God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Prayers needed! Really?

It seems that prayers are in high demand in our days:
In South Africa ANC representatives are making the round in churches and asking for prayers to get their house in order.
In the USA politicians are praying for the victims of Las Vegas and on Facebook and social media the call for prayers is all over, from Orlando to Paris and now back in the USA we are called to pray again. Prayers are needed indeed when one sees the state of affairs in many parts of the world, when one notices the despair of people and the craziness of terror and politics and sometimes it seems terror and politics are exchangeable in the sense that people are hurt, lives cut short and common sense buried.

Maybe it is time to mention that prayers without the appropriate action will fail to do anything good except comforting those trying to  escape responsibility. Contemplation and action, prayer and deeds are interlinked as human mankind is interlinked in the spirit of Ubuntu. Sending good thoughts only work when there is the reflection what I can do to change a situation.
We could pray for hours for the well-being of the ANC here in South Africa – as long as those in charge allow for corruption, state-capture and stealing in their own midst without acting against the perpetrators no prayer will heal this situation. We can pray for hours for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting but as long as those in charge in the USA refuse to take action against the gun lobby being able to do business as usual those prayers are empty and the expression of sympathies a blunt lie.

And it is not only those who are in office – those who have elected people into office are equally guilty if they only pray instead of making sure that those voted in power are doing their work correctly and making responsible decisions. No one, not even the ANC in South Africa has a privilege to be in power – and Jesus might come earlier than expected to Mr Zuma (my South African friends will know…)  – all those in higher offices are there for a time and with a responsibility. And in a democracy the power lies with the people.

Prayer can bolster this responsibility, prayer is making this responsibility more visible as it connects to the divine, to the source of humanity and to the foundation of why we have rules and regulations and a political and social system with certain values and ethics. It is not a fix for failures, the divine does not pop in to plaster over ignorance. But prayer can be the beginning of redemption and turning around a situation. It is certainly as a connection to all beginnings a means to reflect, if necessary repent and try to do better.
Let’s hope that is meant when politicians ask for prayers or pray themselves in the public space and in front of TV cameras. And that people asking for prayers on social media also turn into themselves to look where their responsibility lies besides sharing a call for prayers.

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

The broader picture…the deeper questions

It was quiet a quick process after years of discussions in society and political circles: two weeks ago the German Parliament decided to allow the marriage between two adults of the same-sex and with it all the rights and duties of a married couple. Obviously churches were not impressed and until the very last moment, arguments were exchanged and traded in an effort to hold the vote or to convince members of Parliament to vote either in favor or against it. It was an open vote – and a sign of mature democracy that everybody could vote openly according to his or her conscience. As a church we have to deal with realities, and obviously not only the majority of parliamentarians but also public opinion in Germany was in favor of marriage equality.
Historically the question of marriage and its value for the state has been again and again a question of fierce debate between state and church. Ulrich Sander from the FAZ (German Newspaper) summarized from his point of view this debate in Germany in a piece published on 11.07.2017 and here is a loose translation*:

“The character of marriage and the family as a legally protected community of life is no longer adequately ensured by the present reform. “
This sentence of a Catholic bishop did not aim at the Bundestag vote of 30 June 2017 on the admission of same-sex couples to the legal form of marriage. It fell during the discussions about the change of the marriage and family law four decades ago, at the end of 1977 when the state divorce law was changed from guilt principle to the breakup principle.
The church protest had been even more severe when, in 1953, when the legal entity of the male as “head of family” (Familienoberhaupt) was abolished. Until then it had been stated in the Civil Code: “The man is entitled to the decision in all matters concerning the matrimonial life; He shall in particular determine residence and dwelling “(Paragraph 1354 of the Civil Code). Article 117 of the Constitution had given the legislator a period until 31 March 1953 to abolish or amend the legal provisions being in contrast of equality between men and women. The deadline passed without the legislator having sufficiently redrawn the marriage and family law. Thus, in December 1953, the Federal Constitutional Court stated succinctly that “since the expiry of the period laid down in Article 117, men and women were equally entitled to marriages and families.”
Prevent the destruction of the family
Representatives of the Catholic Church responded by proclaiming the “hierarchical assignment of women to man as their head” grounded in sociological and legal reasons. Although in the sphere of sexuality the husband and wife were equated with the permanent exclusive right to the body of the other, it was necessary to maintain the authority of the husband and father of the family in the sphere of life, for it was vested  in the nature of the conjugal communion.- And that this authority belongs to the man as the “first created” (before the woman): the first pages of the Bible contained – in its church official reading –  the doctrine of the irreversible, imperative dependence of woman on the man. To abolish this is not a legitimate equality of women, but “egalitarianism” and contradicts the divine natural law.
Episcopal commentaries saw the implementation of the basic principle of equality by the abolition of the male head of family as the destruction of the “Western order of marriage and family”. Therefore, the chairman of the Fulda Bishops’ Conference, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Frings, wrote to Federal Minister of Justice Thomas Dehler that the protection of marriage and family guaranteed by Article 6 (1) of the constitution would be undermined if the concept of equality was too much aligned to an individual understanding and so unequal was compared with equal. It is only when the equality of woman is limited to treat equal with equal, but unequal differently, then the destruction of the family can be prevented.
Marriage as a self-purpose
Theologically, such an objection was very ambitious reasoned: both revelation and natural law teaches the hierarchical model, and therefore fundamentally withdrawn from any legislature’s access. Friedrich Wilhelm Bosch, since 1950 full professor for civil law at the University of Bonn, saw now “anarchy” moving into the matrimonial home instead of the natural “hierarchy”. A glance into the “textbook of natural law or the philosophy of law” of one of his predecessors would have helped: “Natural law does not recognize an exclusive paternal power, although such a right is possible by natural law through positive law,” Clemens-August Freiherr Droste zu Hülshoff proclaimed as early as 1831 , Dean of Bonn University and nephew of the great poetess.
Similar argumentation such as 1953 is now introduced in the process of the implementation of the prohibition of discrimination with regard to sexual orientation in family law. “The equality law of the Constitution requires us to treat equality equal and inequalities unequal,” we read from the episcopal press. And the fact is stated that the marriage is not protected by the Constitution “because husbands stand in for one another and accept mutual obligations, but because they are designed to produce and educate children.” Thus the classical Catholic doctrine of marriage is made secretly a constitutional principle, but without its correction by the Second Vatican Council. Klaus Lüdicke, Professor at the Institute of Canon Law at the University of Münster since three decades, summed up the core of the transformation initiated by the Second Vatican Council: “Marriage needs no other purpose than to bind the lives of two people together. Marriage is an end in itself.

He ends of in asking what do we learn out of it – and he concluded that the term “nature” is a very expandable word. I guess there is more to learn if I take this question and bring it down to a more general debate, so the following thoughts are not arguing the case of marriage equality but underlying considerations:
Church has to engage with the modern world and its diversity in a constant and serious way. Church has to acknowledge and reconcile developments in academic research and teaching and faith – bearing in mind, that it was the very church now opposing or ignoring some of its findings has been historically the inventor and guardian and the driving force behind academics.
The world has become more complicated, the questions asked and debated through social media have been more demanding and rushed and time is of essence. On the other hand traditions are important – not so much the form but the content and the rush of the time can hurt the translation and passing on of core values to the next generation. It is a question of striving a balance between action and contemplation; it is a question of unveiling the inner core of a value and the finding of appropriate means to carry it over in changing times. It’s also acknowledging that an honest debate always sees all the grey attached instead of insisting in having only black or white. There will be matters ongoing and relentlessly debated: the relation between state and religion, the question of democratic decisions and liberties of faith communities. Those discussions must be robust, but with respect – while acknowledging the past the argument that it has been so since ages can’t be an argument anymore, but at the same time we have to have an awareness where we are coming from and where we are wanting to go and develop towards. Equality, human rights are never topics to be concluded, the mystery of human life, human love and the mystery of the divine demand that we continue to engage with each other, learn from each other, accept diversity amongst each other and allow for a tolerance and a legal framework which protects and celebrates love and life as much as possible and guarantees the liberties needed to live life to the fullest (John 10.10)

* Source: Katholischer Protest mit langer Tradition

Filed under: Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No nation is criminal, and no religion is terrorist

In a message to an assembly of nearly 700 community organizers and social justice advocates in California, Pope Francis called on all people to become Samaritans and resist the “grave danger” in this moment to disown our neighbors amid a culture of indifference. “Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart,” the pope said. “You must become a Samaritan,” he said. His letter was delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson and a World Meeting of Popular Movements organizer, who read it together, alternating paragraph by paragraph from English to Spanish, to those gathered in Central Catholic High School gymnasium to participate in the U.S. regional meeting. (“Used with permission from NCRonline.org, a service of the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Co.”)

To read more about this important issue, which surely resounds also on the background of South Africa’s society and challenges please check the following links:

https://www.ncronline.org/news/justice/unbreakable-world-meeting-justice-opens-california

http://www.lastampa.it/2017/02/17/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/no-people-is-criminal-and-no-religion-is-terrorist-BBpd3RREVg0dyWuggiUNXP/pagina.html

 

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

The Gap

Sitting at the Waterfront in Cape Town I watch the crowd of people making their way through the shops and passages of this No 1 tourist attraction. It is buzzing as always after the day of pay for most of the people. Having read a report of the NGO Oxfam just a bit earlier, I wonder how to reconcile what I see with what was written in the research ” Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space? ”  In the conclusion they mention that South Africa has one of the highest official unemployment rates in the world (25%) and is one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.69. The wealthiest 4% of households receive 32% of total income while 66% of households receive only 21% of all income. Over half of South Africans live below the national poverty line and more than 10% live in extreme poverty, on less than R15.85 per day.
Once again it is obvious which gaps exists between those who have and those who don’t have. All BEE and BB BEE and revised BBBEE has not achieved that the entrepreneurial spirit ignited on a scale changing the destiny of the country. Poor leadership and cadre deployment has done injustice to those aspiring to leave the spiral of poverty, hunger and desperation. It is the millions still living under conditions not suitable for humans which did not get the fair share in the new South Africa. But not all is lost – there is an immense will and dedication in many places to better the lives of those in need and hope never has disappeared. But South African society will remain unequal till the spirit of 1994 re-emerges and people understand that only together we can make it and turn the tide towards a prosper nation. It is also this inequality which makes sometimes working in the fields of HIV and AIDS so difficult: empowerment of patients to understand their treatment, to have the means to dish out good food on their tables, a social network which carries those in need the extra-mile. It is not only about donations – bridging the gap between those who have and those who don’t have means to get to a real understanding of each other and a solidarity which comes from the dept of the heart and not as a feeling of obligation to share some bucks with the poor. Religion could play here a much better and supportive role – if all the energy which goes into the controlling of sexuality and related fields as well as marking the territory against competition or those believing differently into supporting social coherence and healing the wounds of our society, much could be achieved in little time. At least the aforesaid gap could be narrowed and the blessings of the new South Africa could be spread to many more as it is done in the moment.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
8 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
6 months to go.

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