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, , , , , , , , , ,

Lent in the times of SONA

Ash Wednesday – a time marker to reflect the beginning of lent. Lent is for Christians a time to reflect on their lives and to prepare for the big feast of Easter – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Germany you also have the political Ash Wednesday – where a political party tries to set it’s mark with sometimes over the board speeches to score points before elections or to satisfy their electorate.
This year in South Africa the religious and the political Ash Wednesday are close together with today’s religious ceremonies and tomorrow the president’s address to the nation. It actually started already yesterday, where clearly lawyers for the president and the chair of parliament conceded that they were wrong in their actions in a constitutional court proceedings about the actions of the President of South Africa.  It was a classical turn around and if meant serious an example for remorse and repentance – even if in the world of the courts this only counts as litigation during sentencing of an offender.
So Ash Wednesday may mark this year in South Africa on various levels a time for serious reflection – on an individual base people are called to reflect on their lives, make corrections, ease their burden and try to regain a positive energy and outlook on their respective lives to fulfill their calling and vocation. The church recommends cutting down on luxuries as a means to simplify life and be open for things really important and counting in life.
Society is also called to have a look on its habits – and with all the turmoil in our society, from #RhodesMustFall via #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall; a dwindling economy, a realization that racism is not conquered completely in this country and that old wounds haven’t healed yet there is much to reflect and to correct. But for that we need a moral and political leadership which the ruling party is not willing or able to give in the moment. We need a change of hearts from those in political power.Politicians from all parties are called to look very closely whether they serve their own interests or those of themselves and their followers. No party is immune against corruption, power hunger and self-love and the thought of an importance, which warrants perks of various sorts.

The Catholic Church has called for a “Year of Mercy” – mercy towards others, but also mercy towards oneself. It tries to make visible, feel-able the unconditional love of God towards every human being. But this mercy can only work if one is open to receive it. And openness means to reflect and realize the own situation without make-ups and touch-ups. It’s a mercy which wants to change human lives on all those levels of individual life and social life. I guess in South Africa, we need tons of mercy – let’s start allowing it to flow into our society, into our lives so that Ash Wednesday 2016 might be the beginning of a new chapter in the new South Africa. At least this is my wish for this years beginning of lent.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A blessed time

All friends and supporters of HOPE Cape Town and this blog a blessed Easter or Passah.

for Stefan (2)20150401_112142 (2)

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

A busy week for HOPE Cape Town

Even in the week leading to Easter there is still much to do and reflect before relaxing and enjoying the Easter holidays. HOPE Cape Town was searching for a new HOPE doctor and it seems that we found even two, sharing the workload and bringing in their dedication and adding so to the excellence of HOPE Cape Town. If everything goes alright then from the 1st of April / 1st of May respectively we are complemented with the two medical women.At the same time the back office of HOPE Cape Town Trust and Association needed a new secretary to support Kerstin Behlau. Also these negotiations are looking good and hopefully April will see the additional full-time secretary starting her work with HOPE Cape Town.
And when in May our program coordinator will commence her work, then we are complete again and the time of transition is coming somehow to an end. New ideas, new thinking is also needed to redefine our relationship with the Ithemba Ward, which will move in due course from G7 to G10. What can HOPE Cape Town add to the wards work 12 years after the organization’s first task was to set up the ward? In the moment even the playroom is occupied with little patients, so there is clearly much to do, but work has in the fields of HIV and AIDS always redefined as it is a very dynamic field.

The Bishop of Trier / Germany will also come in the week after Easter to visit HOPE Cape Town and to get more knowledge about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa. He is the latest of a row of visitors coming from all corners of life: parliamentarians, students, medical doctors, ministers, sponsors, donors and even those who are just curious to see what it means to live side by side with HIV and poverty. We from HOPE Cape Town are always very happy to take the visitors out and introduce them to the realities on the ground. So there is no kid handing a bunch of flowers to the visitors but whatever is present at the time of the visit is shown by HOPE Cape Town and experienced by the visitors. Real life experience does not need much explanation or planing – the moment where two worlds meet in the persons present is mostly enough to change hearts and minds and foster more understanding for each other.

So even a short week like the Holy week before Easter is full of puzzling and planing and it feels so alive – this organization called HOPE Cape Town.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sterkspruit

Do you know where Sterkspruit is located? Or Herschel? I did not know till I visited it: Eastern Cape – Diocese of Aliwal North – somewhere close to Lesotho – and arriving there after a long drive from Bloemfontein feels like getting in a forgotten corner of South Africa. On invitation of Sam, one of our trustees of the HOPE Cape Town Trust, who is coming from here, I meet different people like Fr Joe and his flock with 30 chapels and churches. I hear of the plight of the people, their attempt to make the best of their lives, of mismanagement of the environment, of crime, abuse, hopelessness, poverty and all the credentials which one would hope to defeat in the new South Africa. And once again I encounter the ABCD programme of the Catholic Student movement, which puts being HIV positive on the same level like being a criminal or a drug addict. Nobody thought about it really – coming from the official church side, nobody questioned it.

After 25 hours intense listening and trying to take in the situation of the people I am out again – with proposals in my bag of projects, with thousand thoughts how people can exist like this for ages, with admiration for my fellow priests keeping the hope up in these circumstances and with the determination to make things happen as much as I am able to from a distance. Most of our HOPE Community Health worker are coming from the Eastern Cape and I heard many times how much assistance is needed – now I know first hand…

I first have to reflect on it more – good that there is the Easter break – time for reflection in the light of the unconditional love of God. What does it mean for those people I left in Sterkspruit?

By the way: If you read this and you have skills like bricklayer, electrician or whatever practical professional skills and you have some weeks time to go there and teach those skills to young people in the area: let me know…

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

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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