God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Out of touch with reality

Sometimes there comes blow after blow and one wonders about the trauma triggered in oneself and how to digest those, work through them and still keeps walking straight and with hope.
While still trying to absorb and digest all the chaos here in South Africa, this week also saw the publication from the Vatican on instructions on pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the church – issued by the Congregation for the Clergy.

And if you, as the valued reader, now wonder what a Vatican’s instruction has to do with the situation in South Africa, the answer is simple:
in both cases it seems to me in my humble opinion, that the touch with reality has been lost somewhere and somehow.
And in both cases, it seems that history and ideology are playing the major roles.

While in South Africa the governing party has lost the plot and even appears to be destructive in what it claims to have liberated, the Vatican’s publication shows similarities, as it takes its arguments out of a history long gone in current times and partly draws arguments which don’t hold water under the bridge.
It is generally amazing to see in the context of the global village, that many, facing crisis and uncertainty, are moving back and trying to hold on systems, faith systems and social constructs which worked in the past. Nationalism, reminiscent mood, anxiety and the unwillingness to embrace an uncertain future is an interesting mix telling the story of human mankind in current times. Or maybe that others are right in saying, that the digital revolution has overstrained human mankind, exposing our weaknesses and triggering a yearning for safety and security given by what we know and hold dear.

And for those taking a step back and observing, the mix is interesting: in the case of the church we have a real revolutionary style of leadership in comparison with the last popes in Pope Frances contradicting backwards showing instructions, while in South Africa we have the most modern constitution while working with ideologies coming out of the Cold War times. It is those unspoken contradictions which adds to the trauma of living in current times.
While South Africa is yearning to heal from Apartheid and the unbelievable and unashamed corruption till present times, the Catholic Church is yearning to heal from the unbelievable and unashamed abuse of children cushioned by clericalism and a partly abstruse medieval view on sexuality.

 

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

FridaysForFuture

Even if it is questionable whether it is healthy for young lady Greta long term as a young girl using the world stage to therapize herself there is no doubt that the topic of climate change has reached a multitude of young people. And it has galvanised a youth long been seen as completely a-political and not really interested in anything than their own little pleasures. And as in every generation current youth is allowed to overdo it, put all emotions in it and indeed think that their order of the day is the most important and most essential as the world goes around. When I was young, the use of nuclear warheads and their storage in Germany as well as nuclear energy have been those topics moving us to the core of our young existence.

I would like to see FridaysForFuture reflecting a bit more on another reality that generally hinders the development of realistic changes towards dealing with the climate of our planet: the rise of egocentric and unreasonable politicians and the war between those wanting to preserve a male macho self-serving disturbing ignorant world order and those understanding, that the world has changed. With politicians like Donald Trump, McConnell and others in the USA, Boris Johnson, Viktor Orban, Sebastian Kurz in Europe, MBK in Saudi-Arabia or Vladimir Putin in Russia – to name a few – there will be no future for a world society tackling the climate change as a challenge for the global village. Simply because they don’t see beyond their power-hungry desire let alone understand the need for global social cohesion as a base for real change.

FridaysForFuture will only succeed if their action is framed by a global conscience shared by political leaders and enacted in forms of government recognizing the dependency of every country on each other. Make my country great again slogans and similar arrogance are stumble blocks for any joined action of a world, in which via social media, economics and travel people have reached a point of togetherness besides all existing differences.  The more in-depth realization of this togetherness to overcome remaining inequalities in the world order, in countries, societies or even between human beings related to sex, gender or human dignity is the base for any meaningful global action. Therefore, the movement will have to dig in deeper and political more fundamental if it will have merit and a successful place in the history books.

