God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Race & future

Twitter and social media thriving on it; people can get very emotional discussing it: the question of race and how to deal with it. “Whites” should do this – “Blacks” are like this – South Africa could fill tons of Gigabyte with assessments, insults and threats when it comes to the race question. Let alone politics where racist remarks and the use of race as a tool of political manoeuvring seems to dominate many debates and heated exchanges.

And only once in a while one hears the almost silent voice of reason, acknowledging the damage this devilish invention of some humans has done in the past here in South Africa and still doing also around the world, but at the same time knowing that the future can’t hold using this word.
We have to overcome this poisoned word if the only race, the human race want to have a future for all. Knowing, how hard this can be I suggest that South Africa again could be leading the world out of this “race”-trap by showing that even the darkest past cannot hinder a brighter future.

And the world needs this brighter future – seeing the last stand of “white” macho dominance impersonated in Trump and those supporting “the good old times”. The world need to see the brighter future when looking at Great Britain where it seems that the sentiment of old colonial powers have been resurrected somehow in the Brexit debate. The world needs to see the brighter future when looking to China, which tries on the opposite to eliminate all natural diversity within the human race in designing one standard for all.

South Africa has the diversity needed to see the beauty of the human race in all shapes and colours. It could be on the forefront living the diversity while acknowledging that we are all – if the scientists are right – African origin. That we are all coming from one background, share most genetic material and colour only matters in ways of making a unique race of this world colourful and beautiful.

And yes, I hear now many saying that the past and the categorisation of race is part of a person, defines a person, needs compensation – and yes, : they have a point. Looking back is allowed, compensation is often needed, but it must end there – the future cannot be taken prisoner in using a concept which we all know holds no water under the bridge nor is fair to all concerned. Using this word or concept in current affairs or future developments will only guarantee pain and injustices for those living after us.

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

And again: the race question…

South Africa experienced yesterday the drama of the resignation of Mmusi Maimane from the main opposition party in the National Parliament of South Africa. Comments before and during – and even now after the resignation – are a mix of speculations, indications, accusations and controversies –  add the resignations of Athol Trollip and Herman Mashaba and one could assume that a political party is in meltdown after a disappointing election result and lots of internal fights in the last year.

What really catches my attention is the bitterness and almost fundamentalism when it comes to the question of race, the question how to attract black South Africans to vote for a party which is portrait in debates and news often as too white. Party politics and the egos of those concerned are surely a factor, but I guess what really bring theses events to the forefront is another question which is indeed a decisive one for the whole of the country:

How do I eliminate the question of race for the future without forgetting the injustices of the past and the necessary redress in the current time?

It sounds like the squaring the circle – but this is the question it boils to at the end. While most political parties in South Africa put their focus on redress and correcting the past – claiming this the only way for the way forward – even if this  would create new injustices and hardship – little effort is seen in creating an atmosphere where all three aspects are coming together.
The frustration of most young people, the mood of most South Africans, the hurt of each and every South African in one or the other way, the pitfalls of corruption and state capture; the infighting in all political parties seemingly ignoring the plight of the people – it all creates a conductive scenario for quick fixes satisfying emotions in the short term using the tools of the past.

South Africa will only get it right, if politicians combine redress with a new vocabulary, looking back inter-twining it with striving for a just and non-racist future – creating the miracle of acknowledging hurt and healing in a just framework and creating tools and language, which overcome the perspective of the past without ignoring it.
If this realization is the result of the events of the last days and taken as a challenge for our society – then these events might turn into a blessing for South Africa

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

#ImStaying

Recently the news from South Africa and out of South Africa becoming more and more scary – the brutal murders of several girls and women, the new crime statistics with an increase of murders adding with the high unemployment rate and all the other social and economical uncertainties to the impression that is is wise to pack your bag and leave the country.

Having one of the most beautiful landscapes of the world, hosting mainly friendly and helpful people, having a floral and animal world which is so special seems not to count anymore much in this scenario. Add the racist rants of Julius Malema and other so called or want to be called politicians, the playing with the constitution regarding land reform and the sheer endless stories of corruption and missing shame for the wrongdoings on the part of those who are in charge of this country.

But nevertheless: I just signed up to the Facebook group #Imstaying – even with my privilege of double citizenship I have decided for now to put all my energy into the future of this country – one South Africa for all should become more than a slogan but a reality in our lifetime – at least the beginning of it – like Moses, before dying, seeing the promised land from far.

Giving up on this idea would kill the dreams of all the young people, born free and born even more free from the next generation – it would betray the millions of people who put their hope in a better future, it would curtail the dreams of a non-racist possibility to live not only for South Africa, but for the rest of the world.  Let us not underestimate that indeed the mix of challenges here on the tip of Africa are a mirror for the world as such – even at times more complicated and intertwined than at other places. So there is the challenge of being not only the result of a peaceful Mandela moment in time but remaining the beacon of hope for the time to come.

