God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Thoughts of an unapologetic whitey on #SaveSouthAfrica

I am reading the opinion piece “Here’s why white people cannot demand solidarity” – posted somewhere on social media under the headline “who’s rally call and why is it anyhow?”. On the morning of Friday, 7th of April 2017, the day most serious South Africans try to rescue their country from greed, corruption, downgrading and incompetent politics while MK “Speer of the Nation” soldiers still try to play war in front of Luthuli House my thoughts go back where I am coming from and what I have learned so far living 20 years in South Africa:

First and foremost: I don’t want and I will not apologize for being born white and in Europe – nobody chooses his or her place of birth – and whatever system is in place is taken in the beginning, till reflection sets in, as a normal environment.
I grew up in the small little town of Bitburg – those knowing the history of the city know that Bitburg harbored one of the biggest US American airbases next to Ramstein. So for me – in my childhood I was aware that people have different skin colors – which not really mattered – but we knew: black people are rather richer people as the US Dollar was strong at that time.
When I entered adolescence – news from South Africa were made more and more available and I learned about a small tiny Archbishop in Cape Town and the call for a boycott of South African goods. Empathy for the “poor suppressed black people” far away grew by the day – and I remember still very vivid how we followed the call of activism and tried to convince the adults: “Don’t buy apples and other products from South Africa”. I am not sure about the checks and balances at the end – but those small little and also big activities against apartheid were at least as much as important to bring down the unjust system like the liberation struggle on the grounds of African soil. Nobody has the copyright of solely liberating South Africa.

Having the chance to work in South Africa – the new South Africa with all the dreams and yearnings of the so-called and so often praised rainbow nation – and the possibility to personally meet and talk with my heroes of youth, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late President Nelson Mandela have been ever since highlights in life so far. Working in the fields of HIV in all different levels of society has grown my empathy and my understanding of the human race. I do reflect on where I am coming from, what advantages I have had in life so far – I see the dark and inhumane side of history in South Africa – but not only there: apartheid, colonialism, extortion, abuse of human rights – I acknowledge the role, Europeans have played and are still playing and I see the riches of African culture being often suppressed till today.

But I can only acknowledge and learn from the history and apply my learning’s with empathy  in the present time to create a future where mistakes of the past should be avoided. I can only continue to strengthen and communicate my firm believe that there is only one human race, that skin color does not matter for me and should not matter for anybody. As a Catholic priest being part of more than a billion faithful from all over the world I know what power lies in the faith of being just a brother or sister for each other under one divine mystery.

I also have learned from history, that liberation armies – look at South America or even Africa – need at least a generation to understand that they are not at war anymore but needed to transform in real political parties with understanding of what democracy means. So what we see in the ANC in the moment is history repeating itself because the cadres have not learned out of history and the poor will suffer again.

This is one of the reasons why I march today – reminding myself and others that we don’t have to go the same disastrous cycle if we learn of history. I do march today not because I want to have any privileges back or sustained or because I demand solidarity; it’s the other way around:
I give solidarity to those suffering the most: the poor, those who did not make it because of mistakes of politics, but also because of the greed, the corruption, the incompetence and the ignorance within our political system.
I march today for humanity, for the dream of those having given their lives in the struggle – millions of dreamers who either fought on the battle field or attended concerts to “free Mandela” or begged the people not to buy fruits from an inhumane system.
I march to keep going the dream of a just and non-racial society being able to see the pains of people and to be willing to start the process of healing guided by wise men and women in government, in churches and other institutions.

I march with empathy and solidarity for all and with all who share this dream knowing that there is a long way to real freedom, but if we walk together every day a little bit, we will reach it – a healed society becoming again the beacon of hope for a continent, which was long written off, but – and this is my firm believe – will be on the forefront of a renewed global village in the future – the cradle of mankind a living hope for all our brothers and sisters.

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

Mandela Day & Tierra, techo y trabajo

Today it happens again like it happened the last years: everybody wants to be involved for 67 minutes – and especially those so-called VIP’s are keen to be seen with children, packing food parcels, donating blankets or whatever – just to make sure that everybody acknowledges their good heart and intention. And I don’t doubt these intentions at all, but I always ask myself what happens after the 67 minutes? What happens to those being fed, being cloth, being catered for the next morning, when they wake up in the same misery as the day before? What’s about the other 365 days and 22 hours and 53 minutes of the year? Waiting for the next Mandela Day – for the next invite to be part of the icon’s legacy? I don’t want to sound sarcastic but while doing also my 67 minutes and more in Blikkiesdorp yesterday morning to honor this legacy – I was looking into the faces of those we served and honestly, I partly felt bad knowing, that the rain jacket, the sweets and the porridge might be the highlight of their day but not changing their lives profoundly. Well, being lucky and knowing, that our organization HOPE Cape Town is working since years in this semi-permanent community I felt assurance that it was not a once off but part of a bigger effort to aid and help this very community of almost 15 000 people at the outskirts of Delft. But it remains that unsatisfactory feeling not being able to do more, to turn around those lives and giving them what Pope Francis described in three Spanish words as the fundamental rights of every human being: Tierra, techo y trabajo.  It was translated into English very loosely “land, roof and work” but I think this translation does not fit exactly the Spanish meaning. What the pope is saying and not only saying but demanding is that everybody has the right to have a piece of land he calls his own and yes, with a roof under which he can lay his head at night. But roof means more, it means a real home, a real protected place he feels secure and safe together with his loved once. And added is the right to have work, to be able to earn a living, a decent living and not a hand-out, not a social grant but the dignity, only own work can bring to a person. And it is about dignity, about the possibility to create and follow your own dream how to live you life, to be able to have a good education, a protected home, a loving family, an honest earned income to sustain this life. We in South Africa are far away from this dream of tierra,techo ytrabajo – not only in Blikkiesdorp but even in the posh suburbs of the cities a protected home seems to be an illusion just reading the headlines of a daily newsletter: robberies, intrusions and murder are making screaming headlines and the private security business is booming. And with more than 24% unemployment and the gross number of social grant recipients we are far away from “work for all” who should be able to do so. Maybe we should think of a Mandela moment next year where we don’t do hand outs but put our minds together and go for real change in distributing wealth and work, in giving more people the chance to get a better education, a real working environment, a chance to proof themselves and earn a decent living. Just a thought…

