God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Only those who live the Torah… observations from a sommer study

Summer academy in Tabgha and Jerusalem – refresher course on bible history, Islam and Judaism and as always something new to learn.

To speak about Israel is a minefield, especially for a German. The Holocaust lingers constantly over all discussions, and the trauma somehow continues. To criticise Israel, whose politicians have cleverly conjoined the State of Israel and the Jewish faith, is consequently made difficult. How easy is it to be called an antisemite while criticising Israel’s politics towards the Palestinians.

The wilful ignorance towards the original plan to keep Jerusalem under UN administration has added to the woes. The trauma of the Holocaust has obviously also caused Israel to use massive force against Palestinians in a way which clearly hinders any political solution and kills also innocent bystanders. The violence on the part of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups does not help either. It is a poisonous circle of violence, madness pure and not leading to any solution.

Visiting a Jewish service in a synagogue to welcome the Sabbath is touching, observing the ritual joy of welcoming the day of rest. It is admirable to see how traditions are kept and hopes are lived while having endured so many changes in their history from the deportation to Babylonia, the destruction of their sacred temple via the murderous crusades till the Holocaust and all the Antisemitism growing again in our days.

Having Jewish lecturers for the topic of Judaism, it was interesting to be reminded, that ultra-orthodox Jews oppose the State of Israel. A man-made state is not acceptable because at the end only God can establish the new Israel.

Besides this, we learned that the promised land is from a religious point of view only for those who live the Torah – and looking at the modern Israel on a Sabbath shows that Israelis are not per se living according to their holy books.

Another observation is that obviously the stretch of land has a history before the promised land was occupied by Jewish clans – and there are historians indicating that the people led by Moses originally have been from the same background as the Canaanites they battled.

Living in South Africa, there comes the same thoughts: What a beautiful country, and how magnificent could it be if only the people living there would keep peace. My stay here has reminded me how intertwined the problems of trauma on both sites of the fence are. Judging becomes a difficult task, but there is something I believe in:

Jerusalem, the holy place for the three major monotheistic religions, should be an open city under the UN, belonging to nobody than human mankind – to be a witness for the peacefulness, all three religions somehow claim. It is a failure of the UN not to have followed the original plan; and it is a failure of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faithful not to create a location where love, hope, tolerance, goodwill and peace are liveable and touchable in this space and place.

Shalom, Salam and Peace

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

The attack in Nice and the choice of words

Language is a powerful tool and language creates realities. That is the reason why how we talk about events and things is critical.

The terror attack in Nice that killed three people last week left France increasingly unsettled and once again, the phrase Islamist extremism or Islamist terror was used.

While all religions without doubt have also a violent past, human mankind has moved forward and recognized that religion per definition can’t be violent, but must be a peace enhancing force for good. And this should reflect also in the way we talk about such brutal violence which the perpetrator tries to put into a religious context. We simply should not allow for this any more.

Killing innocent people is simply terrorism – and we should not grace any such act with an association to any religion. We should not allow in our vocabulary to link ideology with faith. Our news headlines should not indicate that murderers and terrorists are allowed to justify their violence with religious terms; we should reject any attempt to create a space where others could have a sense that violence can in any circumstances be connected to religion.

Terror is terror, terrorism is terrorism and ideology or political madness should in our language have no bearing on religion. Not allowing this association is an important tool to diminish such awful acts and to make it clear that in our times, religion and violence never ever go together again. Period.

Language is an underestimated tool in the fight against terror and violent ideology.

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

Covid-19 Lockdown & Trauma


Trauma100 days of Lockdown, I have written and tried to summarize it in my last blog – but one topic, which needs to have its rightful place in an extra blog entry is something, most have not spent too much time on:
The trauma, this crisis and the lockdown has caused for most of the people, and the trauma-related consequences as an individual or as a society – in the case of South Africa anyhow adding to all the burden of a past still not healed.

