God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Wanderer between worlds

Often I am asked about “my holidays” when I return from a shift as chaplain to sea for one of the cruise liners going around the world in our days. And when I tell them it does not feel like holiday people don’t want to believe me.
Well, as a matter of facts, there is indeed the usual work load of a chaplain:
saying Holy Mass, conducting prayer services for passengers and crew, playing escort for land excursions. It means also being present 24/7 for a possible crisis or counselling, confession or any approach by passengers or staff.
On the other hand it is clear, that being on a cruise liner is indeed also a break from the normal routine of my work in South Africa and therefore has a sort of “holiday effect” of some kind.
What I discovered over the years is that the gap between the realities I know and partly work in and the “perfect world of luxury holidays” is widening and that it seems more and more difficult to bridge this gap or to just accept that those worlds live almost parallel to each other. The vast amount of food wasted on a cruise liner and the knowledge that at home kids go hungry to bed is difficult to comprehend. The way people often romanticise poverty while doing excursion in so-called third-world-countries is sometimes hard to swallow when overhearing it.
Giving talks about my work and engaging into discussions show how big the gap is between the realities people on board are coming from and the realities I know from my work.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the luxury of a cruise ship once in a while. It is nice to be pampered and looked after and to have the chance to eat and drink whenever I feel like it. I also know that I have to be home in both worlds, as only then, encounter can happen and gaps can be bridged and understanding and help can be born out of the worlds meeting each other one or the other way. But there remains still this little devil of doubt whether it always works to bring realities together which couldn’t be more different. The only thing I know is that I am trying hard and that I need both worlds to do what I see as my calling.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

Ball of HOPE and bridging the gap

Sitting in Venice at the airport waiting on my flight to Cape Town via Frankfurt and Johannesburg I realize that in one weeks time we will have the Ball of HOPE . Being on a ship means also to be exposed to a different kind of crowd – often people who have never seen the realities of poverty and disease but on TV. It’s not their fault, it never came up and doing a cruise means often to pick all the beauty of every country and not being able to see behind the curtain of real life in the respective countries.

Being a bridge between worlds as a chaplain is one important task besides saying Holy Mass and attending to the needs and problems of those on such a cruise liner. It would be false to compare the needs in the township of Cape Town and those I hear about during such a journey. I have to realize that for problems and needs are very subjective and therefore to the person concerned equally important and to be taken serious. Maybe it is indeed a grace to be able to live in both of the worlds without comparing, but with the clear intent to bring those worlds closer together.

Bringing worlds together is also part of the mission when it comes to the Ball of HOPE. Yes, it is about charity, about raising money but also about bringing worlds together. May it be only a couple of kilometers – in Cape Town worlds are living very close together without having the chance, sometimes without wanting the chance to meet each other.

Let’s hope that the Ball of HOPE serves it purpose: to bring together people who realize, that we all have the right to live a decent and dignified life.


Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Different worlds

Being on a cruise liner as a chaplain means also to be exposed to many different people and talking about God, the world, HOPE Cape Town and obviously HIV and AIDS. And suddenly one realizes again how different the worlds are we are living in. Standing casually last night watching the evening show I was chatting with the medical doctor on board. Naturally we are in close contact as our work portfolios touch each other and this time, we spend even more time together chatting and befriending each other besides the work. Speaking about my experience of HIV and AIDS in South Africa and my question, whether there are HIV rapid test on board the good doctor is not sure whether there are. In the ongoing conversation he admits never having treated a case of HIV and as the discussion goes along, he mentioned that in the case he would encounter such a case on board, he would advice the person to leave the ship. I was stunned. Not that he had any reservations or discriminatory thoughts about people living with HIV. It was simple, that for him, HIV was an unknown syndrome, not present while he was studying and never present to his knowledge in his rooms.

Knowing how he cares about patients I wondered till I was falling asleep that for me HIV was such a “normal” factor of life while for him it was something unknown in practice and even far away in theory. Indeed different worlds and a reminder, that often we think, our environment, our knowledge, our expertise is normal to all others – and it is not. I hope that my talk tomorrow about the work we are doing with HOPE Cape Town in South Africa will open up some minds and hearts and contribute to a better dealing with HIV and AIDS in an European environment.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,


Time is flying and the weekend sees me flying again, first to Osnabrueck attending the “Afrika-Festival” – giving a talk in the evening about my work and experience in South Africa and then the next morning visiting of the diocesan schools to discuss matters with the students and teachers. Then to Hamburg to board the AMADEA for a 14 days cruise. The last time, which was the first time I did the chaplain-to-sea-duty, I realised how important it is to engage with those on board of such huge ships and to bridge many times the living realities of those being the guests and those who are visited in different countries. What an eye opener for some to realise that the way, Germans live in Germany is not the standard – and that the reality seen on TV behind protective glass is so much different when we see, touch, smell it.
So all my travel is about bridging the gap – trying to bring worlds apart together – and at the same time reflecting on my own inner conflict between the two worlds or even more I am living in and have to deal with every day. All living in those world have the obligation to make themselves understandable to others and what could be a more suitable vehicle for that than the church as an international and truly world-wide organisation with the feet so often on the ground through the people working in the fields. And how much chance is given away in the Eurocentric and autocratic way the church is run – additional being so Rome and pope centered that so many voices might never be heard in their life time. We need to have the “German dialogue” expanded in a much bigger fashion if we want to have a future as real brothers and sisters.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Cruise-liner pastoral work back to African realities

Some gaps are difficult to cover – and after doing pastoral work for passengers on a cruise-liner going from Australia to Sri Lanka, I am now back in Cape Town to continue my work in the local Archdiocese of Cape Town. It was nice to be away for a while and it was interesting working on such a ship. What a meeting of worlds, what kind of dynamics. I seldom had so much fun preaching in the prayer services and Eucharistic celebrations – it felt like hearts met and a connection established which brought “my world” to these mainly elderly people who traveled the world without getting too much in contact with reality. One day Cambodia, one day Thailand, one day Aceh and so on – it seems to me a first smooth encounter and how much I would wish for a deeper encounter – but time don’t permit. On the other hand – having worked hard at home the passengers tried to conquer the world, to catch a glimpse of other cultures and living environments. And I am sure it changes their perception of the world, it these encounters are done in a sensitive way.

I was able to show the BR TV production “Hoffnung am Kap” and tears and big eyes gave witness how often it is forgotten: the plight of those less fortune then we are. It is not easy to realize that wealth and high living standard is only possible if others suffer or at least have little to live on. I am sure I found new friends for HOPE Cape Town and some people staying in touch with me and the work I am doing with all my colleagues.

The cruise has shown me again how big the gap is between North and South – and how much I am already more an African than an European. It is scary, it is amazing, but it remains my challenge to be a bridge between two worlds which at the end need each other.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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