God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Being silent…

Being silent at the beginning of the new year seems to me the only way of responding to all the madness happening around me. I can’t remember a year having started so chaotic and full of negativity. Looking to South Africa, we see the aftermath of the irrationality of our president for which mostly the poor will pay dearly. The Rand continuous to fall and the political parties are busy to capitalize on a very unhealthy social media storm over racism. In Africa it seems more leaders are tempted to extend their ruling into a life-time dictatorship and the battle between Daesh or ISL and the rest of the world continuous to cost precious lives. In the USA Donald Trump, since yesterday supported by Mrs Palin shows that even the word ‘stupid’ can be topped and in Europe the bill is paid for having a European Union not built on social equality and human rights but purely materialism and finances. The refugee crisis in Europe reveals the shadows of the so-called Christian Occident.  Looking from politics to the churches it seems that there are also wars going on – in my church it seems that preaching the gospel and trying to bring it to the people does not sit well with some of the people higher up the hierarchy or in the administration of the Vatican while the Anglican church seems to be split answering the question whether God’s creation of different people with different preferences was a good question or should be welcomed by God’s own people.
But there is the Year of Mercy – the door of mercy is wide open since the beginning of December and maybe this is the only ray of hope in this chaos of uncertainty, brutality, stupidity and maybe even clash of cultures and civilizations. I ask myself where will we be at the end of the year? Will reason and love prevail or will the world continue to spiral into the darkness of self prophecy and negativity? I am not sure – I will wait and see, but continue to do my little bit in the hope that all those millions of unnamed decent people doing the same by following their dream and vocation overcome at the end the madness of a world where according to Oxfam the 26 richest persons have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. And the richest 1% now has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. Not sure I can be silent about that…

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

Farewell “Christliches” Abendland (Christian Occident)

Arriving back from Europe with lots of fond memories about the HOPE Gala in Dresden and all the other great events I have had the pleasure to participate or contribute, I can’t help but feel a very deep unease regarding the so-called refugee crisis I have seen first hand and the reaction of my German brothers and sisters. Knowing that we Germans always have been blind on the right eye it is nevertheless appalling to see how many people suddenly shift their emotions and reactions loudly into a corner of anxiety and protection of the so-called German identity. History seems suddenly to be static – as if the present state of affair has always been and will always be the only one possible. Creatio ex nihilo – Germany existed since eternity and is now overrun – historic developments never took place… ?

The idea of Europe was officially founded on values like human dignity and human rights and a decent life for all, but it seems in practice it was all about finances and markets but not about people. While the “Christian roots” of Germany and Europe are mentioned at every demonstration against those fleeing to Europe, practically the value of welcoming the stranger, especially the one searching refuge seemed to be scrapped from the holy book and it’s heritage. There are too many coming, I hear again and again.
And yes, I do agree, there are indeed many coming, but has nobody been able to read the signs prior to the stream of desperate people building up in recent months? Has nobody noted that selling weapons and looking on while a country is completely destroyed in the case of Syria can’t go together for long? Has Germany thought with the Dublin agreement that Lampedusa and all other places in the South of Europe will remain nicely far away from the German way of life? Has nobody noted that cutting the funds for the refugees of the Syrian civil war in Jordan has given them no other chance than either dying in Jordan or trying their luck somewhere else?

It is appalling how especially people in politics carrying the “christian” and “social” label in their party name suddenly seems to have episodes of Alzheimer when it comes to all those hard questions – and there are many more to ask. And no, lets clarify that also: it’s not about being a “Gut-Mensch”, a softy wanting to do always good. It is about the question how ethical it is to have built up wealth by exploiting other countries, earning money on weapons sale, giving Sunday sermons in Parliament and then declaring practically that human dignity only is afforded to those who had the luck to be born in Europe. It’s about an attitude of the rich and mostly white West which touches ground with and is related to the discrimination of black people or South American refugees in the USA. It simply touches on the often outspoken discomfort, African people have when they deal with Europe – somehow related to skin color.
But it obviously also touches on the very basic fact that world politics seemingly dictates the European support for incompetent autocrats or dictators in developing countries as long as they keep quiet about the exploitation taking place or even are complicit to it.

The refugee crisis is a watershed for Germany and for the united Europe – and if they not find adequate and humane answers it will proof again that human mankind has still a long way to go before it recognizes how much it is interlinked, depend on each other and cannot afford to build walls and fences but must invest in the dignity of every human being. Otherwise let’s bid a final farewell to our European Christian roots.

