God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

If a “gangster” calls a “gangster” a “gangster”

This was my spontaneous thought when I heard EFF’s Julius Malema, the man who once defended and desperately wanted to die for Jacob Zuma rose on his feet at the opening of South Africa’s Parliament to scream and shout at the giggling President before being forcefully removed. Later that eve I could not find any compassion with Mr Julius complaining that he might not be able to hold a pen when having an exam the next day because he felt injured during the scuffles broken out when pushed out of the chamber.

Why should it matter to ordinary South Africans?

Because yesterdays calamities mirrored the downfall of the New South Africa in a way which revealed how the struggle for power, the lack of healing within society, the inability of changing the mindset from struggle to democracy and the lack of education and ethics in the cadres and the consequence of repetitive learning instead of thinking outside the box creates a framework for every decent South African in which survival is the first and nation building comes at the end.
The show of force, the intimidation of public, journalists and politicians by an almost authoritarian lock-down of a whole city to protect one man and his cronies is indeed a treat to the future of this beautiful country.

So, next question: Why does this all matter to a blog of “God, Aids, Africa and HOPE”?

The work of HOPE Cape Town, as most other NGO’s does not stop in its defined portfolio – in our case HIV, Aids,TB and related illnesses. It is in its holistic approach assisting those marginalized and as such a tool  supporting nation building. Looking into the social circumstances, allowing for a healthy development of life, taking away the tread of dead, reassuring people of their worth, showing compassion and in doing so leading by example – all those little mosaic pieces are needed to fill the bigger puzzle picture of a prosperous South Africa. Like in a motor-block the smallest screw is important to make the entire motor run round.
The backbone of such an adventure to make South Africa a shining example of a functioning democracy where every citizen counts and is appreciated is Parliament where members should explore and decide with dignity and reason on the framework for such a way forward. In a highly demoralized society which still licks the wounds of apartheid the role model function of MP’s and the institutions concerned is even higher than usual.

Yesterday evenings’ events show the promise of more dark hours for South Africa to come – and as long as the ANC is not able and willing to let go of a president having lost all credibility and recall him demagogues like Malema will have easy play with harsh consequences for this country. It’s up to us all to stop this in its traces and to work even harder to transform and heal this country – and important is this combination. “radical transformation” will not work – because healing needs time and dialogue and if we want to use the word “radical” in this context then only “radical compassion” and “radical dedication” towards our goal will bring the wanted outcome for every South African.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , ,

blessed, joyful or horrible?

Depending on whom you ask these days, the answer how 2017 will play out is answered differently. In the USA Democrats fear a horrible start of a Trump presidency, in South Africa, President Zuma is joyful that the ANC, celebrating birthday today, has the same impact as the birth of Jesus and those in Istanbul having survived the attack on the nightclub will feel blessed to luckily escape the bullets of the shooter. So it seems that situations determine the outlook of the year just started to come to life.
Reflecting on it, I am not sure this is the right way to look at it. Situations I often can not change, they way I react is the only option to turn the tide or to get through the year sane and with the joy and dignity it deserves. So yeah, the facts might be favorable or unfavorable from the outside but at the end it is me who decides on how to work with them or through them. Trump is a pain in the neck and his election has shown the limits of democracy when millions of disappointed citizen believe a self-absorbed womanizer and liar, but exactly those limitations will trigger the sense of resistance and finally goodness in many: the values of protecting the poor, supporting those who have to flee their home, to uphold constitutional rights  – we will see a wave of humanity balancing the ignorance of the elected ones. Whatever the perceived outlook is for somebody: the year 2017 will be as mixed, as challenging, as rewarding, as surprising like any other year before. Like in every year it will open and close doors unexpectedly, we will see people gone for good and for some of us, the door of this life will also close forever.

Who you are will determine how you manage and see the year in respective – the inner values, your stand in life, your rooting in life will at the end be the compass to navigate through all the challenges ahead. And the same goes for organizations: having build and building core values with consistency and dedication, knowing what you are good at and where to improve, having a plan and still being flexible enough to reevaluate, being adventurous while knowing your trade is the recipe for success – and this success is in the case of an NGO like HOPE Cape Town measured in the quantity of hope and love you where able to pass on to those in need of support and assistance. Every smile of a child feeling healthy and loved, every positive outlook of a struggling youngster mastering the years before adulthood will be a marker of this success; every baby born healthy and put into the arms of an exhausted mother after birth will contribute to how this year is playing out for people. Let’s take what we are faced with in 2017 and turn it as much as possible into a blessing for all concerned.

