God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

Unstable situation

South Africa is in turmoil – not only statistics proof that crime is up and corruption a daily almost accepted occurrence. It seems that the country is going backwards, the dream of a rainbow nation is fading away and an ANC being a shadow of its former glory seems determined to let No 1, as President Zuma is often called ruin the country to junk status. The rot goes deep and the in-fights between treasury and president, the state capture through all the Gupta’s and other presidential friends, the formation of a new council giving Zuma more weight determining the future of SOE’s in South Africa – this all influences obviously also the work of NGO’s and other entities in the country. Focus is on the political and social high drama, money is spend on campaigns and court proceedings to get to the truthful facts and it seems that our society in need of healing is completely neglected in this battle of the powers in charge of running the country, the provinces, districts  and the municipalities. Who has thought that the local municipal elections help to clear the field – it seems the opposite: the fight for power and money has intensified and more questions are added every day instead of being satisfactory answered and then moved forward. The old saying that freedom fighters are bad politicians is proven correct again and history repeats itself in so many ways.
South Africa, as a BRICS state is also not anymore considered by many other countries as a purely “developing country”  which makes the trouble for an NGO even worse as fundraising becomes more difficult on an international platform.
There are many who seems to believe South Africa is doomed like so many other countries, others believe that this country will turn the tide soon and will rise like the phoenix out of the ashes. Whatever it may be – people at the bottom of society are continue to suffer now, the lack of proper education makes it easy for those in power to influence and manipulate the masses. The service deliver protests and the instability within police and state security, seemingly a playground for those in power allow for justice delayed in many cases for years.

This all makes it so much more important that the initiatives of churches, NGO’s and other non – governmental institutes are able to do their work and to assist in the daily life of those not able to defend themselves or having a future without help from outside their homes and families. Health and education are two pillars to be strengthened if South Africa wants to overcome this period of chaos. HOPE Cape Town is only one of many NGO’s trying to  aid in those fields and will remain steadfast in its approach to add to the healing of a wounded country – small contributions but many drops will fill finally the ocean – so another saying.

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

Observations on the racism question

Much is spoken and written about racism in South Africa and I don’t want to repeat all the wise or not so wise words put into the public domain. So just some observations and questions from my side concerning South Africa:

I notice that the racist card is used politically to destroy and harm the political competitor and to badmouth people. I also notice that the pure motion #ZumaMustFall is suddenly a question of race even if this is clearly a sole question of political leadership. Zuma can be white, black, pink or green – a perceived corrupt and incompetent politician remains the same independent of skin color.  The notion of the ANCYL to put even the #FeesMustFall on a racist note shows even more the absurdity of using the racist card as most students protesting are indeed black students. On a positive note it shows clearly the emptiness in this case of political motivated talk.
Without a proper definition of “racism” and a proper use of the word this debate is only emotional but not substantial. In the light of a disaster scenario in the education sector of South Africa one can obviously not expect this real debate to happen.

I have asked myself what it means for a country when the tweet of an unknown and not socially relevant person like Sparrow can bring up the worst emotions in a whole nation. Does it not indicate the brokenness of a wounded society yearning for healing. And does such a society not need healing instead of stirring the pot, does it not need wise leadership instead of corruption as a principle of government?

I also have questions about BEE – does it really serve the majority of previous disadvantaged in the country? Seeing the education system almost in shatters – is it not that only proper education brings equality and not putting people in places where they either can enrich themselves or they are simply not competent enough to fulfill a job? BEE can turn easily into discrimination, into feelings of entitlement and the loss of needed capacity and skills. It sounds nice to preach about revolution – but the kids of the revolution are always future victims, look into history.

