God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

H&M racism observations

I am aware that for some in South Africa the mere fact that a white person is writing about racism is seen as inappropriate – but I am also aware that in the madness of emotions and seemingly permitted violence by a political leader and self-styled revolutionary one cannot stay silent on this topic. Therefore – even knowing the danger of being misunderstood and attacked some observations on the matter who made headlines in South Africa’s news the last day.

H&M’s advertising of a “black” boy from the North of Europe wearing a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the jungle” caused consternation and mood swings in South Africa – culminating in trashing some outlets by brave EFF fighters supported by their political leaders who conveniently forgot that upholding the constitution is their duty as Parliamentarians.
There were also voices who saw the ‘racism’, but called for other means of protests while others could not see the “racist” point in this advertising.

As we have the freedom of expression in this country I dare to say that I personally don’t see racism in this hoodie story – but I see an insensitivity of the company looking into the South African markets. The question of race triggers here on the Southern tip of Africa lots of emotions – partly rightly so when we look into the history of country, but partly also clearly abused as a political tool and an excuse not to engage with one another on sore topics.
The accusation of “racism” is meanwhile a convenient tool to justify violence, looting and personal attacks – or, as just mentioned and demonstrated with the EFF’s action and comments of the self-styled “commander in chief” a political weapon to create instability, havoc and protest actions aimed on destruction.

I am aware that looking into the painful history and the question of healing will stay on top of the to-do list of South Africa for the next generations – the question of land and wealth distribution will linger and has to be addressed in the same way. We can only conquer those questions without creating new injustices if we listen to each others pain and guilt, despair and aspirations, hopes and nightmares…

South Africa stood 1994 with Madiba’s dream of a rainbow nation as a symbol of a global hope to lead the nations in overcoming injustice, racism and discrimination in a peaceful and dignified manner – we owe it to him and all those who gave their lives in the struggle that we don’t allow for cheap and quick unjust solutions but to remain an example the world can follow. It is a pains-taking task, the temptation to act out of emotions and to go for the quick fix will not lead to a better world and life for all.

Racism is ingrained into the history of humanity – it is a very stupid concept as there is only one race, the human race. But as a Catholic theologian I am also aware that history is full of those errors of judgement which lead to unspeakable terror – 100 years ago in my church democracy was from the devil and who ever advocated religious liberty was quickly outside the church. In the Middle Ages you lost your life using common sense not compatible with the church.
So looking into the past and acknowledging the unspeakable is the first part – accepting painfully also that for those gone there will never be a chance to compensate or to make it right. But we can learn out of it and make it right for our generation and more important for the generations to come – but abusing this past to great havoc and to continue to bring renewed separation to those living now means to prevent them to live their lives to the fullest. Instead of hate and division we have to forgive others and ourselves and work much harder to overcome inequality, discrimination and  all other stumping blocks for a brighter future for all.

Yes, there will real racists still be out there  – but let us leave them stand in the cold of their own hearts and dark corners – social media shit-storms just elevate them unnecessarily and make them heroes in their sick constituency. Some thrive of it like you can see with Donald Trump and other right-wing white machos.

South Africa – the cradle of mankind – let us work hard to make it a place where the human race started to acknowledge and to live as one – all equal under the sun.

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

Observations on the racism question

Much is spoken and written about racism in South Africa and I don’t want to repeat all the wise or not so wise words put into the public domain. So just some observations and questions from my side concerning South Africa:

I notice that the racist card is used politically to destroy and harm the political competitor and to badmouth people. I also notice that the pure motion #ZumaMustFall is suddenly a question of race even if this is clearly a sole question of political leadership. Zuma can be white, black, pink or green – a perceived corrupt and incompetent politician remains the same independent of skin color.  The notion of the ANCYL to put even the #FeesMustFall on a racist note shows even more the absurdity of using the racist card as most students protesting are indeed black students. On a positive note it shows clearly the emptiness in this case of political motivated talk.
Without a proper definition of “racism” and a proper use of the word this debate is only emotional but not substantial. In the light of a disaster scenario in the education sector of South Africa one can obviously not expect this real debate to happen.

