God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

2021: Vaccinated, boostered and recovered

Looking back at 2021 shortly before Christmas, I can’t say, the year was boring or uneventful. 2021 started with the hope that Covid-19 might be overcome during the year and a sort of normality would come back into daily life. Little did we all know that hope can be a stretched from January to December – not lost, but wearing thin at times.

Travel restrictions continued for most of the year in one or the other way, forcing me to cancel a lot of meetings in person and to combine necessary travel in two big chunks for up to 9 weeks at a time. I could write books about the May to July travel, where the German way of doing business simply ended up in the madness of changing rules on a daily basis, on a location basis – and on a “We have our own rules” basis. Besides the anyhow difficult situation and anxieties meeting somebody from the – at that time – South African mutation, it challenged all my creativity to navigate through constant changes in the set program.

Exhaustion and frustration were my constant companions – and for the first time it was difficult to understand my fellow German brothers and sisters. Nevertheless: meetings made possible were rich and felt good – meeting again in person, looking each other in the eyes and catching body language and facial expression directly and not through a camera – simply a human need.

This was also the time to get my first Covid-19 vaccination shot – followed by a second and – by chance even a third one, today called booster – already in July 2021. I assume I was the first in Germany in this regard; my attempt to get the third vaccination registered on the German vaccination app was met with astonishment in various pharmacies: The system did not allow for it….

Those vaccinations triggered a bit of a change in mindset – I felt more free, more safe, more alive again – and I guess, this mental push should definitely not be underestimated when it comes to the health of the human mental faculties.

The several times postponed HOPE Gala concert took place – and despite all the Covid-19 regulations being adhered to – the sheer fact to be able to celebrate an event again – the sheer fact that you – vaccinated and tested dared to hug a person again – it was an evening with a taste of normality which did everybody attending so good. And add the musical program of this open air event – it was simply great, enjoyable and some hours of liberation from an otherwise so threatening world. I take my head off for the organizers, who until the very end did not know it was possible to run the event, but still put all energy and love into the planing and finally executing of the great Charity Concert.

Back in South Africa there was the constant demand triggered by the construction of The Nex – Indawo Yethu Campus in Delft – so much preparation since 2019 and finally the move into the first buildings: Administration Building, Bavarian House and Resource Centre as well as “La Maison de Christoph”, the holistic preventative health centre. The joy of occupying a new building but also the challenges of a snag list longer than the river Jordan while at the same time starting the first programmes like vocational training / duale Ausbildung in logistics, entrepreneurial skills’ development programs and other education courses constituted a roller coaster of feelings. We had days with more than 200 students on the partly finished campus while next Phase 2, the Early Childhood Development Centre was and is currently in construction. Those who called my idea of this campus a crazy one, a not possible one had finally to admit, that the sky is the limit if you believe in something and one has the right partners creating synergies. Because you can’t do it alone, the HOPE Cape Town team, VPUU and all the other collaborators from government, NGO’s and civil society as well as the Bavarian State Chancellery were all essential to walk the talk and to bring another ray of hope to Delft.

Finally, the last months with the second trip, three charity dinner in Berlin, Dresden and Munich and many personal encounters with sponsors and partners. And still the upcoming 4th wave in the back of your mind constantly threatening travel plans: nevertheless most was possible to achieve, but it took more energy out than anticipated.

Back in Cape Town beginning of December there was no rest for the restless as the official opening of the Bavarian House and the anniversary of 20 years HOPE Cape Town were due to be celebrated. And while we missed our Bavarian friends, who could not travel due to Covid-19 travel restrictions – and the arrival of Omicron – Saturday, 4th of December was a day of joy and celebrating achievements – not in a big way, but the day stood out and felt good. I am still grateful for all who made this day happen!

Now we are before Christmas – and as the headline indicates, there is one item missing: recovery. There was a time in between of flu-like symptoms where I quarantined, not wanting to give the flu to anybody else – nothing really dramatic, just a bit of cold and cough, quickly gone. It turned now out that this was Covid-19 – and my natural antibodies are now skyrocket high next to the ones triggered by the vaccine.

So yes – it looks like this year was really full of challenges but also islands of joy. There were moments of frustrations, but also of deep gratitude and happiness. Covid-19 has created many obstacles on my way and certainly did not help to fundraise and cut the possibilities of expansion of my network. It showed clear limitations of activism, but it also triggered creativity and the determination to achieve set goals even in the midst of a pandemic.

