God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A _________ New Year

What should we wish for the year 2021? Should we wish for a better 2021 – or a healthier one? A more successful or a normal one?

At the end of 2020 I guess we all are sitting with a variety of feelings and emotions and trying to find words adequate to end this extra-ordinary year and to envision our wishes for the new year rising up at midnight. We have lived through a year which will ones be marked in history books as a year of the Covid-19 pandemic – and people will read the figures of death like we read and studied it in history about the black plaque or the Spanish flu. All, what remains from the suffering of people, of tears and fights for life will be numbers and cold facts. And life has moved on….

So what to wish for 2021?
Maybe that whatever we learned in 2020 might influence how we live the rest of our lives and that we pass it on to the next generation?
Those paying attention learned certainly in practice how fragile life can be and that all the promises of politicians, faith leaders and our own convincing of stability can fail in a split second. We all knew it in theory, some have experienced it in their own life, but as a global society it was a first for many.
We also learned that our political systems failed their people badly:
China, Communist and dictatorial governed failed the world in containing the virus – the system did not allow for bad news to spread and forced people to hide the truth. Even now in the aftermath, journalists who exposed the lies and cover up are sentenced to prison for years.
The capitalistic systems and democracies also failed their societies – in the USA, the system of the people for the people had produced an egomaniac sexist white old leader making lies fashionable and in his orbit the virus was marginal at best – ignored most times with horrendous consequences for people. In the European Union in March suddenly every country ran amok and the “union” part of a common response was thrown out of the window in no time. The political culture of thinking only in election cycles hindered and hinders till this very day a plan lasting longer than the next election. Visionaries are rare in our times when it comes to parliamentarians.

We also learned that anxiety and fear creates conspiracy theories and that a small minority can get a grip on media and social media, making a rational approach almost impossible. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Covid-19 failures are in part also products and results of the negative side of social media; Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp need ethical guidelines and controls. If one thing is clear at the end of 2020: human mankind is not that advanced it thought it was – and maybe this knowledge may assist us in another dilemma we face: earth warming and environmental question.

We are part of the ecological system called earth – and we need all the layers and fine-tuned working mechanisms of nature to survive – our 2020 fragility might be the last warning sign for the human race to hold in and reverse course, to become a bit humbler again in how we see and approach our environment.

Coming back to the original question what to wish for 2021:

May 2021 be the year of reflection and turning our lives and lifestyles around, may the vaccine not be the entry door to going back to the normality we left in 2020, but a positive booster which not only fights a virus, but our questionable attitudes towards ourselves, our societies, our environment and our world as such.

May 2021 bring us next to physical health the mental health we need to clearly see our interconnectivity on so many levels. May it bring prosperity based on considerateness for those around us and the ambience we are living in.
May this prosperity be a shared one.

May 2021 the year of practical realisation that we are all in this together, as one human race starting to create a world without racism, starting to heal what has to be healed in this regard so urgently.

May 2021 be a year of more humanity, more decency, more considerations and more true life for all.

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

Human Rights Day

The world is celebrating Human Rights Day today – and just listening to Amnesty International and other human rights organisation we can learn, that the question of human rights seems to be in deep crisis.
The “black lives matter” movement in the USA, the pictures of immigrant kids being separated and being hold in cages in the land of the free, the GLBTI free zones in Poland and developments in Hungary indicate that this year, we not only see the usual suspects when it comes to violation of human rights, but an expansion to members of the European Union and the USA, which ones was partly seen as at the forefront in the fight for democracy and human rights.
The question of immigration policies in Europe and the USA, but not to forget SE Asia contributes another dark shadow on the promise to uphold human rights in our global village. The killing of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the non-consequences for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) highlight the demise of basic international understanding what constitutes human rights – and by the way human decency.

Social media and fake news are definitely also a thriving force behind the advent of more and more human rights violations and while the so-called “West” is busy with itself, China appears more and more keen to demolish any trace of human rights within their territory as clearly to be seen in Hong Kong.

