God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Mandela Day…

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. And obviously HOPE Cape Town is also celebrating Mandela Day with a special event taking place in Blikkiesdorp this year. But I believe Mandela Day should be almost every day – there is always and every day a possibility to better the life of somebody, to make somebody smile or why not take the opportunity to better oneself – learn a new skill, try out a new approach, learn something about those we call strangers or foreigners or even of the history of this beautiful and so troubled country South Africa.
To make Mandela Day an every days efforts: this is the reason for most NGO’s being founded and run over time. Whether it is in ecology or health or youth development or whatever field – it is amazing how many people are involved in doing exactly this and in my humble opinion it outweighs all the negativity reported in the various newspapers and media outlets. We only have to realize it. Especially in South Africa, where negative headlines from corruption via crime/violence to unemployment seems to have taken over and overshadow all the good which is done around the Cape of Good Hope. So maybe Mandela Day can also inspire us to look at those little and often small efforts of good forces in the world, but not only look at them but magnifying them, supporting them, cherishing them, talking about them and last but not least taking them on as our tasks and callings of today. Do good and talk about it, inspire others to follow in the days and weeks after the very day, this would certainly change this part of the world.

Filed under: Africa, General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Violence and no electricity

Working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in South Africa isn’t for the fainthearted, keeping the work up to standard, adjusting to new developments, identifying the gaps government is not able to fill – not to speak about the ideological and dogmatic difficulties for a priest to work in this field. Recent days and weeks are making this work even more difficult as South Africa seems to go again and again through phases of xenophobia resulting in looting of shops of foreign nationals and the wounding and killing of those seemingly being more black than a South African skin. Xenophobia and racism against other African nationals is also prevalent in our days with Durban inner city looking like a war zone and violence spreading to Johannesburg and Pretoria and other places. King Goodwill Zwelithini triggered those incidents happening now through his comments asking Non-South African people to leave South Africa accusing them of creating problems. The press quoted him saying: “As I speak to you, you find there are unsightly goods hanging all over our shops. They dirty our streets. We cannot even recognize which shop is which. They are all blocked by foreigners… We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries.”
After the killing spree in 2008 ,various flames up of xenophobia attacks on a yearly returning base and the last ones recorded beginning of the year in Soweto,it seems that nothing has been learned by politicians or society to prevent an re-occurrence. It did not help, that Edward Zuma, son of the president, adds his public comments that foreigner are exploiting South Africa and that they should rather leave.
This all creates an explosive atmosphere in the township communities, where residents ask themselves what is next watching the pictures of killings and thousands of displaced people within their own country.

Adding to this situation is the ongoing Eskom crisis in the country which plunges again and again in a more or less systematic roll out of blackouts parts of South Africa into the dark. Load shedding now for days, for most of the country three times a day no electricity and the situation is self-inflicted: the government has messed up a great deal in not allowing the national electricity provider Eskom to develop. Cadre deployment, nepotism, incompetence , Black Economic Empowerment and ignorance added and is adding to the troubles we are in here in South Africa. According to Minister Brown, the electricity problems will continue for the next two years.

What does this mean to the work environment of an organization like HOPE Cape Town? No electricity no modern communication, and even if we have electricity in our offices it does not mean those have we are trying to contact – work is constantly hampered in the moment. No electricity means in Cape Town no robots functioning – in South Africa’s most congested city, when it comes to traffic it means that travel time doubles and rush hours become a nightmare similar to Bangkok. Xenophobia gives thugs and criminals a reason to exploit such a situation and one can sense the unease building up in black township communities. No electricity means closed shops, lost business, candlelight meals and much more…

Violence and no electricity, illegal land occupation and fighting the demons of history (and their statues), crime and corruption, nepotism and unemployment  – South Africa has more than enough challenges in our days and makes daily life not always a pleasure. But still HOPE Cape Town and all the other NGO’s and people of goodwill (punt intended) will continue to assist turning the tide in their respective area of expertise to give hope and future to those living in South Africa.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , ,

Violence till murder…

HOPE Cape Town mourns murdered young patient
HOPE Cape Town has joined all South Africans in condemning the senseless murder of a 13-year-old boy in the Western Cape community of Wesbank at the weekend.
The boy, who had been in the care of HOPE Cape Town for many years, was caught in gang related crossfire and died from a bullet wound to the head.
According to spokesperson for the organisation, Mr Fahim Docrat, “We are outraged by this act of violence and are personally affected especially because of the relationship we had with this young man. We have supported him and his family for many years now and were very pleased with his progress and the bright future he had. It is unacceptable that our children are exposed to such violence on a daily basis and is an indictment on our society raising serious concerns. The levels of crime in such communities and the underlying socio-economic factors need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and we call on government for support and intervention and communities to take a stand against crime. This further highlights the dangers our 24 HOPE Community Health Workers face on a daily basis when working in such communities.”
HOPE Cape Town is supporting the family by assisting with funeral arrangements for this weekend.

