God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

The burden of travelling

Most people like traveling and I have to admit, most times I also like traveling too. The airport controls can be unnerving – but having no cell and no internet for a couple of hours is relaxing – well it seems that it is all coming back into the cabin of new airplanes. Traveling brings you in touch with other traditions and cultures, simply with other realities which might sometimes be strange, sometimes funny, but always good to know. And here the burden starts: Who at home to share the new knowledge and experience with? How to implement it into daily life? Does really anybody in the closer vicinity wants to know how things have changed for you? Does it really fit into the settings you are living in? And when it comes to my church – it is even worse as the word “relativism” is very quick used to bring downfall to different perspectives and their approaches. How much do I wish sometimes that all people could share in the diversity of the world and yes, how relative the way is, we are living in our small little world and that there as so many alternatives which have the same value than our solutions and habits..  Sometimes it is a burden to think broad and diverse…

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

05.08.2009 some general thoughts about prevention work in the fields of HIV/AIDS

“A comprehensive HIV prevention package includes, but is not limited to, delaying sexual debut, mutual fidelity, reduction of the number of sexual partners, avoidance of penetration, safer sex including correct and consistent male and female condom use, and early and effective treatment for sexually transmitted infections.”

This statement of UNAIDS from 2008 is as valid today as it was at that time. What I like on this statement is that it really tries to cover all aspects of prevention without favouring one or the other or to demonise on or the other method of prevention. I guess this is the most important in prevention work as I do understand it: having no fear to discuss and name all aspects of preventing HIV transmission and giving the participants of workshops the tools to decide for themselves what and how they choose to protect themselves. Demonising either condoms or faithfulness or abstinence does not make any sense. And only naming what ones own ideology or faith seems to prescribe to oneself is also not enough. Diversity of prevention possibilities which could fit different lifestyle situations are important.

Doing prevention work, we last but not least must learn that at the end, we cannot change the behavior of the people, everybody can change only him- or herself. And we as activists are not responsible for what people doing, we are only responsible to give the utmost attention to detail to provide accurate and meaningful information.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

03.08.2009 the churches approach…and my attitude towards the debate

A lot is written and said about the approach of the RC church regarding HIV and AIDS, lots of praise and lots of criticism, depending where one is standing and how one experience the own situation and convictions. I am aware of all those discussions and obviously take part in it, often not making friends with my fellow brothers in Christ. But I guess however we debate the stance of the RC church, we should all taken seriously that all working in our church mean to foster life, provide guidance for living a life to the fullest. What I mean in saying so is, that we have to have a deep respect for each other when debating the right way forward. Nobody of us is owning the truth and even if we completely disagree about the others argument and position, we always should give the person the benefit of the doubt that he or she means to support life and to help people living it in a satisfying and dignified way.
I have sometimes the impression, that within our church, we have to learn this kind of respect before each other.

Only if we have this respect we are able to listen to each other, to learn from each other and to be challenged by each other. And specially the latter we all need – to be challenged, because only then we are able to sharpen our arguments and to get a clearer picture about our conviction.

For me, the toughest and sometimes even unfair challenges, which put me in corners I never have been in reality and I never wanted to be; these challenges and accusations have been helpful to look again and again how I can clarify my point of view and to knock away the weakness of my argumentation. For that I am indeed grateful.

Whether it is this blog or my work or all my personal encounters with people during the days and weeks – I want to keep that kind of respect, I want to assume that the other person also wants the best for human mankind and the fellow brother and sister. I admit: at times, it is awfully difficult to keep that respect, but it is necessary for dialog and a common way forward. And that is what at the end counts, that people find common grounds and move forward, maybe slower than I would wish for, but we are moving…

Lets debate, find common grounds and move forward in a way benefiting those we care for, we love and cherish and for our own sake and God’s unconditional love to everybody…

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24.07.2009 one week to go…

When holidays start, then it seems like quite some time – but suddenly, after having done two/third, time seems to run faster and faster…  And one suddenly must make a plan to do all the things still open on ones agenda. Well, this time it isn’t different – and suddenly the realisation, that next week this time, I will already be back in Cape Town, most probably struggling with jet leg and an office full of requests and notes and mails and so on…

What makes this coming home so special is the fact, that with the day I start working again, my last 8 weeks as the chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community will commence  (if all is going according to plan).  Without knowing exactly until now what will be my next “stage” in life, I have to move from one place to another within Cape Town, I have to wind down all the technicalities which such a hand over requires – and South Africa can be a nightmare in this concern. 12,5 years of service going towards an end.

I feel a bit like Abraham going towards the unknown;  with the difference, that he was much older, and he was called out, not kicked or pushed out – so to speak.  🙂 I am sure I will reflect quite a bit what it meant to me being a chaplain to that very special community in Cape Town – not to forget the folks in Durban. All so special and come what may come, I am aware that it was indeed a privilege to serve those communities the last years.

I always said when we had visitors: “What can be more nice than to be a chaplain in Cape Town?”

Having reflected on it a bit during my holidays I am aware that Cape Town changed me a lot. Living in Africa, living next to Table Mountain, living in vivid history happening in the country in the moment – having such a diverse crowd of faithful from all corners of German speaking parts of the world and quite a lot already distant from the institution “church”, it made me realise that whatever we think we know exactly can quick fade away as I had to learn every day that life is more colourful, more diverse, more exciting, more different than I ever thought.

This diversity, the colourful mixture of God’s brothers and sisters has sometimes an intensity, which definitely you hardly will find back home in parishes in Germany, Austria, Switzerland or all the other places. And adding all the experience through our social project “Hope Cape Town”, the mixture of guests at our Mediterranean Villa – sometimes it could get even for me a bit too much and too hectic…

And then still remains the question: How do you bring this “all” home to Germany? How do explain those on the purely administrative level that such diversity requires sometimes solutions beside “the norm”? How do you open up their hearts and minds that indeed church has to be diverse too – and has been and will always be.  Not that easy….

Filed under: Reflection, , , , , , , , , , ,

14.07.2009 BKK inside

I discussed with a friend of mine, who visited me in BKK his experiences being here the second time. He told me about the different view, he got during his second visit and how he understood more and more the mentality of Thai people. I agreed as i remembered how long it took for me to understand and interpret the hundreds of different smiles, not always to be mistaken for a friendly one. And I told him, that for me, Bangkok taught me one lesson: Always to look twice and never to believe my first impression. Nothing is as it looks in the beginning – and only by getting accustomed to locals, making friends and patiently trying to discover their realities and social behaviour, I got glimpses of their truth in life.
A truth, a reality, which is not always identical with mine – and so it creates the need to talk a lot, listen carefully and to compromise in a way being beneficial and tolerable for both.

For me, this lesson applies also to my faith. Even if it is my truth and gives me meaning in life, I have to explore, understand and work with the truth and reality of another person I do encounter. I have to appreciate what I learn in this way and maybe even understand, that my friend, my neigbour or whoever it is, can complement my views and add new aspects, i might never have thought about.

It makes me more rich to discover the truth of another person – and it is not relativism but complementing me as a person.

Filed under: Reflection, , ,

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