Being threatened by an invisible enemy is already difficult to comprehend for many – but taken out of normal life completely is a complete other category of trauma:

Think of those living alone and suddenly for weeks without real social contact and maybe nobody to turn to;

think of those whose security was family and suddenly they were not allowed to see them, visit them, be with them, when they became sick or even died;

think of those who were exposed to police or military brutality, suddenly made a criminal after a life without any running into trouble with the law.

Think you those who had been forced to live in an abusive relationship for weeks without being able to run away;

think of the nightmares of the kids not really understanding why all is suddenly so different;

think of the people in townships who were asked, often without real explanation to distance themselves from each other, to stay home in a dense environment without income, food or perspective.

Also think of the people in the health sector fighting every day to keep patients alive and feeling at the same time threatened by the small little virus themselves and consequently their loved ones.

Life, as it has been for many born as “free” suddenly changed in a way, they never could have imagined; and those who have lived through wars and famine – how much déjà vu have they experienced in the last weeks. And not to forget here in South Africa all the limitations during apartheid times – again confined, berated, told what to do by politicians so far away from reality and enforced by a security cluster resembling in parts past experiences.

Being helpless and having to surrender to an apparatus run by people who have allowed, willingly participated or gained from the so-called lost years of state capture and corruption in South Africa creates another trauma.

And for those following world politics there is another trauma to add in the shape of a Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Victor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte and others, showing that human mankind has certainly not reached the point of reasonable development, most of us would have thought we have developed. It’s shocking…

TraumaTrauma must be addressed and worked through – and here would be normally also religious institutions coming into the picture besides the professionals – but the mere absence of leadership in this sector in this time of crisis in so many countries created a trauma itself, but that might be a topic for another time.

Individual and collective traumata – this crisis is so much more than just a health or economic crisis…

 

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

GBV horror

stop-gender-based-violenceIt seems to explode after easing the lockdown a bit in South Africa: Gender based violence. So much so that President Ramaphosa used his last address on national TV to call it a war against women, not to forget children.
The news of victims being raped, killed, burned, thrown away next to roads and motorways are piling up while social media is used by the police to celebrate having arrested another load of cigarettes on their way to the consumers during prohibition of sale.
It is a fact we also know from other instances:
While stealing millions gives you a free pass surfing the waves in lockdown sets whole cohorts of policemen in motion. More than 250 000 South Africans became criminals during the first weeks of lockdown while thieves enjoy their time as Members of Parliament seemingly untouched.
And there lies also the problem with Ramaphosa’s appeal to wage war against the war on women: he lacks meanwhile often the political authority let alone moral credibility to be really heard and listened to.

The South African society has first to start much more reconciliation and healing before this war can be won – and for this to happen it needs credible leader and generally a leadership which does not use the past as a weapon to keep wounds open, BEE as a Ponzi scheme to enrich the connected and allow for corruption to fester and poison further an anyhow potentially volatile situation.

South Africa’s past lingers unhealed in the presence, not only apartheid, but the Boer war, the British concentration camps and not to forget the influence of faith and religion as a driver for freedom and injustice at the same time. South Africa is in so many ways a concentrated and painful mirror and an example of the woes and traumata societies and countries are going through looking at their suppressed past. A global phenomenon so visible at the moment.

Now add to this poverty and desperation and the feeling of powerlessness of many South Africans to change their situation.

This mix of unhealed historical burden and current impotence to escape renders the problem of alcohol in our society  explainable – alcohol is a very human way of trying to sooth the pain and relax the mood, but it is also a way of trying to escape reality and at the end it leads to irrational behaviour and dependency. Or addiction which is close to unruly behaviour and often violence.

To overcome, to heal, to reconcile, to move forward as humans, as society, as a human race we need moral and impeccable leadership, fellow humans whose interest is the well-being of all instead of a few and whose actions bring people together. People who then see themselves as equal, who thrive on the idea of complementing each other to move forward for the benefit of all.

To end GBV does not come cheap – but it is worth every effort and sacrifice.

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

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, , , , , , , ,

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