I am going out of this year more humble and more grateful – I count my blessings more carefully. And I am determined to welcome 2022 with open arms willing to make again the best out of what is possible.

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

When incompetence meets ignorance

When incompetence meets ignorance, normally there are consequences – and the changes in the entry regulations for Germany regarding people coming from areas with virus variations are an example of dire consequences for business people, investors and frankly those in South Africa, who are not able any more to sustain themselves.

Germany has changed the entry rules for mutant variation areas: India, Great Britain, Portugal are suddenly only High Incidence Areas while South Africa, the SADEC region and Brazil remain closed for non-Germans and to add hurt to insult, prescribes 14 days of quarantine without the possibility of early testing to be able to move on.

Obviously, everybody affected is screaming at Germany, but to be fair, one has to take a step back to appreciate the situation in its entirety. One has to admit, that the national government of South Africa failed its people a great deal. The vaccine procurement disaster, the corruption and stealing of Covid-19 relief money, a suspended national Minister of Health and a Minister of Tourism with questionable credentials now running the show, the attempt to use the lockdown to progress on a left ideology and the continued disaster produced on all levels using cadre deployment policy did not and currently does not help to remedy the situation. There seems to be no trust in Europe in the ability of South Africa’s ruling party to contain the virus – and all the nice pictures of Ramaphosa in Great Britain recently can’t change this. Political pleasantries for TV never automatically mean realities behind the curtain.

On the other hand, preventing fully vaccinated people from South Africa with in Europe approved vaccines to travel to Germany and to sentence Germans coming back to 14 days quarantine is clearly not a balanced approach and shows an ignorance which results in discrimination. It does also not appreciate the fact, that measures should be balanced between rational necessities and the freedom guaranteed by the German constitution. Looking at statistics, Germany has meanwhile predominately infections with the Delta variant. To open up for India and Great Britain where this variant is also dominant, but refuse to do the same for South Africa and other Southern African countries has the taste of bias, old school thinking and ignorance.

Even if obviously Germany comes first for Germans, to add to more downfall of the economy of another country – and we have to recall that even when South Africa had an incidence rate of 11 – no South African was allowed to travel to Germany- there should be more considerations and not only lip-service.

The current situation and rules are not helpful, they discriminate against those doing business, having job offers or study permits, they disrupt the lives of many without a balanced approach. They ignore negligently the already dire situation of many living in South Africa and those in Germany who would like to keep a lifeline with this African country.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Travel woes

Trying to travel in the times of Covid-19 becomes more and more a nightmare, especially when you come from a so called high-incidence area like South Africa – where the incidence of currently 11.9 and a recovery rate of over 95% constantly is obviously a major threat to European countries dealing with incident rates average between 100 and 300. It is an interesting experience to be a pariah of the world, only because South Africa did something right – which is seldom enough in our days – namely sequencing the existing virus genomes and making the world aware of a mutation which popped up in other countries as well and threatens e.g. with its 1% occurrence in Germany obviously this country in its core.

Trying to reach Europe from Cape Town is becoming a nightmare: airlines stop flying and entry is practically not allowed for those coming from the danger zone of open restaurants, hotels, shops and with level 1 lockdown almost normal life adhering to hygiene, masks in public and distance keeping.

But seriously:

The Robert-Koch-Institute in Germany keeps South Africa on all danger lists possible since last year – and till now only a court in Baden-Württemberg has dared to state, that this institute has not provided any valid reason for asking local governments in Germany to enforce extended quarantine for people returning from South Africa.

Those daring to fly to South Africa suddenly realise how politics can paint a picture of a country which has nothing to do with reality. Politics, which destroys without any visible regret a very important sector of South Africa’s economy, namely tourism, and pushes the country even deeper into trouble on many levels.

Fear and trying to be a Nanny state dictates currently German politics – add to it the urge to always have a perfect solution for a problem and inventing rules for it, then you have the perfect mix for disaster looming. Listening to those in charge you get the impression that they really think they can beat a pandemic. You simply can’t do this -you have to live with it – and you have to find ways to counter it in a way which balances the freedom of people and the needs of a healthy democracy with the threat posed by the virus.

