God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

04.11.2009 Positive clergy

At the end of my stay in Germany I have had a meeting with a representative of the Archdiocese of Munich to discuss with him several matters. One was my request to the Archbishop of Munich to support my work in the fields of HIV/AIDS when it comes to priests, religious, clergy being positive. It is a tricky question but a very important one: how we deal with those amongst us, who are HIV positive.

I will visit in the near future some South African bishops as well to discuss this topic and to try to bring it to Rome. “It will raise some eyebrows”, so a member of the papal council for health care worker in Rome, but he also sees it as necessary to face this question. For me it has to do with justice within the church – all what we proclaim outside how to deal with people being HIV positive we must apply within the church. A long way to go, but all starts with the first mile. And I am grateful to all who are part of this new project.

www.hopecapetown.com/poz

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Networking, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.10.2009 Berlin ice-cold…

It is freezing cold when I arrive in Berlin, thanks the “Deutsche Bundesbahn” with a delay. A Korean taxi driver with a typical “Berlin accent” is driving me to the hotel, through all the construction sides – I feel like Cape Town or Johannesburg…

A first “hello” at the hotel by a friend of mine who happens to be the HR manager of this hotel. In the afternoon then a first meeting with an employee of the German Bundestag. I know her since a long time and we have to catch up a lot as we have not seen us for a while. But also we explore possibilities how to engage with the new government, specially in the health sector and I am confident that I am able to meet the right people next time I am in Berlin.

A talk with a representative of the Lutheran Chuch in the representation of the EKD for the German Government  – also here a briefing and some discussions on future cooperation in some fields.  Back to the hotel and then meeting a journalist: preparation for a trip to Cape Town, a visit to HOPE Cape Town and a report for radio about our work.

This evening I will meet a MP for dinner – also here it will be an exchange of ideas and possible cooperation. But at the same time I can say that all people I met today are people I know since a longer time. There is trust and the will to assist – and after such long time, there is this feeling of a growing friendship, which I appreciate a lot. One knows each other, one trusts each other – a fine way of working together in an appreciative surrounding.

It will be late before I will be back at the hotel, a short night, as I have a breakfast meeting tomorrow morning with some people – again planing on quite a substantive level to bridge the realities of South Africa with Germany, but even more:  to bridge realities on several continents, amongst them one reality,in which more than 30 mil people can tell a separate tale, where thousands of people are called to higher services every day and end their life premature, where hope and future are theoretical terms with no real value.

Last but not least: a feedback from Rome and the papal council shows me that our visit at the beginning of the week was appreciated.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, , , , , , , , , , ,

22.09.2009 more fundamental questions…

In the last days I described my stance on mandatory testing and the pre-testing counseling. Having now more time to dedicate my energy towards the HIV/AIDS portfolio, there are more topics I feel are necessary to persue in the coming months and years. I have spoken already about the need to end the stigmatization within the health sector itself.  On the political front I can forsee to look more intensive into the question of travel freedom of people living with the virus. The ban to visit certain countries or the ban to get a work permit if you are HIV positive as you can find it in Australia, Singapore and many other countries is not only a sign of a lack of maturity of politicians in the respective countries but also a clear violation of human rights. I am aware that the UN, but also the German “AIDS Hilfe” is dealing with the issue, but we should all join hands and start to pressurize political systems allowing such violations of dignity and human rights.
In some of the blogs I mention the work with HIV positive priests and religious as well as seminarians. This is indeed a very tricky question and I hope that in October, when I am in Rom to meet together with Joachim Franz with the papal council for health care workers, to get this council on board to have a hard look how we deal with HIV and AIDS in our own ranks. Is the refusal to take a HIV positive person into e.g. monkhood or a seminary not a sign of fear and immaturity of the church? Are we as a church really allowed to deal with infected people in refusing them to follow their vocation? I am sure that God does not mind the status of a person. So we also shouldn’t mind the HIV status of a person. What kind of AIDS policies are regulating the life of the church and their institutions? Do we advocate the acceptation of people living with the virus only for the area outside the church? Tough questions, but we owe it the greater love of God to check our own balances on those questions and see whether they add up.

The ethical question of ceasing treatment if somebody does not adhere at all – also a tricky question. I mentioned the criminal law as a tool of prevention, which I find absolutely unreasonable in the way it is administered in most countries, specially also here in Africa.

Those are some of the questions in my mind, where I would like to contribute towards a solution which ends the madness of stigmatization and discrimination, which forces governments and churches to act reasonable and always upholding the dignity and human rights of every person.

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

29.08.2009 Religious Leaders Absent in the Anti-AIDS Fight & the POZ initiative

The following article I found today on the website “the body” – and caught my attention:
Religious Leaders Absent in the Anti-AIDS Fight  August 21, 2009
Though they exert great influence in the communities in which they serve, religious leaders are not doing enough to fight HIV/AIDS, said experts at the recent ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bali, Indonesia. “Many religious groups and leaders are unwilling to address HIV/AIDS and make it a priority. Their commitment level is quite low, particularly when compared to the size of their budget and the amount of work they do,” said Donald Messer of the US-based Center of Church and Global AIDS. “We’ve been talking about HIV/AIDS and the religious groups’ response for three decades now. We’re still talking too much even now,” said Fiji’s Dominica Abo. The “most powerful contribution” religious leaders can make is addressing stigma, discrimination, and biases that put groups like women at high risk for the disease. The epidemics impact on women and children needs to be addressed from a faith-based perspective, said the Rev. Youngsook Charlene Kang of the United Methodist Church in the United States, noting that women account for nearly half of all infections worldwide. “We need to call on religious leaders to educate and create new pathways within our churches for parishioners to learn the role that faith communities can play.” Messer noted that many conservative Muslim and Christian groups continue to preach against contraceptives, including condoms, believing they promote promiscuity. “[Yet] when used directly and consistently, condoms are humanity’s best protection and weapon against HIV/AIDS,” he said. “Some religious leaders are more eager to preserve the purity or correctness of theological perspectives than their task to save human lives.”
I guess, that the POZ initiative of HOPE Cape Town and the Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will make a difference and highlight, that we take the fight against stigma, discrimination and bias serious. By working with and for priests, religious and seminarians, who are living with the virus, we address the double stigma of being infected and being infected as a “sacred” person, so to speak.  In this sense we can see a double discrimination – and of course also the bias, as many church leaders do not acknowledge that the pandemic also is amongst us, the clergy.
I am personally thrilled that we got the permission from the local Archbishop of Cape Town to work in this field – and when I will visit the papal council for health care workers end of the year, I will address it and hope that they join hands to work for a transformation from stigma to charisma.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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