I have asked myself what it means for a country when the tweet of an unknown and not socially relevant person like Sparrow can bring up the worst emotions in a whole nation. Does it not indicate the brokenness of a wounded society yearning for healing. And does such a society not need healing instead of stirring the pot, does it not need wise leadership instead of corruption as a principle of government?

I also have questions about BEE – does it really serve the majority of previous disadvantaged in the country? Seeing the education system almost in shatters – is it not that only proper education brings equality and not putting people in places where they either can enrich themselves or they are simply not competent enough to fulfill a job? BEE can turn easily into discrimination, into feelings of entitlement and the loss of needed capacity and skills. It sounds nice to preach about revolution – but the kids of the revolution are always future victims, look into history.

Our president plays the race card as well, stating that he is attacked because he is black and uneducated – and let’s be honest: it needs skills to guide a nation of wounded ones, it needs special skills to know about the economics and to be a politician of statue in our world so globally interlinked. But this is not at all a question of skin color.
I also note with concern that the opposition party of the DA is now starting to run with the racist card, announcing to look for more black skin color to fill the upper ranks.  Not to forget the EFF claiming the whites stole the land without recognizing that history is much more complicated and that before the white and black man there where the Koi and San people living here. Life and history is always grey – and the debate about racism, about history, about who we are, where we are at in this moment in time and where we want to be demands honesty from all sides.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I hope and pray that South Africa finds its way back to a sort of rainbow nation as dreamed by Nelson Mandela, because seeing the state of affair in the moment, his scenario is by far the better one than what we have in the moment. But to achieve this we need honest, non-corrupt, dedicated, service orientated leaders and the skin color should not matter at all. And we need the majority of the society educated and willing to grasp anew the dream of a new South Africa.

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

Mandela Day…

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. And obviously HOPE Cape Town is also celebrating Mandela Day with a special event taking place in Blikkiesdorp this year. But I believe Mandela Day should be almost every day – there is always and every day a possibility to better the life of somebody, to make somebody smile or why not take the opportunity to better oneself – learn a new skill, try out a new approach, learn something about those we call strangers or foreigners or even of the history of this beautiful and so troubled country South Africa.
To make Mandela Day an every days efforts: this is the reason for most NGO’s being founded and run over time. Whether it is in ecology or health or youth development or whatever field – it is amazing how many people are involved in doing exactly this and in my humble opinion it outweighs all the negativity reported in the various newspapers and media outlets. We only have to realize it. Especially in South Africa, where negative headlines from corruption via crime/violence to unemployment seems to have taken over and overshadow all the good which is done around the Cape of Good Hope. So maybe Mandela Day can also inspire us to look at those little and often small efforts of good forces in the world, but not only look at them but magnifying them, supporting them, cherishing them, talking about them and last but not least taking them on as our tasks and callings of today. Do good and talk about it, inspire others to follow in the days and weeks after the very day, this would certainly change this part of the world.

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

We demand a cure

The HIV activist Larry Kramer from the US gave an impassioned speech calling for a cure for the virus at a Gay Men’s Health Crisis gala (23.3.2015). The 79-year-old activist said that he no longer has “any doubt that our government is content, via sins of omission or commission, to allow the extermination of my homosexual population to continue unabated,” pointing blame at the U.S. president, Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for their inaction.

Even if this might be a bit of an overreaction, one can understand the frustration of being 34 years into the pandemic and a cure or a therapeutic vaccine seems to be far away. Knowing how much money has been gone to war and the destruction of people every year it is understandable that the plight and suffering of so many million people worldwide must cause an ongoing outcry. More so as it was the USA President Ronald Reagan who clearly missed the boat of stopping this pandemic in the early times because of his religious convictions not allowing to pay attention to the drama of gay people dying. He never acknowledged it contrary to the late Nelson Mandela, who also was silent during his tenure as president of the country. But he acknowledged at least afterwards that shying away from this topic because of his traditional upbringing was a big mistake affecting millions of South Africans.
It is true: We have achieved a lot – and for the first time a global initiative, the Global AIDS Fund, was able to coordinate the war against the pandemic on a global scale. But as time passes and medications are keeping the virus at least in the so-called developed countries at bay it seems the momentum is lost and there are only half-hearted efforts to stem the pandemic further. It seems that Ebola is now more frightening than HIV even if the numbers don’t match up at all.
I am convinced that if we don’t pay attention, HIV will come back to hunt the global village and when you have a close look at the development of multi-resistant TB it is only a question of time when this little bug called HI virus will go the same route. The human race tends to never learn that nature and creation on that level also strives for survival – and looking around and seeing all those infectious diseases and STIs we thought we have conquered and cornered: TB, polio, syphilis, Ebola… – there is still a long way to go and to underestimate a virus or bacteria has cost us dearly and will continue to do so.