Mandela Day - a hand-out is simply not enough

Mandela Day – a hand-out is simply not enough

They need a real dignified future

They need a real dignified future

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

So much to do and so little time…

Sitting on my working desk and  trying to plan the next months I receive the news that my uncle in Germany died. Well, he was old, but it still triggered besides all the normal reflection one has once again the acknowledgement that life has an end and that one has to use it wisely. I don’t think that it is important how much one has done, the much more important question is whether one has lived intensively whatever one has done in life and if one has been the person meant to be. So for me it is also not a question of age.. one can become 100 and waste most of his or her time. I have seen people having achieved with 40 more than others with 80.
I think such a reflection is also meaningful when one deals with HIV and AIDS. Right, in many countries they are talking about a chronic disease and also we starting in South Africa to do so. Nevertheless every day are dying hundreds of people, mostly young people still as a consequence of HIV and AIDS. And looking to Africa, there are more reasons for dying young on this continent. So, once again: every second of life is counting, nobody knows whether he or she will wake up tomorrow morning, whether he or she will see the end of this day. The past is gone for good, the future is not known, the only time we can live and determine is the second of the moment. I know, a well-known fact. But we need to be reminded again and again, because it is so easy to forget in all the hectic of life. And even if there is so much to do and so little time..let’s not worry, we can only do what can fit in that very precious moment we just living now…

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

03.02.2010 Friends are there for…

…letting thoughts flow. A wonderful and more spontaneous luncheon with a friend where I was able to take a breath and to talk about personal things which really moved me in the moment. It feels like a blessing to be able to share when heart and mind creates a rollercoaster situation.  🙂

Otherwise I spend the morning with young journalists from Germany – organised by the “Sueddeutsche Zeitung”. We went to visit a primary health care facility in Mfuleni, one of our patients at home and then went to Tygerberg Academic Children’s Hospital and HOPE Cape Town to discuss current issues. The journalists already had meetings with important people like the German Ambassador Dieter Haller and Premier Helen Zille. Their task is it to gather background information about South Africa before the Soccer World cup 2010 starts. And it is difficult. As I heard there is either painted a rosy picture of South Africa in anticipation of the sports event – and it seems that nobody is allowed to say a critical word about some areas of concern – or people condemn and warn of security failure and the horrendous crime rates. It seems in the moment, there is only black and white at our disposal – and I think, this is simply wrong. South Africa has, like all other nations a variety of gray – yes, we have crime and the statistics are shocking, but yes, hundred thousands of tourists are visiting South Africa every year  and most of them are going home with a positive impression and lots of good experience. Yes, there are concerns, also security concerns – but yes, there are also lots of efforts to make 2010 a success for South Africa and Africa. Yes, the price structure of some airlines and hotels are indeed rather reminding us of gangsterism, on the other hand – there will be enough good deals closer to the time. We have to be honest brokers of the realities of South Africa. I concede, the realities are not that easy to read and interpret often – but only if we see and communicate all the potential for success, but also not forget the pitfalls – South Africa is like any other nation made out of humans and human structures… Nothing wrong about it.

The stadiums are ready – the people get more enthusiastic, upgrades of roads and transport systems are driving us South Africans crazy every day we commute to town, the soccer world cup 2010 will be a success – the African way and that is indeed good so…  Such events also help to highlight the shortcomings of a country – but which country has no shortcomings??

So I hope that the journalists went back to their hotel with the impression, that they got an honest assessment of the situation without politics or diplomacy tainting the picture. I think there is no need. Looking back to the last years there is surely more sun than shadow – and the way, South Africa will choose will anyhow only decided after the world cup circus will move on.

One is for sure: the soccer world cup 2010 prevented South Africa and its young democracy to  dip deeper into trouble during the developing times, when we have to learn how to organise us as such a democracy. The soccer world cup 2010 was and is the necessary nail to stop destructive development. My South African part tells me that nothing is decided yet when it comes to the future of South Africa, but one thing is for sure: the potential to create a home for all and a stable democracy is at hand, but in our times, all countries are interdependent as the global recession has again shown. So the future of South Africa also hangs in the balance with the other states and nations of this world. I will remain optimistic and realistic. A realistic optimist or an optimistic realist.. whatever is necessary in the next years to come…

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

24.08.2009 First full day in office

It is amazing to see what happens after being sick and back to the office…  It seems that everybody does sense you are back. The phone rings without a break, people pop in and the email box transforms in a never empty entity with lots of demanding emails…

But after resting so much it is indeed fun to whirl around again, get things going and working like hell to get your desk back into something which looks not overly burdened with papers.
Ending my duties as chaplain soon means also to prepare a lot for the successor, winding up things, and trying to sort out all the “nitty gritties” of a 12,5 year period of permanent work.

Now I am tired and just want to go home. Well, there is also work waiting for me, but at least I can say I survived my first full day in office again. H1N1 is past – the future is still unknown but a sunny day in Cape Town did the best to make me feel comfortable today. To be able to work is indeed a blessing – and I am looking forward after a nights sleep to another day in office, meeting people, just feeling alive and kicking again.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
The Southern African - German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and HOPE Cape Town looking forward to celebrate this event with you - more info: admin@hopecapetown.com

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