God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

H&M racism observations

I am aware that for some in South Africa the mere fact that a white person is writing about racism is seen as inappropriate – but I am also aware that in the madness of emotions and seemingly permitted violence by a political leader and self-styled revolutionary one cannot stay silent on this topic. Therefore – even knowing the danger of being misunderstood and attacked some observations on the matter who made headlines in South Africa’s news the last day.

H&M’s advertising of a “black” boy from the North of Europe wearing a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the jungle” caused consternation and mood swings in South Africa – culminating in trashing some outlets by brave EFF fighters supported by their political leaders who conveniently forgot that upholding the constitution is their duty as Parliamentarians.
There were also voices who saw the ‘racism’, but called for other means of protests while others could not see the “racist” point in this advertising.

As we have the freedom of expression in this country I dare to say that I personally don’t see racism in this hoodie story – but I see an insensitivity of the company looking into the South African markets. The question of race triggers here on the Southern tip of Africa lots of emotions – partly rightly so when we look into the history of country, but partly also clearly abused as a political tool and an excuse not to engage with one another on sore topics.
The accusation of “racism” is meanwhile a convenient tool to justify violence, looting and personal attacks – or, as just mentioned and demonstrated with the EFF’s action and comments of the self-styled “commander in chief” a political weapon to create instability, havoc and protest actions aimed on destruction.

I am aware that looking into the painful history and the question of healing will stay on top of the to-do list of South Africa for the next generations – the question of land and wealth distribution will linger and has to be addressed in the same way. We can only conquer those questions without creating new injustices if we listen to each others pain and guilt, despair and aspirations, hopes and nightmares…

South Africa stood 1994 with Madiba’s dream of a rainbow nation as a symbol of a global hope to lead the nations in overcoming injustice, racism and discrimination in a peaceful and dignified manner – we owe it to him and all those who gave their lives in the struggle that we don’t allow for cheap and quick unjust solutions but to remain an example the world can follow. It is a pains-taking task, the temptation to act out of emotions and to go for the quick fix will not lead to a better world and life for all.

Racism is ingrained into the history of humanity – it is a very stupid concept as there is only one race, the human race. But as a Catholic theologian I am also aware that history is full of those errors of judgement which lead to unspeakable terror – 100 years ago in my church democracy was from the devil and who ever advocated religious liberty was quickly outside the church. In the Middle Ages you lost your life using common sense not compatible with the church.
So looking into the past and acknowledging the unspeakable is the first part – accepting painfully also that for those gone there will never be a chance to compensate or to make it right. But we can learn out of it and make it right for our generation and more important for the generations to come – but abusing this past to great havoc and to continue to bring renewed separation to those living now means to prevent them to live their lives to the fullest. Instead of hate and division we have to forgive others and ourselves and work much harder to overcome inequality, discrimination and  all other stumping blocks for a brighter future for all.

Yes, there will real racists still be out there  – but let us leave them stand in the cold of their own hearts and dark corners – social media shit-storms just elevate them unnecessarily and make them heroes in their sick constituency. Some thrive of it like you can see with Donald Trump and other right-wing white machos.

South Africa – the cradle of mankind – let us work hard to make it a place where the human race started to acknowledge and to live as one – all equal under the sun.

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

Mad new world… some observations…

Coming back from the USA to South Africa it feels like an unreal travel mirroring the craziness of today’s world. Whether South Africa or the USA – it seems that there is a competition on political incompetence and stupidity, paired with a brazen ignorance and a silent majority of people allowing to be governed by self-absorbed nepotists promising salvation from all the woes of modern society and bringing back the perceived greatness of history or a historical dream. Lethargy and open revolt, violence and complete retracting from political life: reactions differ but one can feel in both countries the unhappiness and the insecurity peeking out of the pretense of being either for or against the ruling class.

It seems the pendulum of embracing a global village is going in the opposite direction of creating barrier and frontiers again, protection and walling-off. In the USA paired with the denial of climate change and attacks on modern sciences the future looks indeed bleak.
Maybe human mankind is entering a new phase of evolution where the old ways of story telling, the old ways of explaining the world and the old ways of living a comfortable life with the status quo inherited by the forefathers is simply not carrying anymore.
Maybe the inequality within the existing world order, the unfairness of trade and economics paired with the possibilities of interconnection via modern social media creates a situation where humans feel overwhelmed – leading to falling prey for perceived strong leaders promising the world and delivering only what benefits themselves.

This global situation seems to be made more complicated by local inconsistencies and problems – in South Africa it is the dream of many to make the wrongs of the past right within a life span, failing to understand that the past can’t be changed but act as a teacher for the future and reparation has its limitations. In the USA the unsolved questions of race inequality and a limitless capitalism linger forth and it seems that in both cases the willingness of those in power to change tune is very limited.

Trying times – complicated times – times of change and maybe a time which will proof – or not – that human mankind is able to learn and move forward, not only in technology but also with hearts and minds.

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

Lent in the times of SONA

Ash Wednesday – a time marker to reflect the beginning of lent. Lent is for Christians a time to reflect on their lives and to prepare for the big feast of Easter – celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Germany you also have the political Ash Wednesday – where a political party tries to set it’s mark with sometimes over the board speeches to score points before elections or to satisfy their electorate.
This year in South Africa the religious and the political Ash Wednesday are close together with today’s religious ceremonies and tomorrow the president’s address to the nation. It actually started already yesterday, where clearly lawyers for the president and the chair of parliament conceded that they were wrong in their actions in a constitutional court proceedings about the actions of the President of South Africa.  It was a classical turn around and if meant serious an example for remorse and repentance – even if in the world of the courts this only counts as litigation during sentencing of an offender.
So Ash Wednesday may mark this year in South Africa on various levels a time for serious reflection – on an individual base people are called to reflect on their lives, make corrections, ease their burden and try to regain a positive energy and outlook on their respective lives to fulfill their calling and vocation. The church recommends cutting down on luxuries as a means to simplify life and be open for things really important and counting in life.
Society is also called to have a look on its habits – and with all the turmoil in our society, from #RhodesMustFall via #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall; a dwindling economy, a realization that racism is not conquered completely in this country and that old wounds haven’t healed yet there is much to reflect and to correct. But for that we need a moral and political leadership which the ruling party is not willing or able to give in the moment. We need a change of hearts from those in political power.Politicians from all parties are called to look very closely whether they serve their own interests or those of themselves and their followers. No party is immune against corruption, power hunger and self-love and the thought of an importance, which warrants perks of various sorts.

The Catholic Church has called for a “Year of Mercy” – mercy towards others, but also mercy towards oneself. It tries to make visible, feel-able the unconditional love of God towards every human being. But this mercy can only work if one is open to receive it. And openness means to reflect and realize the own situation without make-ups and touch-ups. It’s a mercy which wants to change human lives on all those levels of individual life and social life. I guess in South Africa, we need tons of mercy – let’s start allowing it to flow into our society, into our lives so that Ash Wednesday 2016 might be the beginning of a new chapter in the new South Africa. At least this is my wish for this years beginning of lent.

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
7 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
56 days to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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