 

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

Gratefulness and compassion

Sometimes it is time to sit down and simply reflect on the work one is doing day by day – holding in, letting the world stand still for a moment. For me such a moment was after hearing about the Erawan Shrine bombing in Bangkok, one of my favorite places in Bangkok to go and sit for hours and just doing it: sitting there, observing, praying, just “being” in the presence. In our world it seems that even such places are not protected anymore from the madness of sick human minds, and adding the cruelty and abuse of Islam by ISIS, the streams of refugees running away from civil war and dictatorship and corruption, exploitation and diminished chances of living their human rights in Africa it seems that the world is upside down in the moment. And we easily forget that there is also a counter stream, a stream of goodness, a stream of unsung heroes of humanity, decency and compassion.
And we only have to look into our own lives to acknowledge this goodness. Where would we be without the kindness of others, of parents, family members, friends, colleagues, co-workers, yes, when I look at my work with HOPE Cape Town –  sometimes completely strangers who just support what one is doing, a touch of humanity flowing from one to another without having the chance to meet the person in person.
Dresden in Germany is in the moment often in the news for all the wrong reasons – protests showing little signs of humanity but rather ignorance and hostility against refugees. But for me it is countered by all those actions making those running for their lives made feel welcome and of course not to forget the HOPE Gala in Dresden. For 10 years there are people caring for those less fortune in South Africa with incredible efforts, tons of love and compassion. For 10 years people from all over Germany flock to Dresden to enjoy an evening of entertainment and joy and doing good at the same time. It is up to me to choose what I want to see, what stream I want to follow, what I want to support, to cherish, to be grateful for… And I am sure if more and more I see the good in people, more and more I appreciate the bond of goodness and compassion, and more and more I can develop my own compassion and in return strengthen those strengthening me. Does it make sense? Yeap, for me it does and it is the only way to change the world for the better- against all odds.

Filed under: Reflection, , , , , , , , ,

PEPFAR and the Catholic Church

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am visiting Johannesburg and a Catholic institution asking for assistance in a difficult situation. The Catholic Church in South Africa has mainly relied on one big sponsor in the last years: PEPFAR, the US American President’s emergency fund. This was done for several reasons; one being that in the beginning it excluded any condom distribution or work with prostitution as a precondition for receiving these funds. There has been very much debate around it at World AIDS Conferences at times as this resulted in some countries showing a clear increase of infections again. Nevertheless, with the money lots of good was also done, amongst others instituting the distribution of antiretrovirals for thousands of South Africans.
The funds now drying up and so the Church is forced to transfer its patients to the governmental facilities with different results. As specially in Johannesburg also quite a big number of asylum seekers still without papers are among those catered for, these people would anyhow not be eligible for continuation of treatment in a primary health care facility.
So the need for special funding to at least get one doctor looking after those patients is needed and hopefully there is a way to support this for the new year.
From what I have seen and heard it seems that for many patients it is a bitter reality check: coming from church run clinics which really went the extra mile for a patient to ensure his or her health, governmental facilities are mostly overcrowded and not able to cope in this way with their patients. Experts fear, that people will be lost in transition or get lost in transition.This shows once again how important the support of the Catholic Church in providing medical services has been and it is to decry that lack of funding forces closure and that – at least in Johannesburg – the government now refuses to deliver antiretroviral medication as a matter of principle to NGO run medical facilities even if they could continue – forcing so the transfer in a way too often not beneficial for the patients.

With a generation of young people being born HIV positive and with the treat of resistance looming like we have seen it with TB, this country needs the continuation of support from all corners of society. Even if there is the growing impression that we have conquered and beaten the deadly pandemic, it might be too early to come to this conclusion. So it is really to hope that also the churches try their utmost to continue as many services as possible to give those infected and affected all necessary support.

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Filed under: Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Networking, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31.08.2009 … believe it or not…

White South African granted refugee status

Fri Aug 28, 11:07 PM

An Ottawa man has been granted refugee status after an immigration board panel ruled he would be likely be persecuted if he returned back to his native South Africa  because he is white.

A Canadian immigration and refugee board panel ruled Thursday that Brandon Huntley, 31, could stay in Canada because he presented “clear and convincing proof of the state’s inability or unwillingness to protect him.”

“I find that the claimant would stand out like a ‘sore thumb’ due to his colour in any part of the country,” tribunal panel chair William Davis said in his decision to grant Huntley refugee status.

It’s likely the first time a white South African has been granted refugee status in Canada claiming persecution from black South Africans, said Russell Kaplan, Huntley’s immigration lawyer.

“There’s a hatred of what we did to them and it’s all about the colour of your skin,” Huntley said of the violence wrought by black attackers on many white South Africans.

Huntley first came to Canada on a six-month work permit in 2004 to work as a carnival attendant. He returned home to South Africa and came back to work in Canada in 2005 for a year and stayed illegally for an additional year until he made a refugee claim in April 2008.

Growing up in Mowbray, a town near Cape Town, Huntley was attacked seven times  including three stabbings  by black South Africans during attempted robberies and muggings.

During these attacks, Huntley told the refugee board that he was called “a white dog” and “a settler,” a reference to South Africa’s colonial past based on racial apartheid.

“If you have got the money, you can protect yourself,” Huntley said of the armed security guards wealthy white South Africans hire to protect themselves.

Huntley’s “subjective fear of persecution remained constant and consistent” up to the time he made his refugee claim, Davis noted in his decision on Huntley’s claim.

The decision also took into account testimony by Laura Kaplan, 41, the sister of Huntley’s lawyer, who immigrated to Canada last year from her native South Africa.

Laura Kaplan testified about being threatened by armed black South Africans and the torture of her brother Robert in 1997 when a gang of black men broke into his house, tortured him for eight hours, shot him three times and left him for dead.

Davis said the evidence of Huntley and Laura Kaplan “show a picture of indifference and inability or unwillingness” of the South African government to protect “White South Africans from persecution by African South Africans.”

donna.casey@sunmedia.ca

Filed under: Uncategorized, , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
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