For this to happen we have to acknowledge the dark of the past on all sides of society – history is never purely black and white and we have to find a new language to avoid the fiction of race for  future generations.  We have to square the circle – an almost Sisyphean  task against the odds of hurt and pain, and feelings of revenge and all sorts of compensation in an infinite loop. Being hurt and being able to heal, being disappointed but able to produce hope, being human and at the same time outgrowing what we thought is possible in our lifetime and with our abilities.

Dreaming big – not letting go – focusing on what is really worth it – not giving into despair – that are the points of reference when it is said: #ImStaying

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

USA and the complexity of the world

11 days of traveling in the USA coming to an end.  Since 2 years HOPE Cape Town tries with the help of friends to establish itself as a fundraising NGO in the States. Finally this time things are coming together and it seems a way is found to start in earnest with our efforts to raise funds for the work in the Western Cape. Having an offical representative in New Jersey voted onto the advisory board of the HOPE Cape Town Trust helps a lot. The USA is not South Africa – laws and requirements are different and since 9/11 the trauma of the US nation dictates a lot of scrutiny channeling money from one of the 50 states to Africa or any other part of the world.

It is worth noting that the Catholic Church also plays a big role in this, assisting in setting up and bridging the time until the process is finalised and HOPE Cape Town Trust (USA) will be established in the first of the states. It was great to see how an entity like my church can be of help with its structures and abilities and so speeding up the process of helping others in need. There is still a long way to go but what are 2 or 3 years more compared to eternity :-).

In the time I have visited the killing of an 18-year-old black youngster through a white police officers were not only constant headlines but also led to unrest in St. Louis (Mo). The little suburb of Ferguson brought again onto the light the problem of race and justice. As somebody living in South Africa, where race is often still determining how a person sees himself, it was somehow eye-opening to understand that the question of injustice does not stop at a certain nation. It seems to me that the perceived inferiority of Afro-American or the perceived superiority of white people is a worldwide problem manifesting itself quite harshly in the “great nation on earth”. It is a clear expression and outcome of a cruel world order, especially when it comes to economic justice or the power balance in our world. And having visited the National Museum for Indian History in Washington, I have learned anew what I already have somehow know before: How much also my church has contributed to eliminate old ancient tradition and forced people to take over the white European lifestyle. While Christianity absorbed so much from the European (Greek and Roman) habits and tradition and converted its meanings, it failed to do the same often on American or African soil. This is indeed a problem we have until today and whoever is observing the reactions on Pope Francis from the neo-conservative side will pick up that his “latin-american” style is seen as a treat to European structured theology and hierarchy.

I am always thrilled to see and learn how inter-connected the world, it’s past, present and future, is and how important it is to learn from the past to understand the present time. It is indeed also the only way to prevent from injustice happening again even if it seems that humanity does not learn and has to go through all the trials and errors again and again.

What has survived through history is for most people the compassion and will to better the world – and that brings me back to the beginning and the fundraising efforts which would not be possible without this life line of hope. And it is indeed the only hope we have, that despite all the failures, of the systematic injustices there have been always people and there will be always people who care about their brothers and sisters near and far away.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19.09.2009 a whitey…

a Cape Town, Saturday, 19.9.2009 @ round about 10 am in the morning. With a friend of mine I visit the FNB Bank in the pedestrian zone and we have to wait quite a while until somebody attends to us. Everybody needs some time to resolve his or her problem. Looking around in this big room, I suddenly realise that I am the only white person in the crowd of customers. I realize it and I find it amazing. When I arrived in Cape Town in 1997 the city was known for her “white colour”.  Coloureds where common, but not so many black South Africans. The first time I experienced me being a minority was in Johannesburg a couple of years ago, when I went to Hilbrow and the muti market.
This country is really transforming, but race remains an issue. Most applications, most forms have a space where you must identify yourself either as black, coloured, white or asian/indian. Knowing the race means knowing a bit of the history of the family the person is coming from. It is knowing a bit of the trouble, this person, if old enough, had to go through in life.

In Germany, where I was born, race was never really an issue when I was young. As Bitburg, where I grew up, had a big US base, the colour black was rather associated with “having money”.  So here in South Africa I had to learn to appreciate this race issue – and I struggled with it. Because for me, so i always argued, race does not matter…
Well, I had to learn here, that it does matter, one or the other way, in the past of South Africa, in its present times and it looks like this will still go on quite a while. I must admit, I am getting used to it – and do not understand anymore, when visiting Europeans start arguing about it..  I guess, I am becoming more and more a real South African; or should I say: a real Capetonian?? 🙂

Filed under: Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

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