God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Pentecost and Ramadan in exhausting times

 

 

 

 

 
Let’s be honest: our times are overwhelming in the moment – it is tiring to learn every day new scandals about our government, president and ministers and associates in South Africa. It is causing fatigue to see every day tweets and news from the US American president whose self-absorption trumps all his predecessors, adding to the complication of international politics. It is simply too much to watch the news and learn about new horrors of terror, killing sprees and war in our global village. And closing the circle and coming back to South Africa it simply creates sadness and incomprehension to read constantly about all the rapes and murders in a society having lost completely the moral compass.
“Enough is enough” one would like to shout and close eyes and ears to withdraw from all those stories, yearning for times of a “normal” life whatever it means for each and everybody of us.
Feeling helpless in the chaos of our times might be a normal reaction, but maybe such times remind us how important it is to know who we are and what we stand for. Maybe such times bring us closer together with those, who care, with those who mind more than their own business. Intact families and knowing the own values also helps as does speaking truth to power. Using whatever means one has to encourage each other and simply to do good, to do what has to be done and being a living example for others.
It is indeed difficult especially in South Africa to do so – the narratives of colored pain and historical entitlement versus prescribed guilt creates a sensitivity which is in danger to be the base for new injustices and for the time being complicates the ability to face all the challenges of life in our times.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost today – we believe that the divine spirit opens new doors and let people of different languages and faith understand each other. It is a reminder that our lives meant to be full of love, hope as well as tolerance and respect for each other. Pentecost opens a new dimension of faith being a tool to understand each other – it contrasts so greatly from those using faith as a tool of destruction or hiding place for their insults on the divine. Our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith celebrating Ramadan – a month of reflection and devotion to a God of Mercy. We should never forget in these trying times there is faith as a source of encouragement and rooting ourselves to withstand whatever is thrown at us. And not only to withstand, but to change and alter to the positive. The true meaning of faith: a source of hope…

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am not praying for Paris?

Another day of terror and bloodshed, another day splitting opinions about how to react besides mourning the death. Reading the statements of local academic Professor Farid Esack I actually have to hold my breath. He writes in a Facebook post: “I am not praying for Paris; I am not condemning anyone. Why the hell should I? I had nothing to do with it,” and continues “I am sickened by the perpetual expectations to condemn. I walk away from your shitty racist and Islamophobic expectations that whenever your chickens come home to roost then I must feign horror.”

I honestly don’t think this is the way to comment on a tragedy killing innocent people – it is an insult to those suffered the loss of a loved one, but on the other hand it shows a pattern clearly visible in a lot of statements and talks about acts of terror, about the rise of ISIS and the Muslim faith: A toxic mix of emotions and perceived facts, intermingled in a way not helpful at all to see through the factual side of what happens in the moment. This mix, felt by most bystanders and those having lost loved ones is played with quite heavily by those in power, by politicians and fundamentalists and those trying to create havoc and push their own agenda and ideology without counting the losses.

So how to untangle this mix?

Firstly – and this is directly addressed to Prof Farid Esack: I am sickened if you don’t condemn barbaric acts of terror – you don’t have to feign horror – because it is horror. Realize your sensitivity on real or perceived Islamophobic attitudes and acknowledge that as a Muslim Scholar, you have to deal with it. And “it” means you have to deal not only with perceptions but with the question how Islam is connected to violence in our days and how those developing and studying the doctrine and the teaching of Islam define the relationship between violence, statehood and faith. There are dozens of open questions and you can’t hide behind politics. You are part of the Ummah which has to distance itself clearly from all forms of violence and acts of terror.

Secondly – yes, there is the level of politics and there the West has to come to the party: With the unlawful war in Iraq we seeded what we now reaping. And if there is a human justice in place, people like Georg Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld initiating not only war but terror, torture and renditions should face the music in a court of international law together with Tony Blair and others.  We continue to earn money with weapons delivered readily to fuel the war in Syria, we bomb a country to its knees like Libya and then let it run its own destruction – the West is two-faced and ambivalent when it comes to those questions. There is a lot the West, you are accusing has to account for.

