God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Observation on a cruise

TV display on the MS Artania

TV display on the MS Artania

Being away as the chaplain for a cruise is certainly a break away from the daily duties and a welcome change in the normal work routine. But obviously it seems that HOPE Cape Town is somehow everywhere on my shoulder it does not matter where I go or travel.
Being on the MS Artania now and chatting to one of the guests I discover she is from Dresden and her son works for the “Schauspielhaus”. So there it is again: the “HOPE-connection” without even knowing each other at first.
And those who know already about my work do want to know how it is going. So one could say travelling the world and doing pastoral work for the people and marketing HOPE Cape Town goes hand in hand.
And it is true: somehow HOPE Cape Town seems to be an integral part of my life and sometimes I wonder whether I ever have the chance to escape of being sort of “Mr HOPE” one day. And the next question coming up is whether I really want this change in my life.
Giving a talk on a cruise ship about HOPE Cape Town is always a challenge. The guests present on the ship are here to enjoy a stress and worry free holiday – most haven chosen to dip into the world of cruises to have the time of their lives. Of course they are visiting different countries and automatically also hear and see the miseries of poverty and other downsides of society. And the reactions are very diverse: some romanticize, others ignore, some complain about even being exposed to it and I know of travellers who freely admit, that they don’t take cruises to Africa or South America because they don’t want to see “it”.
Here I feel my role as a chaplain can bridge the gap and when it happens, interesting discussions will follow, not only in the ‘question and answer spot” after the talk but also during the whole journey.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Gala Dresden, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

05.01.2010 Holiday blues…

Staying on holiday so far away from home has two disadvantages: The first is that people forget that there is indeed a time difference and that phoning me in the evening means waking me up after midnight. Well, one might say, that one could simply switch off the cell during night – and yes, that’s right. But – and this is the second disadvantage: climax points of disasters and worries happening normally especially, when one is far away – so one is needed the most, when one is far away… Or is that only my fantasy?? 🙂

Nevertheless, Bangkok is starting to fill up again with people and cars and noise; normal life has come back to the city of angels. And checking the news I see our president dancing the Zulu wedding dance in full leopard outfit – his third wife, not to count the divorced one and the deceased one – and it is mentioned that he is already engaged with future wife number four. And it comes to my mind what that all means to fidelity in marriage – and the concept of marriage as we Catholics have. Not to mention that his now third wife has already three kids – so sexuality must have been practiced before marriage. Which is obvious for most Africans, as after paying the lobola the couple is allowed to engage in sexual activities before the wedding ceremony – old African traditions – once again – what does this mean to the more Eurocentric view of Catholicism which puts sex only into the marriage.

Here in Bangkok I am reading in the moment a book about katoeys – the third gender in Thailand – and once again I asked myself, what does the existence of such a third gender mean in the framework of Catholic moral theology.

So not, only sleepless nights, but also so many questions and so little answer…  And all this has indeed also to do with the topic of HIV and AIDS and how we approach it.. Well, I still have more than a week time to find some…  🙂

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

29.12.2009 Holiday time

Going on holidays.. always an exciting thing to do, but there is also that another side to it: making the effort really to stop working, to leave work behind, to pack bags and to prepare for the journey. For me, going on holidays always have three phases: the planing one, where I am excited to go, the days beforehand, where I am sure that it is really not the right time to leave – and then finally the time after arrival where I do enjoy myself and can relax. And at the end I feel that it could really be a little bit longer.. 🙂

I am in the second stage in the moment, having to leave tomorrow for two weeks of relaxation – still have to pack and find my passports and all the rest of the documentation, but there is still a night to get it all done. Sleeping can be done in the plane.

I am also aware that the concept of real leisure holidays is not a worldwide concept. When I tried to get this concept to my adopted son some years ago, he was indeed looking at me in a strange way. The idea of longer travel to explore or doing nothing seemed to be a funny one.  I for myself know that travel really gives you knowledge and shows, how divers one can look even at certain values. We European tend to think, that everybody must see it always the same way like we do, but I guess not only we Europeans have this error of judgement.. 🙂

Well, tomorrow eve I will be in the air not able to blog – therefore already now a Happy New Year to all and everybody reading this blog. May 2010 be full of joy and blessings.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized,

20.12.2009 Winding down…

4th Sunday of Advent – this morning service at the  Milnerton church and after that a nice stroll with friends along the promenade of SeaPoint – perfect weather and a great brunch added to a perfect Sunday morning. Cape Town starts to get into the holiday mood – one can sense it seeing more people from the rest of the country, the streets are clearly occupied by people searching for Table Mountain when the robot is green…. 🙂

HOPE Cape Town is winding down it’s business for the summer holidays – soon all are gone except our doctor keeping our office open between all the festivities. It is the time of the year when Cape Town feels like a long never-ending holiday – the beaches are full of people, and the sun is puting a smile on almost everybody’s faces.

The kids on the Ithemba ward had a visit from Andre and friends from the Milnerton parish.. – Christmas surprise with a Santa Claus coming to the ward. It is so nice to see the on Facebook the pics of the happy kids – well done, you folks from Milnerton – you made a difference in the lives kids and parents… thank you so much. For me it is always amazing to see how people engage and help and sacrifice time and other resources to make the more needy ones happy. Again: Mille Gracie… 🙂

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

03.08.2009 positive blogging…

It is amazing to find out more and more people blogging about their positive lifestyles and it is encouraging to read about it.  Most of them are doing it anonymously and it is understandable amidst the fear of stigmatisation and the often neurotic way, people react to a positive person. Why is that so? Because amazingly I have the impression, that it is always the others, who would be vulnerable to catch the virus. I have had discussions with people having multiple unprotected sex, but they were still convinced that they carefully selected their partners and that the risk of contracting the virus was almost zero. Isn’t that amazing?
An unforgettable moment in my life was last year visiting a friend in Thailand, who obviously was quite sick when I arrived. Knowing his lifestyle I spend days to convince him to visit a clinic and to let him test himself. On a Saturday evening at 10pm I got him into Silom community clinic and pushed my way with him through the staff trying to close down. Three rapid tests confirmed my suspicion and reflecting with him on what was happening, it was amazing for me to understand that he – deep inside himself – knew, what was wrong with him, but simply refused to face the reality of a test. God knows alone how many infections could have been avoided if he would have gone earlier. But the fear of stigma, of getting sick, of being rejected prevented him for a long time to go for the test. Understandable, but it showed me again how stigma adds to more infections and to early death as one starts treatment consequently sometimes too late.

Making things worse in this case, his CD 4 count was still to high to be able to receive treatment (over 200 copies p/ml).. so he had to wait another half a year before being able to start treatment.  These are the things driving me in my work in this field. The stigma, the unnecessary suffering until being eligible for treatment in a 3rd world setting and more and more the restriction of travel for people living with the virus. We are so advanced in treatment in Europe – but we are still miles away from treating HIV as a condition which does not need to end in discrimination or stigmatization of some kind.

We have to work with those affected and infected in an intensive way to change these settings, which lead at the end to more suffering and more infections – completely unnecessary. And we have to work constantly with ourselves to understand our own perceptions, fears, prejudices to convert them into a loving understanding without judgment.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Reflection, , , , , , , , , ,

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