God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Reflective silence

It is a longer time since I have written a blog contribution.
As a Catholic priest, politically interested and working amongst others in the fields of health it seemed to me in the last weeks, that in all those category groups madness has taken over in the public and not so public sphere.

As a priest I follow with sadness the many stories of child abuse in my own church; I notice the arrogance of power, amongst others in the Archdiocese of Cologne and the for me incomprehensible reaction of the Vatican, ignoring that without trust you can’t be a Bishop of a Diocese any more. In Cologne, people made their view clearly known by leaving the church. Hamburg is another sore point in this regard; and generally: the church is still a prisoner of its own power games instead of being a real servant of the faithful. The fear to lose this power overrides the possibility to admit, showing the consequences warranted on this matter.

As a political animal I have watched the German election from far – and obviously also the local election in South Africa. Both raised more questions than answers. And looking at the USA the battle for democracy in the real sense of the word seems to be relentless. The discussion on climate change and saving the planet has also its moments – unwillingness to change or to take responsibility by head of states mixed with expectations and demands beyond reality by some younger people makes it difficult to find solutions in time. On the other hand – the universe will continue – with or without human beings present.

Health – or better the battles around Covid-19 keeps one awake at night – here I have never seen more conspiracy theories made available via social media; the amount of wannabe academics and experts behind the keyboards at home on one hand and in the instance of some European countries the Nanny State attitude without limits in sight are difficult to face every day in the news and on social media. Where does the fiduciary duty of a state ends? And where ends the freedom of an individual to endanger himself and others with possible deadly consequences?

So yes, reflective silence was needed looking into all those challenges which can be overwhelming at times. I still have no real answers yet, but I felt that just reflecting personally and silently instead of jumping onto the battlefield of opinions without balancing them was the right thing to do.

If more people would do this, maybe the conversations would be less emotional and black/white but more productive and serious.

What I miss is a culture of really listening to each other, really weighing in on arguments, but I have to admit there is also a limit, where nonsense can’t be tolerated or even entertained any more.It seems to me that people are overwhelmed by situations and constant information flows; our brains are simply not made for the advances in IT. We feel the downside of the technical revolution, bringing into questions on a massive scale the way we lived and thought for quite a while.

We have to acknowledge that the human race is not that far as we thought; and we have to learn to use what digital technic offers us in a way appropriate to human consumption and human ability. Thinking before posting, reflecting before making a statement on social media will do societies good.

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

A human “mea culpa” needed – and then action

Hurricanes, heat-waves, fires destroying big chunks of nature and habitation in California, Turkey, Greece, Russia and so many more parts of the globe. And looking at Germany, the big floods still are making headlines, destroying the livelihood of so many while having killed others in their way of destruction.

In all the tragedies, with all the sympathies and with not stopping to help and assist those in need and those having suffered or mourning the loss of a loved one or their sheer existence; we have to ask the hard question about responsibility in particular cases and wider scenarios.

I recall as a youngster, scientists left no doubt that the way we treat nature, the way we get closer to the rivers while at the same time straightening them out to serve our purpose, will hit back. We know since ages, the way we live is unsustainable; we know that climate change is happening and will, if not tackle, destroy us as the human race. Earth will not care about it – the small little ball within the universe will continue without us until our solar system will change dramatically in ages to come.

Additional, there is a clear limit to what earth can take on human population – the verse in Gen 1,28 of the bible “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” might find a line drawn into the sand now.

We not only have allowed to continue our path of destruction – millions of people elect and support politicians and leaders worldwide, who simply deny climate change – who simply ignore the well-being of nature for greed and power reasons. And this ignorance is entangled in the whole question of white male dominance, which makes it even harder to tackle. Add to this the birth control debate within, for example, a church with 1.2 billion faithful: then you get a full picture of what we are facing.

Much of it applies to Covid-19 and other virus related incidents, where transition from animal to human occurs. We are all aware that nature has its own life full of bugs, not really hurting their animal hosts. We come closer, we destroy their habitat and ignore their rightful place in our world and force them to find another place to live – with deadly consequences.

We as humans are our own worst enemies – no other creature in this world is more destructive, more ignorant and more willing to go the extra mile on a path which will end with a new dawn without human beings. Those who have the most maybe will survive a bit longer – but all money, all greed, all power of the world will not prevent the final outcome.

The alternative is really to change course dramatically and radically – but not naive, as one hears it sometimes from younger activists who mean good but don’t overlook always the whole picture. But the mix of young and not so young activism with the wisdom of more matured and experienced professionals can open a new chapter for humanity. It can end the “keep it up” strategy and turn lots of words and promises from political and economical leaders into meaningful actions.

We are as humanity in this together – no country can go it alone, no government can solve it alone – which also means to strengthen political bodies like the UN and other international entities. We need a universal “mea culpa” and the intelligence to choose our leaders wisely in this respect. Furthermore, we can’t afford to have those proclaiming their country first, we can’t allow for those more concentrating on stealing from the public purse, and we can’t allow any more for those in charge, who prefer ideology and “the party is always right” instead of a public discourse allowing all meaningful voices to be heard.