 

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

Challenging times

Times are moving fast and arriving in Dresden attending the 11th HOPE Gala it is time to reflect on all what is happening in the world around us.
In South Africa, times are getting more and more tough – students are trying to force the state into submission of free education with turmoil, violence and militant language – not seeing that their initially good cause is meanwhile compromised for many reasons. President Zuma survived another non-confidence vote as the ANC is still not ready to acknowledge the magnitude of corruption and damage done to the country.
In the USA a womanizer and liar with a very limited world view is elected president via a system which assembles only a shadow of democracy. In Germany right-wing thoughts are popular again and the populist AfD seems to win the hearts and minds of more and more people.
Black and white, simple solutions, believing in simple answers, following a gut feeling of fear and anxiety seems to govern most people in this global village. And the systems holding societies together are fading away in the challenges of today; the vast amount of information available at any given time seems to be so indigestible to most global village inhabitants so that they seek refuge in those mentioned simple answers.
Churches seemed to be too much self-absorbed to have the time to really take note and actively work against this trend of time – when you look to the USA, most Catholic Bishops were so occupied with certain topics that the social Catholic teaching faded away in the judgements given before the elections.

Well, life turns in circles and therefore there is always hope that the wheels are turning again and reason will prevail. There is no need to get lost in desperation, but this is a time to watchfully and carefully observe the situation and to actively try to correct the turns of society and their leadership into a direction towards humanity, charity, tolerance and compassion at heart.

The HOPE Gala in Dresden shows me that people still care, that people still go the extra mile to assist and help and reach out to people far away; those living on the margins of the wealthy  spots in our global village. There is hope as events like this are happening not only in Dresden but also for many good causes around the globe. As long as there are some lights in the darkness of todays social and political developments, as long as there are people not giving up on trying to better all lives instead only their own ones – as long as there is resistance to let go those unfortunate living in the wrong places or born at the wrong times there is a reason to fight for a global village which is compassionate about everybody equally.

I guess we also have to learn to strive a balance between information flows possible and the ability of people to digest those info. Again we have to learn that human minds and brains and hearts have a limited capacity of in-take. And that fear and anxiety are bad advisers when it comes to develop our future as a human family.

As always life goes on and there is light at the end of the tunnel – faith, love and hope remain as the bible tells us rightly.

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

Christian Unity – a sermon to listen to

I know, lots of sermons are boring, old-fashioned and definitive to long. But there are indeed exceptions and I would like to share one with you all: It’s a Catholic sermon at an Anglican event speaking about reformation – it almost sounds like a contradiction, but Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, was invited to a Eucharist celebration in Westminster Abbey, London, on Tuesday 24 November 2015. The event marked the inauguration of the 10th General Synod of the Church of England and the sermon was indeed short and sweet, but powerful and leading the way to the possibility of a unified diversity of Christian Churches. Addressing the Queen and the whole Synod, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa reflected on the preparations for the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation saying the following:

Rebuild my house – Haggai 1:1-8
Few prophetic oracles in the Old Testament can be dated so precisely as that of Haggai, which we have just heard in the first reading. We can place it between August and December in the year 520 BC. The exiles, after the deportation to Babylon, have come back to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. They set to work, but soon grow discouraged, each preferring to work on his own house instead. Into this situation comes the prophet Haggai, sent by God with the message we have heard.
The Word of God, once it is proclaimed, remains forever alive; it transcends situations and centuries, each time casting new light. The situation deplored by the prophet is renewed in history each time we are so absorbed in the problems and interests of our own parish, diocese, community – and even of our particular Christian denomination – that we lose sight of the one house of God, which is the Church.
The prophecy of Haggai begins with a reproof, but ends, as we heard, with an exhortation and a grandiose promise: “Go up into the hills, fetch timber and rebuild the House, and I shall take pleasure in it and manifest my glory there” – says the Lord”.
One circumstance makes this point particularly relevant. The Christian world is preparing to celebrate the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other’s rights and wrongs. Rather, let us take a qualitative leap forward, like what happens when the sluice gates of a river or a canal enable ships to continue to navigate at a higher water level.
The situation has dramatically changed since then. We need to start again with the person of Jesus, humbly helping our contemporaries to experience a personal encounter with Him. “All things were created through him and for him”; Christ is the light of the world, the one who gives meaning and hope to every human life – and the majority of people around us live and die as if He had never existed! How can we be unconcerned, and each remain “in the comfort of our own paneled houses”? We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than love for Jesus Christ unites us.
We need to go back to the time of the Apostles: they faced a pre-Christian world, and we are facing a largely post-Christian world. When Paul wants to summarize the essence of the Christian message in one sentence, he does not say, “I proclaim this or that doctrine to you.” He says, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), and “We preach . . . Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). This is the real “articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae”, the article by which the Church stands or falls.
This does not mean ignoring the great theological and spiritual enrichment that came from the Reformation or desiring to go back to the time before it. It means instead allowing all of Christianity to benefit from its achievements, once they are freed from certain distortions due to the heated atmosphere of the time and of later controversies.
Justification by faith, for example, ought to be preached by the whole Church—and with more vigor than ever. Not in opposition to good works – the issue is already settled – but rather in opposition to the claim of people today that they can save themselves thanks to their science, technology or their man-made spirituality, without the need for a redeemer coming from outside humanity. Self-justification! I am convinced that if they were alive today this is the way Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer would preach justification through faith!
Unity is not a simple matter. One has to start with the big Churches, those that are well structured, putting together that which unites them, which is vastly more important than what divides them; not imposing uniformity but aiming at what pope Francis calls “reconciled diversities”. Nothing is more important than to fulfill Christ’s heart desire for unity expressed in today’s gospel. In many parts of the world people are killed and churches burned not because they are Catholic, or Anglican, or Pentecostals, but because they are Christians. In their eyes we are already one! Let us be one also in our eyes and in the eyes of God.
The Anglican Church has a special role in all of this. It has often defined itself as a “via media” (a Middle Way) between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. From being a “via media” in a static sense, it must now become more and more a via media in a dynamic sense, exercising an active function as a bridge between the Churches. The presence among you of a priest of the Catholic Church, in circumstances of such special significance, is a sign that something of the kind is already happening.
Let us conclude by returning to the text of Haggai. After the people of Israel, in obedience to the prophet’s invitation, had returned with renewed fervour to the task of rebuilding the temple, God sent His prophet again, this time with a message full of hope and consolation:
“But take courage now, Zerubbabel – it is the Lord who speaks -, courage, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, high priest; courage, all you people of the country – it is the Lord who speaks. To work! I am with you, the Lord of hosts declares; and my Spirit is present among you. Do not be afraid!” (Hg 2, 4-5).
Zerubbabel was the political leader at the time, and Joshua the religious leader. I believe that the Lord wanted me to be among you today, above all to tell you that He is addressing this same message to you, at the inauguration of your Synod and also in view of the meeting planned for next January between the leaders of the entire Anglican communion: “Take courage, Your Majesty, Sovereign of this nation, courage, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, courage Sentamu, Archbishop of York, courage, you bishops, clergy and laity of the Church of England! To work, because I am with you. Says the Lord!”
Source: http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2015/11/rebuild-my-house-sermon-to-the-general-synod-of-the-church-of-england-by-father-raniero-cantalamessa.aspx

