Burning libraries, burning history and collective memories, destroying facilities only add to the impossibility affording fee free studies.

I also wonder seeing the pictures of violent clashes on campus – where are the parents in this unfortunate battle? Are they silent because they feel the youngster express also their anger against state, society and all the other entities one feels left out? Is the “demand” of the students not rather also silently bolstered protest of those still hurt from Apartheid times and left alone in this pain by the present government?

Another question I ponder: Even if the studies themselves are free – there are other costs for housing, transport, books etc – also all free? Or bursaries which in the moment seemed to be a free for all as not a lot care to pay back and the government allows for it to happen. Watching a report on this topic recently I was quite taken back by a former student explaining in front of a camera that he does not dare to pay 100 Rand back as per loan agreement – even earning a decent salary now himself after having a bursary throughout his studies. No shame, no guilt – he simply did not care – and once again the question: What did parents tell him how to conduct himself in an ethical manner?

Last but not least: I hear students have on their lips: “decolonization of the universities” . Universities are indeed  a colonial institution brought to South Africa. My question would be: do we want to get rid of the universities or what is the aim of the decolonization? I really believe a bit more academic maturity is in this discussion the order of today.

Students have the right to protest, they have the right to be unreasonable in demands, but they don’t have the right to destruction, violence, disturbance – and maybe it is time for the parents to reign in and for the students to concentrate their anger and rightful questions onto those who at the end are responsible for a climate of appropriate and affordable studies: our politicians who are seemingly more interested in their own powers and privileges while wasting the money which could be used for a meaningful compromise in this matter.

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
57 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
8 months to go.
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