God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

in between travels

Traveling between Europe and South Africa sees in the moment a clear competition: which country has the most outrages politicians, the most stupid public debates avoiding the real question of long term sustainability of our societies and environments. Adding the big brother from the US sometimes one even does not know how to close ears and eyes from all the thunder of underdeveloped ideas. Add some blue haired so called influencer and the panopticum of political and social surrealism matches Salvador Dali’s paintings or even goes further.

What is it that people are losing their minds and running either behind a single messiah with short term memory or flocking behind the easy black/white solutions which never will solve any of our complex problems. Or, like we see more and more in South Africa, use violence and intimidation to get what one wants and just now without delay.
My guess is still that the anxiety over an overwhelming digital and digital connected world makes people being so afraid that they even intelligence don’t stop the degradation into instincts learned as we still walks as Neanderthals this earth.  We are in the mental stone-age of the digital revolution – and we behave like it on almost all levels of societies – it’s like a pandemic running its course and nobody really notices and if, one looks at it like the rabbit in front of the snake: don’t move – freeze!

The sacredness of life, the beauty of living this earth, the diversity of nature, the freedoms so many people fought and died for – all those are becoming victims of this point in time.  And churches, so much busy with themselves and their own history of failings trying to maintain a bit of moral order are not realizing that the real questions have moved so much further from the question what happens in the bedrooms of people.

Well, this weekend we are celebrating Pentecost – we celebrate the good Spirit of everything living and existing on this earth, in this universe – and maybe looking at the scale this compares to the aforesaid problems might enable us to put things again into perspective. This Spirit has three virtues: faith, hope and love – and maybe bringing them to the forefront again there might be a way out of our seemingly endless circles of short and inadequate answers – hope, faith and love are long-living – they are channels to life and to freedom we urgently need to rediscover.

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

Elections reflection…

It is done: The South African election has been concluded and the observers are left with quite bias feelings. On one hand the election was generally free and fair and without major glitches. Also violence was not prominently to be seen during the day. The participation was very low: only 65.98% of possible voters took the chance to cast their vote – it seems that especially young people who were very vocal on social media forgot to register for the election day.
Looking purely from the outside the result is astonishing: The ruling party, having majored in the last years in corruption, state capture, dishonesty and simply stealing from the poor were again rewarded with leading the government. More than 10 million South African, mainly in rural areas where service delivery has collapsed or is in the progress of collapsing have voted for those responsible. Millions of grant receiver have still not understood that the grants are not given by the ANC but government. The myth of the liberation movement being the only capable party to lead South African and some major strategic mistakes of the official opposition party have surely also contributed to the result as has the lack of education in most regions of South Africa.  And politicians clearly guilty and contributors to state capture are still in the driving seats of the organization which is split to the core between those who have realized that things have to change and those who want to continue plunder without any sign of guilt or conscience.

If history will repeat itself then this election result confirms that a liberation movement turned political party will continue to govern till the majority of liberated are left with nothing while those in power reap what they can to enrich themselves. South Africa was told it is special, having Madiba magic in the beginning of the new democracy – it is working hard in the moment to dispel this myth.
Listening to SC of the ANC Ace Magashule who insists that only the party counts and not individuals and that MP’s are bound to the party but not their conscience it shows that there is no learning curve or new insight yet which could rescue the ANC on the long run – and with it South Africa.

Additional concern is that almost 2 million people voted for a man with fascist tendencies and a party which exploits the hopes of those unemployed and uneducated. The “Idi Amin in the making” Julius Malema showed stronger support in the most poor parts of South Africa – where people did not have anything to lose anymore.

The DA remained in power in the Western Province and this is indeed a blessing as the Western Province is doing much better as other provinces as shown by the congratulatory letter of the national parliament to Helen Zille, the outgoing premier, now to be replaced by Alan Winde. But their supporter base has lost votes to other parties – Musi Maimane is a very young leader and surely he would need more matured advisers not bound to party politics. Building a race-blind party is in the current environment a challenge and it will remain one for the foreseeable future.

Education, health and land reform as well as economical stimulus are the buzz words of the future deciding on the future of South Africa – together with the question who will lead the healing process of society and turning the tide of racism, which showed its ugly head again and again during election time. I hope and wish that churches will be much more prominent in this field – wouldn’t it be wonderful if churches, mosques and synagogues would become places of story telling, real listening and healing.

And obviously decisive will also be whether state capture can be ended and those responsible having their day in court. Having politicians involved campaigning for the party in the last weeks was indeed a pain in the neck and seeing some of them being in charge of the ruling party remains a disgrace and a big question mark on the way forward. Coming clean is never easy – but the only way to move on and develop in the right direction.

May we see the wonder that those elected to the new national and provincial parliaments are not listening to people like Ace Magashule and others but using their conscience and their love to the country and their dedication towards the well being of society. We need honest brokers guided by the constitution and nothing else to have a chance. We need people who can and will jump over party lines to do what is right for the people of South Africa. We need another Madiba moment like in 2004 where all are pulling in the same direction and where hope and trust overcome obstacles  – South Africa still has a future if those in power act in their majority with responsibility and love for the country.

 

 

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

And the question is…

South-Africa-question“What has this all to do with your work?” – I was asked recently discussing my blog and the person questioning me noticed the hardly not to notice political overtone of the last blog entries.
The answer is very simple: the  roller coaster on the political scene influences together with the water scare and now the polony  scandal the psyche of the people around us – the madness of state capture, the midnight changes in cabinet, the economic meltdown of South Africa in the last years resulted in more food-insecurity, in more unemployment, in more emptiness, in more loss of perspective as society. Students were encouraged to demand fee-free education which is in itself a non-sense, as there is nothing for free and the result of the reckless announcement of former President Jacob Zuma of the implementation of for said “free”   education means now in return an increase in VAT and again, the poor have to carry the biggest burden.
The unstable politics of the last years have taken a toll in all spheres of society and the divided ruling party, warming up to the party of the Gucci revolutionary “Commander in Chaos” with his only hardly veiled racism and power hunger balances the hope of a better future with the new president again negatively.