And we need the buy-in of churches and religious institutions – make no mistake: Most of them are more involved in the economic deals of current times than we want to admit and acknowledge. Amassing wealth is certainly an important goal of many so-called “prophets” and prosperity churches; and also the mainstream churches are not immune when it comes to investments. Here also, a “mea culpa” would be appropriate and a new outlook needed.

Whatever the future will hold: nobody can say, we have not been warned many times.

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

Travel woes

Trying to travel in the times of Covid-19 becomes more and more a nightmare, especially when you come from a so called high-incidence area like South Africa – where the incidence of currently 11.9 and a recovery rate of over 95% constantly is obviously a major threat to European countries dealing with incident rates average between 100 and 300. It is an interesting experience to be a pariah of the world, only because South Africa did something right – which is seldom enough in our days – namely sequencing the existing virus genomes and making the world aware of a mutation which popped up in other countries as well and threatens e.g. with its 1% occurrence in Germany obviously this country in its core.

Trying to reach Europe from Cape Town is becoming a nightmare: airlines stop flying and entry is practically not allowed for those coming from the danger zone of open restaurants, hotels, shops and with level 1 lockdown almost normal life adhering to hygiene, masks in public and distance keeping.

But seriously:

The Robert-Koch-Institute in Germany keeps South Africa on all danger lists possible since last year – and till now only a court in Baden-Württemberg has dared to state, that this institute has not provided any valid reason for asking local governments in Germany to enforce extended quarantine for people returning from South Africa.

Those daring to fly to South Africa suddenly realise how politics can paint a picture of a country which has nothing to do with reality. Politics, which destroys without any visible regret a very important sector of South Africa’s economy, namely tourism, and pushes the country even deeper into trouble on many levels.

Fear and trying to be a Nanny state dictates currently German politics – add to it the urge to always have a perfect solution for a problem and inventing rules for it, then you have the perfect mix for disaster looming. Listening to those in charge you get the impression that they really think they can beat a pandemic. You simply can’t do this -you have to live with it – and you have to find ways to counter it in a way which balances the freedom of people and the needs of a healthy democracy with the threat posed by the virus.

Looking at the vaccine drives and the distribution of vaccines in the world, there is the other assumption for which Europe is falling: vaccinating their own people first will help. The pandemic is only under control if the virus is kept at bay all over the world at the same time. There is no first winner – even trying to curb travel will not lead to the final goal of co-existing with the virus on a level not really being a threat to humans.

Pandemics are a serious threat for human mankind and the systems, humans are working within; anxiety and fear are definitely not the best advisors nor is it to look only at virology for answers. Social sciences, the psychological impact as well as the economic impact are as important to balance and listen to. Time to reconsider as well as to reflect what governments are obliged to do and where the individual citizen remains in charge of his or her own destiny. Our highly complex societies and their interactions need different answers as we are currently able to give.
And like it or not:
Despite the failure regarding the vaccine story and the attempts to abuse the pandemic for political gains and transformation, for the time being South Africa handles the pandemic better than Europe.

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

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

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

A fool as distraction?

Four years of tweets, lies and impossible behaviour are still not coming to an end – defeat is not one of the words used by Donald Trump and as it has been for the last four years; the press indulges in commenting and reporting on all the new lies, false facts, sexist remarks, insults and other neurotic patterns, this man brings on a daily basis to the table of news outlets.

Almost in the background it is currently noted that others are too afraid to speak out, especially after the lost election – and emphasis is put onto the fact, that Trump has such a standing in the Republican Party which hinders the righteous elite to reign in and stop the latest charade.

Maybe there is another story line to tell – the story of Mitch McConnell, Graham Lindsey, Rupert Murdoch and others who let the political fool dance in the front to the amusement or embarrassment of the political audience and electorate while those gentlemen pulling the strings, trying to keep an old world order in place: a world order which is white, male and racist.

For those having this world order in mind, Trump was a gift from heaven, easily to be manipulated via Fox News and lots of praise, slowly installing a reign of an egomaniac puppet delivering the right judges on so many levels. Governments coming and going, but to maintain a system, other levels of society have to be looked after and the right people positioned. And as Obama has used social media to garner the support – the political white racist right in the USA has quickly learned to adapt to the new tools available as well. For people like McConnell and Lindsey, Obama was a mistake not to be repeated and now Harris the next in line of those kinds of errors.

Democracy as the rule of the people for the people is an ongoing process of trial and error for most Americans – and even if it is an internal affair for this country, the consequences for the rest of the world have been felt the last years. Our global village is meanwhile so connected, that the faith of a major player is not an affair not noted by the rest of the world. Human mankind’s challenges are piling up, and they need new answers not forthcoming from those now pulling the strings in Washington.

Human mankind and the world order is in the process of changing – we live in times of an interesting and challenging battle of minds, which is even sped up by a small little virus called Covid-19.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to be a distraction in this process – too much is at stake for this world we call home.

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

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