What is shocking how in the open and without shame those violations are taking place and how little resistance can be seen countering it. Human rights often seem to become a sheer whisper in the arena of politics when countries deal with each other. Trump era and Covid-19 seem to have ignited a wave of shamelessness and blunt disregard for this topic.

This has to change; otherwise we will lose all what was achieved when it comes to human rights worldwide. It was a long way of ongoing battles and compromises – we are in danger to plunging back into the dark Middle Ages….

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , ,

Motherfu@#er – or summarizing an interesting year

Nobody can say 2017 was a boring or uneventful year – it does not matter where you live or work – we were all part of a developing global village story shaking the world to the core. Politically a constant fake news producer, self-styled ego-man, denialist on many fronts and womanizer was elected President of the United States and many people had to learn that between the big cities of the West and East coast are definitely not as progressive as the city dwellers – believing rather what they want to believe instead tackling the challenges and realities on the ground.
In Europe Germany stills waits for a new government to be formed while in Austria a populist youngster seems to be the savior of this country while in Poland and Hungary the right wingers demolish democratic advances and human rights achievements almost systematically. The British playing Brexit chess without knowing really where it will end and the EU searches its way through all the political pitfalls its encountered during the year.

On the African continent the looting of South Africa continued and the brazenness in the face of several court decisions and revelations about those captured by the Guptas only increased as if they would know that their time is running out. Zimbabwe got rid of uncle Bob after a shameless Grace pushed for power while in other African countries there are the usual suspects extending their welcome by changing laws and constitutions. The question of refugees from Africa to Europe continuous to be a matter of grave concern and indicates that problems are not solved but always pushed to the next big political meeting.

In the Roman-Catholic church the opposition against Pope Francis clearly tried to score points in ridiculous ways and the hardly hidden hurt vanity of one cardinal stood out as an example of unhappiness with the current way our church is steered – while Catholics as such are discovering the depth of faith in a new and exciting way – even if mercy is a concept known since the beginning of Christianity.

And all this is mirrored in the social media – where etiquette seems to vanish while emotions are running high. Lots of contributions are lacking respect or brain like this example which I choose to publish because it shows the consequence of having leaders steering those emotions, playing with the uneducated and their sentiments, leading by bad examples or supporting the wave of false or misleading information which results in a mixture of unreasonable demands, non-logical approaches, denial of realities and the fostering of ideologies we thought to have beaten long ago.

So there is undeniable a sort of chaos ruling the world in the moment – with leaders uneasy and seemingly battling to make sense and to come to conclusions beneficial for all.  Democracy seems to take some hits while social media and the change in technology and communication has completely changed the environment people are operating. And if you look to China, where they develop a tracking system for all citizens and plans to work with scores to give or take privileges like loans or traveling, it becomes blatant clear where the challenges for political systems will be found in the years to come.

All this said there is also the acknowledgment that all challenges are also opportunities. Opportunities to resist and grow, opportunities to re-evaluate and correct, to discuss and discern and to move on forging a way for more humanity, more human rights and liberties as well as dignity for everybody. So nothing is doomed or lost at all.

In this context the work of NGO’s and civil right groups becomes so more important to assist in achieving the for-said goals. They are rightly seen as a threat to governments leaning towards dictatorial behavior as seen in Egypt or Russia, let alone China. To support those NGO’s and to value their contribution to a better world remains important when we now go into the next year 2018. Good vetted non-governmental organizations with a proven track record are in the coming years the lifeline to fill and bridge the gaps of governmental work, civil society has to play a much bigger role and charity organizations will be much-needed to continue their work for those many falling through the cracks of organized societies.

So at the end it is a mixed review but not hopeless, it is full of challenges we will have to turn into opportunities – it is a starting pitch for 2018 which will make the work of all interested in humanity exciting, demanding and rewarding at the same time. May it be for as many as possible a blessed year and may the emotions express themselves in a way respecting each other.