Our president plays the race card as well, stating that he is attacked because he is black and uneducated – and let’s be honest: it needs skills to guide a nation of wounded ones, it needs special skills to know about the economics and to be a politician of statue in our world so globally interlinked. But this is not at all a question of skin color.
I also note with concern that the opposition party of the DA is now starting to run with the racist card, announcing to look for more black skin color to fill the upper ranks.  Not to forget the EFF claiming the whites stole the land without recognizing that history is much more complicated and that before the white and black man there where the Koi and San people living here. Life and history is always grey – and the debate about racism, about history, about who we are, where we are at in this moment in time and where we want to be demands honesty from all sides.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I hope and pray that South Africa finds its way back to a sort of rainbow nation as dreamed by Nelson Mandela, because seeing the state of affair in the moment, his scenario is by far the better one than what we have in the moment. But to achieve this we need honest, non-corrupt, dedicated, service orientated leaders and the skin color should not matter at all. And we need the majority of the society educated and willing to grasp anew the dream of a new South Africa.

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

Leaving Rio de Janeiro

Wow, what for a city and after Salvador da Bahia and other Brazilian places one gets really in the mood of Samba and a seemingly easy lifestyle. The visit in the first favela settlement on the mountain of “providencia” in Rio reminded us going into the “slum” that life conditions can be harsh. Like everywhere broken promises of politicians, false or disappointed hopes of a better life and an unbelievable strong sense for religion partnering the life of those at the margins of society. And amazing for me as a priest the combination of old African religion and Christianity – syncretism in the highest form but seemingly tolerated in society or at least ignored by those preaching the gospel in various official churches as we know them around the world. A real rainbow nation and if South Africa can learn from Brazil as a BRICS country then it is to live and let live the different cultures and traditions in a way worth a rainbow nation. And on the HIV/AIDS front Brazil learned quick that antiretrovirals are the better option than the African potato and that a network of care and the production and service delivery for all affected and infected including proper medication is a must. Of course, there are also similarities – time management, improvisation on the highest level with often a good result, crime in various cities, corruption on all levels of society, a brutal gap between rich and poor – there is room for joined ventures which would benefit both countries. For me the visit was a real enrichment – the various encounters will stay with me and I know already that this will not be the last visit in this huge country. Travelling the world means to learn a lot – but often there is nobody home who wants to listen to what one has experienced. We are all to busy with our own affairs. How much do I wish that all would have the opportunity to see what I have seen alone in the last 7 days. But that remains a dream – but with social media like Facebook and others one can at least share a glimpse of the colourful reality of the world around us and take this as a starting point for more attentive discussion how other countries manage their affairs and how we in South Africa can benefit from it.

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

Another mission…

European Union Headquarters - Brussels, Belgium

European Union Headquarters – Brussels, Belgium (Photo credit: Sailing “Footprints: Real to Reel” (Ronn ashore))

After one week in Cape Town sitting in a plane again, this time to Brussels in Belgium. I was offered the opportunity to meet those relevant people in the EU (European Union) dealing with African and South African affairs. It will be a big challenge for me to understand and digest in a couple of days the mechanism of EU-African relationship. But as HOPE Cape Town is a joint venture between European and African people, I strongly believe to see the bigger picture is an important step to understand the synergies behind single projects. And the question of funding is for me in the moment only second best – it is really first to make my homework and understand the principles of political and economic ties and so have a background image for further investigation into EU funding for Africa. I feel like a student again 🙂 and I am very grateful for the organizers to give me this opportunity.

Generally I believe in networking and sharing to reach the goal of ongoing support for those in need – in the case of HOPE Cape Town the need to deal with HIV and AIDS in their mainly anyhow devastated lives of poverty, unemployment, little education and almost no light at the end of the tunnel. South Africa is going through a challenging time with Madiba, the moral conscience of South Africa in his last chapter of life and politicians in place who seem to have subscribed to corruption and attending to everything gaining them wealth but ignoring mostly the plight of the people. That might be a harsh judgement but I strongly believe that South Africa deserves better. Maybe the looming farewell from Nelson Mandela will serve as a reminder about the dreams and hopes after 1994 and ignite the longing and yearning to reach this dream of a real rainbow nation where poverty, corruption, crime, unemployment is seriously tackled by people in power who care deeply about the future of all South Africans.

HOPE Cape Town is working only in one little sector of health within all the areas of human life. But as it needs all mosaic pieces to create the final picture, the organization is willing to contribute whatever is necessary to make the vision of a prosper and thriving South Africa possible. One drop in the big ocean – right so – but let’s join all drops to accumulate into a stream taking us forward.

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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