Thirdly – again yes, it was the West introducing the word “war” in a very unconventional way – the “war on terror” created by President Georg W Busch is the mother of lots of evil today because it was used by its own creator to justify the unjustifiable giving a blueprint also for those now in charge in the “caliphate”. Pandora’s box was opened with the abuse and waterboarding and orange jumpsuits now famously seen in beheading scenes.

Fourthly – all lives matter and yes, there is in our global village a clear tendency to react more emotional when European lives or US American lives are at risk – and global diaries like Facebook make this suddenly so much more visible. And it feels wrong to many as could be seen by the reactions of so many African voices on social media. I find it remarkable that there is a sense that life is valued differently in our earthly village – and we have to work on it to change this perception.

We are in a mess – we reap what we have allowed to be seeded and we have to get out of it. But this can only happen if we overcome our emotions and start working on a better world. And it means first of all to pray and mourn those innocently slaughtered on a daily base, to keep track on all life lost on a daily base. I don’t expect the narrowness of politics to make an immediate difference but I expect us religious people to lay the grounds for a better world. The world ethos of Hans Kueng describes that there will be no peace on earth if religions don’t get it right and they are coming to a basic understanding.  We have to lead, we have to challenge each other, we have to have a robust debate on our relationship to God, to human mankind, to violence and much more, we have to find common grounds. And it all starts with mourning the death of Paris and Kenya and Nigeria and Syria and all those other hot-spots of terror, be it state sponsored or committed by others.

And let us start agreeing: ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, the word “jihad” cannot be used for terror attacks and “suicide bombers” are not connected to any religious faith whatsoever. Lets eliminate all those verbal connections loud and clearly. lets declare that killing and God does never go together and we have done the first step in the right direction. May the dialogue – urgently needed –  begin after untangling the emotions from the facts. And lets pray together for Paris and include the rest of the world in pain and agony…

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

Going to hell…

We at HOPE Cape Town have people of all faith working for us and it has been for me not a problem at all as I believe doing good deeds bring people together. I am actually always interested in questions of Interfaith and this week, two events were taking place regarding this topic. The AGM of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative was held at St. Marks in Cape Town and it was wonderful to see how the representatives of different religions were eager to work together. I am thrilled to continue working on the board of this fine organization contributing towards peace and understanding in the mother city.
The other event took place at Herzlia Secondary School in Cape Town where I was invited to be part of a panel, discussing with students from different schools about the importance of religion for young people in the 21st century. Quite a strong debate and I learned amongst others that I – unfortunately – will go to hell. How comes?
In one of the group discussions there was the question of friendship between a Muslim and a Christian and after lot of debate, I was told by one of the students that indeed friendship can be developed between a Christian and a Muslim, but that the friendship between two Muslims are always have a more intense meaning. The word “brotherhood” was used to describe this more intimate friendship. I also learned from my young discussion partner that a Muslim has the duty to bring the Christian onto the right path – meaning: the right religion and that he should never give up till the end. Which triggered my question: And what happens if I die without converting? He was very sorry – and one could see it in his facial expression, but he told me, that unfortunately I have to go to hell then.
I found that discussion amazing, because normally at such occasions we try to be nice to each other and avoid touchy subjects like “going to hell”. The honesty of this student made me think how much is still to learn from each other and to accept where there remain differences. But I am lucky, I don’t have to be sorry for my Muslim friends, because in my Christian heaven there is space for everyone – even those who call God “Allah”. And for the rest, I strongly believe that the mercy of God will do the rest. So no worries, but the acknowledgement, that the work of an Interfaith Council is very important. Then there are more questions than just the future of unrepentant Christians – another discussion group got on me about my interpretation of “Adam and Eve” …. but that we leave for another blog. 🙂

But I am grateful for such evenings of discussions with young people and I appreciate their frankness and honesty. We need such robust exchanges to know, who we are and what we stand for in our faith.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
10 months to go.

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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