God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

A year passed by…

Cape of Good Hope - Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope – Cape Town, South Africa (Photo credit: David Berkowitz)

This was quite a year – and even as it is not ended yet, some reflections cannot harm. Lots of travel I have undertaken to further the cause of HOPE Cape Town. 5 overseas trips gave ample opportunity to introduce HOPE Cape Town to new friends, partners and sponsors but also kept “old friends” informed. A special thanks to the visitors from the Bavarian Parliament with Barbara Stamm and Franz Maget amongst others who assisted in organizing a 3 days visit to the European Union in Brussels to learn about the EU- SA relationship first hand. What an insight and a privilege. My annual trip to Dresden to attend the HOPE Gala is a must every year – what a delight to see many people again and again flocking to this event. The USA, Fr Paul, Joe and Shirley – we laid the ground for hopefully good joined work in the new year, not to forget the meeting at Fordham University in Manhattan.
At home here in Cape Town the Ball of HOPE proofed again to be a social highlight and a great marketing tool to keep the ideas of HOPE Cape Town floating. We welcomed new staff to the HOPE Cape Town Association, among them Izane as program coordinator with excellent skills and Charles, coming from Durban with lots of new ideas for marketing and fundraising. With Martin and Jacobus, two new trustees were inducted.
We mourned the death of our trustee Auntie Pat and were grateful to had her on board for so many years.New plans to develop HOPE Cape Town, to add programs like HOPE to HOME and identify other gaps in the roll out and care through the official health services were also on the cards .
For me, finding a spiritual home in supplying Holy Mass in Milnerton, Brooklyn and Manenberg amongst others was equally important as was the visit of “my” Bishop Stephan Ackermann from my Diocese of Trier. Showing him how project work, caritas, diakonia, missionary work in the best sense of the word – understood like Pope Francis does –  , pastoral work and the interaction between all these lines of work was important to him as it was to me.
Being a chaplain to sea and even being able to play a priest for a German TV production – quite some new experiences I don’t want to miss.
But there is also the sad part of life:
I already mentioned the loss of Aunty Pat. I also lost my dad and we here in South Africa lost with Madiba the father of the nation – and both within a week – quite a tough time and full of emotions I never thought I have in me. It also showed me that there is still a learning curve to accept death as part of life – nothing can prepare you when it comes close to you. All mental preparation is fading in minutes.

I was blessed to meet so many people from all walks of life who added to my life a great deal – I only can be grateful for that. Whether it was praise or critical words – it all helped me to try to be a better person. And there is surely enough room for improvement. 🙂

I am continuing reflecting on 2013 and looking forward to a 2014 full of life, joy, challenges – but I am sure – being unconditional loved by God – it will work out and add another exciting time period to my life time.

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

Nelson Mandela – live in peace

Meeting Nelson MandelaAfter months of lingering between life and death, Nelson Mandela finally was able to move on and I hope for him, that his last hours were more dignified than what was seen on TV when Jacob Zuma visited him last year at home.
We are now tempted to declare him a saint immediately – even if he was not Catholic – but I think, that Nelson Mandela’s greatness was a result of him being a human being like everybody else: with errors, tempers and mistakes. But with a determination to be truthful to himself and the cause he was following. And this made him an extra-ordinary person: to stay an original and to refuse being made a copy or formed by all the high expectations or fears, others would put on him.
Being truthful to oneself creates an aura one can sense – I call myself lucky to be one of those having met him personally and being able to talk to him I could sense this aura: Here was somebody who knew exactly who he was and he lived his charisma and potential to the fullest. He impressed me and this feeling is continuing and part of my life. Sometimes a short encounter can have an imprint on your life.

Nelson Mandela stands for forgiveness, reconciliation, sacrifice, determination, tolerance remaining a humble human being. Let’s hope that the nation wakes up to his call for a common future of all in the new South Africa, and that the lip service our politicians pay today towards honesty and accountability on the way to reconciliation and a rainbow nation embedded in peace and justice for all will be transformed through his death into a real service.

As Catholics we believe in the community of the living and the death – so he will continue to watch over our nation. Let us make him proud.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Auntie Pat – R.I.P.

Auntie PatShe was a remarkable person – Dr Patricia Gorvalla or Auntie Pat – starting off as a colored woman in Apartheid South Africa as a taxi driver to become one of the most influential people working with there-likes as Nelson Mandela and other struggle heroes.
As a founding member of the HOPE Cape Town Trust and a trustee I was always impressed about her charm, her determination to support those less fortune combined with a clear business attitude. And what made it fascinating for me: She was a real lady in the good old fashion sense of the word. Her skills to host visitors put one back in the good old ’30’s – but in an unforgettable charming way.

Even if she could not make it to the board meetings in the last year, her spirit was always with us – and now, after she has died I am grateful to have known her. And I will miss her, her humor and the way, she could graciously flirt with a priest :-). It was always fun and lots of laughter.

Auntie Pat, rest in peace – or better: live in peace and watch us from above or where ever heaven is…

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The world in which we live..

NBC Nightly News broadcast

NBC Nightly News broadcast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure that is common experience but I was always interested in putting my work and my immediate surroundings into the context of what happens around the world. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed from all the bad news coming via different news channels. But they touch me somehow and influence me in a way I am not sure I can define in a proper way.
Looking around me there is the big scandal of espionage – who ever thought Facebook is not safe now knows that there seems to be all stops pulled to gain access to all emails and chats. I never thought, that internet is safe, but knowing that there is a systematic approach to bend the law and obviously dismiss the freedom and privacy of ordinary citizens under the pretext of security brings this knowledge to a new level and is depressing.
Yesterday the pope visited the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa and urged help for desperate migrants who risk their lives getting there – I am impressed and a bit proud that humanity and a joyful approach to our faith is visible in our leadership. And it feels good that there is a sense of openness again within our church; there is a sense of being allowed to speak out freely and without fear – what a blessing.
Syria – how often have I experienced the hospitality of Syrian people and Egypt where a colleague of mine is stationed – the travesty of politics in both cases shows how little respect our political systems have when it comes to the Arabic spring and it’s people concerned.
From Europe there comes the news that two more people seems to have lost their infection after a bone-marrow transplant, these are some good news from overseas. Here in South Africa we watch with horror the ugly Mandela soap opera – where the fight about the inheritance already has begun before the great statement has even closed his eyes.

We cannot escape the world we live in, and I sometimes wonder, what kind of influence this world has in all the needy township communities, where also news and soap operas impact on the minds and hearts of people. How does it affect the people seeing the madness of the big world and of course of their small world – the glitter of high society life mirrored in South African but also US soap operas but also the obvious corruption of their politicians, the wealth of the few who made it out of poverty and now play big shots in politics and society without being too much concerned about the well-being of their fellow citizens.

Working as a priest and working with people living with the HI virus means working in a micro – environment. It is work on the very personal level of society. But I cannot help but continue to wonder how much the bigger scenario interacts with this very personal level and how the overwhelming flood of information through all kinds of media makes life and touching each others lives more difficult and challenging.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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