Add in the Western Province the serious threat of taps running dry – it all creates a situation where people are visibly on edge and less inclined to think rational and with measure.

HOPE Cape Town developed since years already a second arm of service which aims to assist those in need not only in the medical field, but also tries to remedy social woes of troubled South African families: poverty, lack of education, early childhood development and deficits in the framework of broken communities – read drugs, alcoholism, broken families, gangs, violence, corruption – has to be tackled simultaneously with any medical intervention to be successful.
This social services and assistance arm will be further developed – a part-time social worker and an occupational therapist are at the core of those developments working hand in hand with the doctors and the social system of the state – latter unfortunately a broken system with gaps hurting and killing children as a result.

The pain giving birth to a new and democratic South Africa with all the up’s and down’s are impacting in many practical terms the work of NGO’s like ours. Strikes and service delivery protests are damaging not only infrastructure but people engaged in those activities often forget their medication, their doctor’s appointment or even to put food on the table for the family. Corruption on all levels of society makes life more expensive for those anyhow struggling to make ends meet – and if delivery of state services are chaotic it is indeed difficult to get the papers needed for e.g. registering somebody into school.

And people who have nothing to lose anymore are obviously vulnerable to propaganda and ideology which wouldn’t make sense if one would have the time and the education to ponder what is often told from politicians in public.

The world is in the moment globally a bit in turmoil, and working in the non-profit part of it means to be vigilant and vocal for all those who have no voice or are somehow silenced by food parcels and t-shirts or a free meal – popular methods of those wanting to remain in power here in South Africa.

 

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

Thoughts of an unapologetic whitey on #SaveSouthAfrica

I am reading the opinion piece “Here’s why white people cannot demand solidarity” – posted somewhere on social media under the headline “who’s rally call and why is it anyhow?”. On the morning of Friday, 7th of April 2017, the day most serious South Africans try to rescue their country from greed, corruption, downgrading and incompetent politics while MK “Speer of the Nation” soldiers still try to play war in front of Luthuli House my thoughts go back where I am coming from and what I have learned so far living 20 years in South Africa:

First and foremost: I don’t want and I will not apologize for being born white and in Europe – nobody chooses his or her place of birth – and whatever system is in place is taken in the beginning, till reflection sets in, as a normal environment.
I grew up in the small little town of Bitburg – those knowing the history of the city know that Bitburg harbored one of the biggest US American airbases next to Ramstein. So for me – in my childhood I was aware that people have different skin colors – which not really mattered – but we knew: black people are rather richer people as the US Dollar was strong at that time.
When I entered adolescence – news from South Africa were made more and more available and I learned about a small tiny Archbishop in Cape Town and the call for a boycott of South African goods. Empathy for the “poor suppressed black people” far away grew by the day – and I remember still very vivid how we followed the call of activism and tried to convince the adults: “Don’t buy apples and other products from South Africa”. I am not sure about the checks and balances at the end – but those small little and also big activities against apartheid were at least as much as important to bring down the unjust system like the liberation struggle on the grounds of African soil. Nobody has the copyright of solely liberating South Africa.

Having the chance to work in South Africa – the new South Africa with all the dreams and yearnings of the so-called and so often praised rainbow nation – and the possibility to personally meet and talk with my heroes of youth, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late President Nelson Mandela have been ever since highlights in life so far. Working in the fields of HIV in all different levels of society has grown my empathy and my understanding of the human race. I do reflect on where I am coming from, what advantages I have had in life so far – I see the dark and inhumane side of history in South Africa – but not only there: apartheid, colonialism, extortion, abuse of human rights – I acknowledge the role, Europeans have played and are still playing and I see the riches of African culture being often suppressed till today.

But I can only acknowledge and learn from the history and apply my learning’s with empathy  in the present time to create a future where mistakes of the past should be avoided. I can only continue to strengthen and communicate my firm believe that there is only one human race, that skin color does not matter for me and should not matter for anybody. As a Catholic priest being part of more than a billion faithful from all over the world I know what power lies in the faith of being just a brother or sister for each other under one divine mystery.

I also have learned from history, that liberation armies – look at South America or even Africa – need at least a generation to understand that they are not at war anymore but needed to transform in real political parties with understanding of what democracy means. So what we see in the ANC in the moment is history repeating itself because the cadres have not learned out of history and the poor will suffer again.

This is one of the reasons why I march today – reminding myself and others that we don’t have to go the same disastrous cycle if we learn of history. I do march today not because I want to have any privileges back or sustained or because I demand solidarity; it’s the other way around:
I give solidarity to those suffering the most: the poor, those who did not make it because of mistakes of politics, but also because of the greed, the corruption, the incompetence and the ignorance within our political system.
I march today for humanity, for the dream of those having given their lives in the struggle – millions of dreamers who either fought on the battle field or attended concerts to “free Mandela” or begged the people not to buy fruits from an inhumane system.
I march to keep going the dream of a just and non-racial society being able to see the pains of people and to be willing to start the process of healing guided by wise men and women in government, in churches and other institutions.

I march with empathy and solidarity for all and with all who share this dream knowing that there is a long way to real freedom, but if we walk together every day a little bit, we will reach it – a healed society becoming again the beacon of hope for a continent, which was long written off, but – and this is my firm believe – will be on the forefront of a renewed global village in the future – the cradle of mankind a living hope for all our brothers and sisters.

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

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
3 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
10 months to go.
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