It was a shocking news last Monday morning that one of our patients died in the cross fire of gang related violence. But it also makes very clear in which environment we are working in. Especially thinking of some of our volunteers who know shootings only from TV and can somehow not realize that people here not stand up again after being shot. Violence is in general quite a problem. Home visits by our staff can often not be made because of the danger for the life and well-being of our employees. Afterschool Care in Manenberg might be interrupted because gang violence prevents kids from even coming to the church grounds.
Violence is not only a topic related to gangs – violence is also part and parcel of almost every toi-toi or demonstration taking place in the country. People being involved in such action tend to forget their medication take in times or even the appointments with clinics and doctors as they fight for better sanitation or more money or whatever is the case. So violence has many faces, but all of them are stumbling blocks for better care, prevention and treatment. Paired with drugs and alcohol the situation only can get worse or ends up in such a violent fight which kills also innocent bystanders like this boy in Wesbank.

Let’s hope that the culprits will be found and brought to justice, but as much as I know the justice system it would be a miracle if that happens in due time and anyhow, it does not bring back the youngster who had a full life in front of him.

 

 

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rape and killings as a trademark of South Africa

Working in the fields of HIV and AIDS focusing on children, one has to note the dramatic increase in brutal hurt and meaningless death children are involved in South Africa in our days. Lihle Hlanwja – 9 years old – raped and set alight in the township of Delft in January and she succumbed to her horrible wounds last week.  A 3 month old Delft baby was killed in the same township last week while Michells Plain mourns the 12 year old Jcinta Matross and two teenager killed without mercy. More luck for three kids in the age of 6,14 and 16 years in Kewtown, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds as they were caught in the cross fire gangs; the 18 year old Ebrahim Daniels was not so lucky and was killed. I could continue this list by mentioning Edwin Abrahams, 16 years old and shot dead, an unnamed teenage girl in Manenberg, gang-raped while violating gangs territory borders, not to forget Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp, brutally raped and killed by another youngster. Last week we heard of the rape of a 5-year-old girl by three grade two boys at a school in Rocklands, the same day a Limpopo man’s sentence for raping his 14-year-old daughter was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Other perpetrators never face justice as the murder of the 15 year olf Lydia Michels, who was gang- raped in Bonteheuwel a long time ago and killed by members of the same gang to avoid her giving testimony in court. The rapists of the Dixie Boys gang are still free – lack of evidence as the main witness is dead.

The long list which could as said be continued a long time, all the tragic stories of rape and murder committed partly by parents, but also by children and youngsters show how sick the South African society is. The soul of South Africa is still morbid – after having the Truth and Reconciliation Commission the truth came out, but reconciliation within people looking at their past and between people doing the same has failed so far. It is in this context that the political story of South Africa and the necessity of a good moral leadership has to be seen and looking at it there is only one judgement: there is nobody in the present government embodying this moral leadership. We have gone from an excellent start – even if there were mistakes made – of Nelson Mandela to a president, who has changed the ruling party from bringing fresh air and reconciling actions to obvious blunder and corruption. The question is: How can South Africa and it’s society find peace and prosper when the leadership gives mostly example of bad behavior and pushes through whatever seems to be beneficial without looking right or left. Is there really so much difference between a politician taking personal advantage and enriches him or herself, lies to parliament, punishes those who resist him or her and the gangster in Manenberg or Lavender Hill who does the same on his scale of possibilities. As long as the climate promotes corrupt and self-serving politicians all efforts to eradicate gangsters and drug trade will be in vain.  As long as Nakandla and Guptagate are possible and as long the ANC does not transform back in a party liberating people instead of forcing people to adhere to a party discipline only serving some on top and covering up for them without visible shame there will be no healing of the South African soul.

We like it or not – South Africa is drifting in a direction in the moment which is dangerous and can mean failure on the long run. It’s not only crime, but also economic policies, immigration policies, the secrecy bill and various other developments which harm the very people all those policies should serve. We as a society have to understand that in all this protecting the young and vulnerable is our first duty. Most rapes are committed in families or by the extended circle of family members and friends. We have to look into the family situation and heal what is wrong there. Gangs thrive because there are no alternatives for youngsters – schools fail the students because teachers are not well equipped and not up to the task – early childhood development fails because 16 years old mothers are very often not able to deal with their own babies at that age….

Churches, NGO’s, the civil society has to up their role and work hard to change the trademark of South Africa.

Filed under: Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, 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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