FridaysForFuture is a child of the digital era which at the moment changes fundamentally the world in a way most people even don’t start to imagine. Only when they understand their role within this scenario they will be a force for good, and they will help to shape a future for the human race which will be so different from the past ways of life. For this to happen, they need the maturity of the older generation giving a helping hand.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World Aids Day 2016

o-world-aids-day-facebook“Leadership. Commitment. Impact” so the slogan for the World Aids Day 2016 which the world will celebrate coming week. Signs are already visible – newspapers and magazines are publishing more and more stories about HIV and AIDS, marketing prescribes for many products and messages the red ribbon – and as always on the 2nd of December some reviews will end the frenzy and hype around the pandemic. The world is getting quiet again till next year same time.

“Leadership. Commitment. Impact” – when I look around the world in our days – there is neither responsible leadership nor commitment prominently visible. The global village is rather falling apart in nations of own interest again, in the USA a racist and misogynist is elected president, in Turkey there is a dictator in the making and right-wing politicians worldwide gain popularity by only looking to create walls and distances between people. In South Africa President Zuma and the ruling party miss the boat of leadership completely and run the country into the ground if it continues like this.

Maybe we expect leadership and commitment from the wrong people and parties. Looking at the AIDS pandemic we can learn that leadership did not come from those in power. US President Reagan did everything possible to ignore the pandemic, church leaders – and some until today – were calling it the punishment of God – no, leadership came from those who were at the margins of society – in this case the gay people who organized in a committed way resistance against ignorance, demanded public attention and at the same time cared with passion and compassion about those about to lose their lives in mainly young age. Those, who were criminalized, ostracized, punished and outlawed fought the fight and brought at the end even a global political body like the UN to dedicate a meeting on a pandemic – a first in the history of the entity.

HIV and Aids brought so the attention of the global village not only to its own plight, but other sicknesses torturing those living in Africa and other far away areas as seen from Europe and the USA came under the spotlight. Even a global fond was established – another first in this regard. Maybe it needs a drama of that magnitude to bring people together – to let them forget about their own interests only and to realize the interconnections of human mankind and creation as such.
HIV and Aids are not sexy anymore – medication has stopped the immediate carnage and prolonged life in theory for all, in practice mainly for those able to afford it. Looking at the figures we see that too many people don’t have access to treatment and the infection rates are climbing disturbingly in some countries again while others – like South Africa – remain stuck on a high level. The Global Fund is struggling to maintain its impact as countries don’t honor their commitments or paying less and less believing the pandemic is under control. Looking at other viral and bacterial diseases we know that this is false hope. Life is a bitch – and evolution at work and if we don’t watch out, chances are high that we see reruns of battles we thought we have won long ago.

I wish that World Aids Day 2016 is more than just a reminder of the plight of HIV positive people. I hope that this day also serves as a beacon of hope that leadership is coming back, commitment is not only pledged but practiced – and not only in handing out medication or testing people, but also to create a surroundings and environment that let people living with HIV live without discrimination and with proper access to treatment and care in a peaceful setting. The global village needs an urgent reminder in our days that we respectfully need each other to create a future where diseases are healed, pandemics are maintained, not only those of the body but also of the hearts and souls and minds of people.

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HOPE Cape Town is working in a holistic way to give young people living with HIV and related illnesses hope and a future.
www.hopecapetown.com / www.hopecapetownusa.com

Filed under: Africa, General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Laudato Si

Seldom was an encyclical so much anticipated and then so much welcomed by almost all quarters of society with the exception of those denying global warming as a matter of principal. Having read the document there is indeed a unique beauty and meaning in how Pope Francis combined and interlinked ecology, poverty and economy as well as social justice. It feels like an updated “Pacem in Terris” written in 1963 by the good Pope Johannes XXIII: Here is someone catching at the right moment the sentiments and worries of all people of good will living in the global village.
A document, the Catholic Church can be proud to have produced and worth reading bit by bit, even if one doesn’t agree with faith as such or with the Catholic Church as an institution.

Much is already written about it – form your own opinion by reading the document yourself.
Here the link to the English version:
Laudato Si

Filed under: Catholic Church, Politics and Society, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , ,

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