God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

No crime ever deserves the death penalty

It is amazing for me that I had to wait that long in my life to hear the clear words of a Pope condemning without reservation not only the death penalty but also “life without parole”. Even the Catholic Catechism was still a bit ambivalent about those matters. The Pope wrote that capital punishment is “inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed by the convict”. For him it represents a “failure” in nations governed by “rule of law” “because it forces you to kill in the name of justice”. Human justice is “imperfect” and “fallible”. Quoting Dostoyevsky the Pope said: “To kill for murder is a punishment incomparably worse than the crime itself. Murder by legal sentence is immeasurably more terrible than murder by brigands…. …No matter how serious the crime committed by the convict,” Francis stated, the death penalty “is an affront to the sanctity of life and human dignity. It goes against God’s plan for man, society and his merciful justice and prevents any just end to the punishment from being reached.” According to the Pope, the death penalty “does not bring justice to victims but encourages revenge.” Francis emphasized that “there is no human way to kill”, even there are debates around the world about “the way to kill, as if it were about trying to ‘do it well’. Throughout history people have defended mechanisms to kill by reducing the agony and suffering of the convict” but “there is no human way to kill another person”. Similar the Pope rejected also the punishment of life without the possibility of parole: “As with all sentences that make it impossible for an individual to plan their future because of the length of the sentence, life imprisonment can be considered a hidden form of capital punishment” because it does not deprive the person only from their freedom but also of “hope”. The criminal system can take some of the transgressors’ time away but “it must never deprive them of hope”
The State kills when it applies the death penalty but also “when it leads its population to war, when it performs extrajudicial or summary executions” and can also kill by ‘neglect’, when it does not guarantee its population access to the essential things they need to live.”

The sanctity of life is always the underlining reason for all, Christians are called to do when dealing with fellow human beings or even creation as such. All existing is graced with the spirit of God and we believe that all human being are brothers and sisters or sons and daughters of God. This protection of life from birth till death is also the baseline for all done in the world of medicine. It also applies when HOPE Cape Town focuses on children and their families infected or affected by HIV, AIDS and related illnesses. It is the sanctity of life which gives them the right to live their lives also to the fullest. It applies to all working in the field of poverty relief as a decent life with all the essentials they need to live in dignity is essential if we don’t want to fall into the neglect the Pope is pointing out. Seeing the state of affair in South Africa and the obvious neglect in various fields of government and society attributed to corruption and absolute ignorance for the plight of the people the words from the Vatican are a reminder of the long way we still have to go in our rainbow nation. And it is a reminder that we have to work tireless to get the message to those in power and assisting them to get it right in time for this generation now striving to build an equal society around the Cape of Good Hope.

Filed under: Catholic Church, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In between Helsinki and St. Petersburg

Being a chaplain to sea means to be away from the usual “always being connected” and living in an environment so completely different from the usual daily life in South Africa. More than 800 people constantly around you, from which are almost 300 on board to make the life pleasurable for the rest of . As the “Grosse Ostseereise” means many ports to call on, it also means that almost every day I am somewhere on shore to go with a busload full of passengers and a local guide exploring the respective country. Little time to focus on TV, news and there-like.
Nevertheless I try to keep myself informed and note with excitement, that the dialogue between Archbishop Zollitsch and the signatories of the “Freiburg Aufruf” concerning the divorced-re-married couples seems to go well and that all parties are concerned about the problem and wish to get it right and end the discrimination of those in question. Ideals can never be enforced by punishing those who have failed for the rest of their lives. Good to hear reason in this case also from the authority.
Also news from Uganda with their madness to re-introduce the death penalty and other harsh measures to punish those being born gay and trying to live out their affection for a person of the same-sex. It will never match my understanding of logic and God’s love that the church punishes those affected with life-long celibacy claiming that God wants it like this. It will one day end up like the quest to abolish slavery, because at the end, we ask them to be obeying slaves of an idea connected with a hostile look at sexuality instead embracing and emphasizing their love and the newest academic research on this subject.
In Kenya, I note, HIV rates are climbing with those using drugs by injecting them. The topic of needle exchange versus a conservative view of society will have to be solved in favor of protecting those who are depended on drugs. It might be the first step into getting drug users off in keeping them alive and healthy in a way.

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

24.01.2010 Life

Life is precious – and I just finished watching the movie “Death Man Walking” – highlighting again how important and valued life is. I always think that when Christianity and our faith has one important value, then it is the uphold of the sanctity of life.  And sanctity of life means a lot:
We should make sure that babies are indeed welcome, when perceived. The value of life rests in itself – not the work, not the deeds, not the strength nor anything else really can take away this value. And we are not allowed to take lives – be it by a person or by a state.
Giving life priority is the motor for all advocacy for life – also treatment for illness belongs under that category. Being healthy is important, but we Christians maintain that life is precious even if handicapped. Because everybody is a son or a daughter of God and so my brother or my sister, loved unconditionally.

But the importance of life does not only count for human being – the way we treat animals, pets, the nature is also part of cherishing life. For me, all and everything created on earth has a soul because it is part of God’s good creation. The whole creation is steeped with God’s good spirit. The way we use some of the things – that is the concerning part I guess.

Dignity of life means also respect – the way we deal with other people is for me also part of life advocacy. If one meets a person who cherishes life, one directly feels the respect he shows towards him- or herself, but also others around him. Advocacy for life and respect go hand in hand – therefore is my conclusion that people, who militant try to protect life as we see often in the right corner of churches and faith-based organisations, have a deficit in the appreciation of life in general. Far fetched? Well, that’s only my opinion.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , ,

28.12.2009 Execution looming….

“It’s entirely inappropriate that he be put to death, we’ve made 27 representations over the last two years… and even at this late stage I hope they will see that in a modern world it is not appropriate to put a man with mental illness to death.”, says Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis according to BBC on the case of Akmal Shaik, who is due to be executed tomorrow morning in China.

For me it is entirely inappropriate to put anyone to death – not only the mentally ill ones. The death penalty shows such a disrespect towards human life and the creation of God that it is completely incompatible with Christian values or believe system. Who takes a life – takes a human being in the likeness of God. It is indeed that simple. And the wrongdoing of one person does not excuse the wrongdoing as a reciprocal action. Vengeance is non of the names of God and those supporting these kind of actions have not understood what unconditional love means. I am aware that unconditional love is difficult for most people, but it remains true: every execution means a freely chosen insult towards God.

All criticism towards church can never deny, that this is one of the strength of this very church: to make aware that the sanctity of life is not something, that can be taken away by any court or any person’s decision. So the intentional state sponsored murder of persons to satisfy the feeling for revenge from relatives of a murder victim is like supporting a devils circle – no revenge can make good what has been lost and the meaning of penalty is not revenge but changing a person. At least in the civilised world.

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

11.11.2009 Sniper John Allen Muhammad executed

CNN and all US American news channels have brought it almost live and in colour: the story of the execution of John A Muhammad. And it amazes me and saddens me again and again how people can celebrate the killing of another person and call it justice. It is so stupid and insane. Killing a human being is simply wrong and no argument of this world can make it right. Those in politics who support the death penalty are as sick as those who go on a killing spree, maybe even more as they kill after a long process of consideration covering years. Revenge is no criteria for the procedure within the criminal code or the justice system of a country.

Humanity has a lot to learn.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized,

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