 

 

 

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

State-capture and NGO work

Following the news about all Zuma and Gupta and state-capture, about Gigaba, Muthambi, Dlamini, Zwane and all the others so often for the wrong reason in the news the debate often ends with the bleak outlook on economics – the downgrades and the failure to attract investment and to stimulate growth.

What remains unreported and not even considered is the impact, the failure and outright criminal action of those in power have on the NGO sector of South Africa. The country is meanwhile so in the bad books of the global village, that even the non-profit and charity sector starts to feel the consequences as more and more funder and donor refuse to support a corrupt South Africa.  Justified or not, it has to be noted that those organizations, which fill so often the gap and bridge the incapacity and incompetence of governmental institution are harmed in the same way like their honest for -profit economical siblings.

The groundwork for this disastrous development was laid the day, South Africa joined BRICS and decided not to be a “developing” country anymore – naturally it cut essential funding from overseas to the point that even the European Union re-considered their contribution towards the development of the country in their newest budget. With all the state-capture, the obvious incompetence and dishonesty of some ministers and the inability of self-correction the situation is worsening as we speak – South Africa, the beacon of hope and Madiba’s dream of a rainbow nation as an example of reconciliation turned into a black sheep, a symbol of outright corruption and failed politics.

Obviously one can argue that assuming the way of South Africa would be trouble-free was an illusion from the beginning – and the argument is certainly valid. But the way it turns out now, the depth of state-capture with all its consequences and the unwillingness or impotence of the ruling party to correct this path of (self-) destruction destroys the  very fabric South Africa needs to develop peacefully and with equality for all its citizens. In this situation NGO’s are the very glue which can hold such a social  fabric even if government fails its people once in a while, but for being able to do so, they need resources and the goodwill of people from all walks of life – especially those who can financially and materially contribute to the essential work of those Non-profits.

Filed under: Africa, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brexit

BrexitAnother hit onto the South African economy with consequences not good for the country, but I wonder why people are so excited about the outcome. The EU is indeed in a “cul-de-sac” on many levels – a union, based on economic desires while ignoring social questions and ruled by politicians often parked at the EU by national governments not wanting to entertain them further in national politics. Adding to it an expansion to conquer the rests of the dissolved UdSSR and growing at a rate which is unhealthy –  and looking at the administration more than a challenge; disaster has now struck with the Brexit.
Great Britain, anyhow always a nation wanting to have everything on an extra plate related to EU matters has decided by popular vote to exit. Xenophobia and narrow national interests, political lies and the anxiety of the ordinary people not understanding or even grasping the complexity of the global village in our days – all this was and is a toxic environment for national referendums.
It has to be seen whether this not means the end of Great Britain as such – with Scotland and Northern Ireland going separate ways on a long-term run.
But: The sun has come up again the next day and once again it has been demonstrated that life is flowing – also political life and social life. Borders, nations, national feelings are bound to a certain point in history and nothing remains for eternity.

It has to be seen whether politicians wake up and realize that only looking for re-election without any vision – and the courage to go for such a vision – means the end of politics as we have known it. Add to it the flood of social media and permanent news coverage which changes the landscape of decision-making and social development substantially. We are entering a new era and it seems that human mankind is not prepared or ready for the challenges of a modern and multi leveled connected global village.
For us South Africans it remains a sort of consolation that politics not only in our country is becoming more and more an affair of irrationality and madness. What is worrying is the fact that at the end the ordinary citizen pays the bill for all this – and the vulnerable, the powerless, the poor are those suffering more while most of those in charge creating the chaos have secured their benefits long-term.
NGOMore injustice is the underlying consequence of political incompetency as we see it in Europe, but also here in South Africa as in Africa on a growing scale. This makes the work of grass-root projects so much more important – NGO’s assisting those losing out in the realities of today. And if you look at movement like St Egidio you might learn that maybe it will be such initiatives from the base of society which can bring the development needed for more peace and prosperity for all living on this planet. But one has not to look that far – any small NGO – where ever they are – counter and mitigate the gaps, politics is leaving behind in their struggle for power and influence. They are much needed in our days.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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