Looking at the vaccine drives and the distribution of vaccines in the world, there is the other assumption for which Europe is falling: vaccinating their own people first will help. The pandemic is only under control if the virus is kept at bay all over the world at the same time. There is no first winner – even trying to curb travel will not lead to the final goal of co-existing with the virus on a level not really being a threat to humans.

Pandemics are a serious threat for human mankind and the systems, humans are working within; anxiety and fear are definitely not the best advisors nor is it to look only at virology for answers. Social sciences, the psychological impact as well as the economic impact are as important to balance and listen to. Time to reconsider as well as to reflect what governments are obliged to do and where the individual citizen remains in charge of his or her own destiny. Our highly complex societies and their interactions need different answers as we are currently able to give.
And like it or not:
Despite the failure regarding the vaccine story and the attempts to abuse the pandemic for political gains and transformation, for the time being South Africa handles the pandemic better than Europe.

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

Fool’s Day – on a serious note…

Today, 1st of April is “Fool’s Day” – a day known to be littered by the attempt to trick somebody in believing something which is factually wrong – a hoax so to speak. So people are fooled in what they see or hear. And maybe this year there are reasons for reflecting more seriously on the meaning of this day:

Looking at the world of today – I can only say that it seems Fool’s Day is a permanence in our days – certainly for different reasons in different areas but nevertheless a continuum of notice. Some examples of note:

Starting in South Africa: Listening to the ANC NEC decision about Ace Magashule – South Africans are certainly taken for a ride looking at the long time, a political Mafioso and an accused corrupt politician remained and now remains in power for the next 30 days – the damage this man and his fraction has done is substantial and no ordinary citizen would be afforded the same kindness.

Staying by kindness and looking at the Zondo Commission and former President Jacob Zuma – again no ordinary citizen would be afforded to ignore and even attack a legal entity continuously and avoid consequences for so long; let alone justice for bringing South Africa to the knees in his time on the helmet of the state. But obviously it is difficult for a party which has lived beyond the expiry date in the current shape to insist that the law takes it course.

Vaccines are another topic were not only but also South Africa has a share in a prolonged Fool’s Day. Recall the President and the Minister of Health with all tamm-tamm and glory inspecting the arriving more than a million vaccines which consequently were not good enough? Mix this with a small study making headlines in South Africa from an academic, who changed stance within weeks when it was too late and politics had decided to throw away the lifeline for people in the third wave, and you got a good take on a Fools Day episode.

And then a President and Minister of Health suddenly turned into frontline health care worker to get the jab and jumping queue in a phase III trial of J&J now baptised phase one roll-out?

Meanwhile, South Africa is on the back burner still waiting to see the advent of a roll-out while the chair of the MAC for vaccines tries desperately to justify the not justifiable, arguing in an opinion piece in a way contradicting himself.

But staying with Covid-19 and the fall-out: Europe and my home country Germany also keeps Fool’s Day alive. Germany continues to ban South Africans to enter the country and those Germans who make it from South Africa must go in prolonged quarantine – an incidence rate of 12.9 is more dangerous than one of hundred and more – and a mutant, which is only discovered in South Africa but present also in other countries is taken as a reason for the unreasonable political decision. Only one High Court in the province of Baden -Württemberg has meanwhile ruled that this does not make sense. But this non-sense continues to keep South Africans from travelling to almost all European countries and even further up to the Seychelles. There everybody is welcome now for holidays except those coming from South Africa.

But even if you would be able to arrive in Germany – the confusion of what is allowed or not allowed in different parts of the country is mind-boggling – the forward and again backward decisions are beyond comprehension let alone common sense. With all appreciation of a difficult situation politicians find themselves in – what’s happening now is damage to democratic rule and the understanding, that a state is not the nanny for its citizens. Serious questions to be asked when this Fool’s Day time has come to an end.

In the USA – the four-year prolonged Fool’s Day has somehow come to an end – but judgement is still out how it changed the nation of the free or let’s say perceived free. Having said that, the last four years allowed other countries like Russia and China to explore this Day in many ways which harms life, democracy and the freedoms and civil rights, people have fought for and paid with blood in this world.