Larry Kramer ended up his speech with: “We must aspire to a cure once and for all. Let’s demand a cure and a society that values people with HIV enough to pay for it. Only if we aspire to more can we demand more. Only if we demand more will we get more … The power to change history is still within our grasp. We cannot wait another 34 years. This evil still being waged against us must cease. The battle cry now must be one word: CURE. CURE. CURE.”

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rape and killings as a trademark of South Africa

Working in the fields of HIV and AIDS focusing on children, one has to note the dramatic increase in brutal hurt and meaningless death children are involved in South Africa in our days. Lihle Hlanwja – 9 years old – raped and set alight in the township of Delft in January and she succumbed to her horrible wounds last week.  A 3 month old Delft baby was killed in the same township last week while Michells Plain mourns the 12 year old Jcinta Matross and two teenager killed without mercy. More luck for three kids in the age of 6,14 and 16 years in Kewtown, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds as they were caught in the cross fire gangs; the 18 year old Ebrahim Daniels was not so lucky and was killed. I could continue this list by mentioning Edwin Abrahams, 16 years old and shot dead, an unnamed teenage girl in Manenberg, gang-raped while violating gangs territory borders, not to forget Anene Booysen in Bredasdorp, brutally raped and killed by another youngster. Last week we heard of the rape of a 5-year-old girl by three grade two boys at a school in Rocklands, the same day a Limpopo man’s sentence for raping his 14-year-old daughter was confirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Other perpetrators never face justice as the murder of the 15 year olf Lydia Michels, who was gang- raped in Bonteheuwel a long time ago and killed by members of the same gang to avoid her giving testimony in court. The rapists of the Dixie Boys gang are still free – lack of evidence as the main witness is dead.

The long list which could as said be continued a long time, all the tragic stories of rape and murder committed partly by parents, but also by children and youngsters show how sick the South African society is. The soul of South Africa is still morbid – after having the Truth and Reconciliation Commission the truth came out, but reconciliation within people looking at their past and between people doing the same has failed so far. It is in this context that the political story of South Africa and the necessity of a good moral leadership has to be seen and looking at it there is only one judgement: there is nobody in the present government embodying this moral leadership. We have gone from an excellent start – even if there were mistakes made – of Nelson Mandela to a president, who has changed the ruling party from bringing fresh air and reconciling actions to obvious blunder and corruption. The question is: How can South Africa and it’s society find peace and prosper when the leadership gives mostly example of bad behavior and pushes through whatever seems to be beneficial without looking right or left. Is there really so much difference between a politician taking personal advantage and enriches him or herself, lies to parliament, punishes those who resist him or her and the gangster in Manenberg or Lavender Hill who does the same on his scale of possibilities. As long as the climate promotes corrupt and self-serving politicians all efforts to eradicate gangsters and drug trade will be in vain.  As long as Nakandla and Guptagate are possible and as long the ANC does not transform back in a party liberating people instead of forcing people to adhere to a party discipline only serving some on top and covering up for them without visible shame there will be no healing of the South African soul.

We like it or not – South Africa is drifting in a direction in the moment which is dangerous and can mean failure on the long run. It’s not only crime, but also economic policies, immigration policies, the secrecy bill and various other developments which harm the very people all those policies should serve. We as a society have to understand that in all this protecting the young and vulnerable is our first duty. Most rapes are committed in families or by the extended circle of family members and friends. We have to look into the family situation and heal what is wrong there. Gangs thrive because there are no alternatives for youngsters – schools fail the students because teachers are not well equipped and not up to the task – early childhood development fails because 16 years old mothers are very often not able to deal with their own babies at that age….

Churches, NGO’s, the civil society has to up their role and work hard to change the trademark of South Africa.

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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