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blessings for so called “irregular” or same-sex relationships?

After writing about my expectations on the synod related to the questions of family I was asked about my stand on blessings for e.g. same sex couples or divorced-remarried ones. Should the church bless such relationships? This is indeed a question most of us priests try to avoid to answer in public because it can bring us into trouble with the authority and also with those claiming to know every aspect of the will of God since eternity.
But I believe we can not run away and not dealing with such questions and as I believe that there is always a good hint coming your way if you in trouble (this time with a question) there it was before starting to write this blog:

Reading the “Paulinus”, the weekly newspaper of my home diocese, I came across a short note about the meeting between Pope Francis and Bishop Galliot from France. Quoting the newspaper “Le Figaro” it says that “mit Blick auf die Segnung von wiederverheirateten Geschiedenen oder homosexuellen Paaren habe der Papst gelächelt und gesagt: „Der Segen Gottes ist für alle da.“
Translated it says: “looking at the question of blessings for divorced remarried or same-sex couples the pope smiled and said: “God’s blessing is for everybody”.”
And I personally think this is indeed the answer: There is no way that you can deny somebody made in the image of God his blessing. Even the German “Benedictionale”, the book of  blessings has at the end a blessing “for anything” – and if you can bless anything, you can also bless a person.

A blessings means that we speak out and confirm that God and his unconditional love is with a person – and especially when there is love and commitment, who would dare to say that God is absent?
If only those refusing to bless would understand that the measurements of God are so different in mercy, love, forgiveness than what our small little mind can comprehend.

Well, I hear already those who say: Well, yeah, he is with a person, but blessings a relationship? After a failed marriage or in a same-sex relationship?
Well, my answer would be similar to what Cardinal Schoenborn from Austria said in an interview recently: Let’s not come from a formal side telling people directly all what is wrong. “We should look at the many situations of cohabitation not just from the point of view of what is missing, but also from the point of view of what is promised, what is already there.After all, the Council points out, that although there is always real holiness in the Church, the Church is nevertheless made up of sinners and is advancing along a path of conversion.”, he says.
And once again: If there is love, if there is commitment, if there is responsibility, isn’t there God present? Are we not promised that God is with us unconditionally? I believe this is indeed the “scandolon” also for the church, that God’s unconditional love even shows that church teaching has to be developed, brought to a deeper level again and again.

So coming back to the question of a blessing: A blessing is no sacrament, a blessing does not undermine any dogmatic teaching of the church – it re-affirms simply that the unconditional love of God is present and that the yearning for people to be whole, to be taken seriously in their quest to have a fulfilled life and to find joy and happiness is a valid one, seen and mercifully acknowledge by God.

Let me finally say:

For me a blessing is indeed a non-sacramental, but still an intimate and personal act of devotion between God and those being blessed, it is a divine communication making grace and mercy tangible and opens up for the spirit to work. And God’s good spirit at work in the lives of people – isn’t that wonderful?

Filed under: Catholic Church, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
more info www.hopegala.de and admin@hopecapetown.com

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
5 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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