Lastly looking at my own church: the answer of the Vatican when it comes to blessings of same-sex partnerships also feels for many as a Fools Day joke with a very bitter taste. And the public reaction especially in Germany shows that people are not able and willing to accept this any further. And yes, even the handling of child abuse in the Catholic Church as seen in Cologne had and has the feeling that people were taken for a ride and those who had endured abuse were not really taken serious enough as this topic would require.

Reflecting on all those issues in the context of Fool’s Day maybe requires more than ever what we celebrate on Sunday in my church: Easter – salvation – experiencing a touch of freedom from all those things which don’t take us serious – leading us into a new chapter where we tackle in respect before each other the challenges of life and keeping – or returning Fools Day as a one-day occurrence of light-hearted jokes making us laugh and not cry.

And as Catholics there is a German tradition on Easter: During the sermon on Easter Sunday, the priest has to tell a joke and make the people laugh – they call it the Easter laughter….

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

Fatigue and the lack of the art to think long-term

I guess nobody wants to be in the shoes of those in political office when it comes to Covid-19. Even when the theoretical threat of a pandemic was known to academics and politicians alike, Corona visited without real warning – and the Chinese system to hide unpleasant truth did not help in being prepared. Italy paid the heaviest price at the beginning of the pandemic arriving in Europe, but meanwhile many more countries experience what it means if the implicitness of daily life is pulled away from societies.

Of course in the times of social media, we have millions of people who know it better – and whatever politicians say or do, it is wrong for quite a portion of society and pepped up by fake news, ideology and outright concious lying we have arrived in split societies all over the world: those who rebel against any sort of restrictions or even questioning the pure existence of the virus and others on the other margin of society who can’t live without their daily dose of sanitizers on everything which theoretically could bring danger into their homes.

There are also massive failures to be noticed; in my country of residence I could mention :
the ordering of vaccines by the South African government and its non-existing transparency in this regard is an example for failure to live up to the duty of those in charge; there are also noticeable behaviour patterns, which warrant criticism like the visible sheer lust for authoritarian rule as presented by some ministers and the inability of thinking with logic and consistency or deliver the needed services at all.

Globally we see fatigue when it comes to rules regarding restrictions – and the willingness to adhere to seemingly every day changing rules is clearly going down. Generally besides all complexity there is one notion which seems to be present in all countries and societies:
The lack of the art to think long-term.

It does not matter where you look, the four or five years election circles in most democracies have changed the mindset of those in charge – instead of long-term vision there are only short-term thinking having the next voting day in mind – even in non-democratic countries like China there is the tendency visible to act and react rather with short-term vision pacifying people on a certain level. Gone are the days when leaders had real visions bigger than life and certainly their political life-span. Contributing to this short circuit thinking is certainly also the instant “feedback” via social media; the phrase “shitstorm” has entered the realms of communication and decision-making, and it is often not to the benefit of society.

Looking at my country of birth Germany – the currently constant onslaught in headlines promising more lockdown, harder lockdown, longer lockdown as a permanent feature is contrarily to fostering compliance and adherence to rules. The very core of being human: closeness, touch and social interactions are on the list of forbidden fruits in pandemic times – and only measured action and perspective given in positive language will bring people to endure hardship in this regard on the long run. Pushing, threatening, confusing through changing messages will spill back – making up and pretending are the enemies of compliance and peaceful adherence.

A clear indication of the state of mind is the non-celebratory reaction of the advent of available vaccines: instead of celebrating science rightfully for working hard and in short time to bring a solution to the table, in most countries the mourning and questioning of facts and advances is mind-boggling. And it should give cause to serious reflection.

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

Blog Categories

Follow God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE on WordPress.com

Ball of HOPE 2022

Join us @ The Westin in Cape Town05/21/2022
4 months to go.

Charity Dinner Berlin 2022

An event not to be missed10/14/2022
9 months to go.

Charity Dinner Dresden 2022

An event not to be missed11/05/2022
9 months to go.

Charity Dinner Munich 2022

Munich meets HOPE ... An event not to be missed11/26/2022
10 months to go.

Stefan Hippler Twitter Account

You can share this blog in many ways..

Bookmark and Share

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,115 other followers

Translation – Deutsch? Française? Espanol? …

The translation button is located on each single blog page, Copy the text, click the button and paste it for instant translation:
Website Translation Widget

or for the translation of the front page:

* Click for Translation

Copyright

© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This not withstanding the following applies:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

%d bloggers like this: