God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

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

Charlie Hebdo attack and some thoughts…

Sometimes it is important to comment a bit outside the usual topics, because the heart feels the pain and the necessity to give some thoughts to a problem long lingering and touching on all spheres of life including health care. Yesterday employees of Charlie Hebdo were killed in an attack as well as two police officers in Paris. And it is amazing how quick politics reacts and troublesome words are used to describe and decry the deed of presumably men of Moslem faith.

Let’s get our vocabulary right: This has nothing to do with religion, nothing to do with Islam – we also should be careful with the word “terrorism” as the West has unfortunately linked it to Islam without differentiation – what we see is crime on the highest scale, disrespect for human life in the highest form and the try to cover this up with bloodstain the word “Allah”.
We have to invite Islam to completely distance their faith with such acts, but for this to happen we must give them a chance to abolish the “Bush invented” interlinks between “war on terrorism = war on Islam”. Mindsets must change on all sides to come together in this. And for this text: there is no radical Islam as there is no fundamentalist Christianity.. as soon as a religion is fundamentalist or radical, it loses every connection to its core…

This “war on terror” as well as all the implications, assassinations, torture,extra-legal killings, land occupations, streams of refugees, mass manipulations, violence, abuse of religion has disturbed the lives of millions of people in multiple ways – and health is only one of them. How many people are not able to get proper treatment, die before their time just because some crazy politicians and fundamentalists have decided to play “the war on terror” on all levels of society? Time to take a step back, identify the looming and not spelled out fears and the hidden agendas and start a healing process before it destroys more lives and hopes. And to bring those to justice who have triggered all these events starting on the highest levels. There is a chain of causualities and to rectify the situation one has to identify this chain.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

From Internet worries to gay conversion – moments of a week’s work

Often when people make contact with me or it comes to a meeting they ask what a  typical week looks like for me as a priest and AIDS activist and the only thing I can say is: There is no typical week. A lot of time this week was spent on HOPE Cape Town affairs: we getting used to a new computer system which records every meeting, every result thereof and to do so, one needs some training and motivation to get used to it. How much bits and pieces of information gets lost when one not religiously records encounters, offers and follow-ups during the day? I can tell, it is amazing and the older one gets, the less one remembers with all the information streaming in every day. But HOPE Cape Town also changed this week service providers for the internet, email, web hosting etc. and as expected, there are some problems arising until everything is settled. Not being able to access email and information is very disruptive in our days and once again one is reminded how much we depend on it. Connected with this was a meeting with TBWA – a well-known marketing / advertising company in South Africa which does pro bono work for us. After re-designing our flyers it shifts now to our webpage which will be the next object of reflection and changes. All has to do with branding and getting the brand “HOPE Cape Town” known and identifiable in using all instruments available in this department. Doing good and getting the message across is so important , from an informational point of view as well as from the fundraising aspect. Another aspect of work this week was to go through the new employer handbook for HOPE Cape Town – we have to adhere to the South African labor law and this is indeed changing again and again. So the newest version was checked by labor lawyers and now we have to finalize it before it is handed out to the employees of HOPE Cape Town and forms then part of the work contract. On Wednesday I also met with all HOPE Community Health Workers on the issue of the “bonus” to be paid out at the end of the year. Obviously everybody likes a bonus to shop for all the Christmas presents, but a bonus is always at the discretion of the board. It also is a result of merit assessments – and once in a while one has to remind employees that a bonus is paid for exceeding expectations at work; not for doing what one is paid for anyhow. On the other hand it must be clear-cut how an assessment is done and what tick boxes are important to receive a bonus. Surely all important discussion points. HOPE Cape Town also secured it’s first official HOPE Cape Town Ambassador – watch the space, I will not tell here and now who was chosen and accepted gladly.
What else happened the last week?
The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a luncheon with MEC Alan Winde. As a member of the Regional Council I attended this event and listened carefully what Alan had to say about the state of affair when it comes to business and investment in the Western Cape and in South Africa. As new legislation comes into effect regarding BB BEE coming year it is also important for HOPE Cape Town to know the next changes we are BB BEE approved and we would like to keep it that way.
Bavaria and the Western Cape celebrating 20 years of partnership next year, so a meeting to find out how HOPE Cape Town can participate in these events in Bavaria and showcase its contribution towards the partnership.
A meeting with Rev Ryan from the Philippines saw discussions about HIV / AIDS support groups in this part of the world.  I learned that the Catholic Church in the Philippines supports conversion programs trying to get gay people straight – quite shocking for me – as this runs counter all academic research and adds to the burden to people anyhow threatened by HIV and AIDS and the difficulties to come out in a very Catholic environment. It surely adds to the shame people feel as being HIV positive and gay at the same time as it implies that there is something wrong with them besides the punishment of HIV. Somehow the expression “dark middle ages” came to my mind. Conversion as a possibility to get rid of being who I am is on an ethical level as bad as criminalizing is on a legal level. I once again realized how much is still to do….
Exhalation of the Cross – the Catholic Feast celebrated with the Catholic Community in Belgravia ended a week – being reminded of all the crosses people carry and are burdened with and celebrating our believe that the good message of the kingdom of God is told to all and everybody – unconditional love, that’s what we are called for.  And that is a good starting point for the coming week which will bring me to Europe again for a couple of days.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
The Southern African - German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and HOPE Cape Town looking forward to celebrate this event with you - more info: admin@hopecapetown.com

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