God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

World Aids Conference in Amsterdam

After a conference is always before a conference – but after attending this years World Aids Conference it remains to reflect on what was achieved and what does one take home?

World Aids Conferences are for me always places to listen – to step back from constantly producing or standing in front of an audience but to remain in the back of auditoriums and conference rooms to listen and learn. This year was not different, hearing how other organizations work and applaud their achievements and listen to their worries and concerns is indeed a much appreciated learning curve.

Not all looks good – so we learned in the five days: in over 50 countries worldwide the numbers of new infections are rising again and especially in the Ukraine and Russia but also the Near East we see numbers climbing. In South Africa the numbers seemed to stagnate when it comes to new infections – a situation known since years without a real explanation. There is less money globally to spend on HIV related issues and the 90-90-90 goal of UNAIDS is definitely at risk not to be reached.

On the good side we now know for certain that undetectable means no transmission possible. And it translates in more people tested and put on treatment equals less new infections. But if the laws of the land punish HIV positive people for sexual acts or even spitting with attempted murder – who wants to be open about his or her status? Ignorant governments denying a problem with HIV in their respective country or even countries which prosecute LGBTI people or sex workers can’t count on getting the people on treatment. Politics and law are standing in many countries in the way of testing and treating and with it fostering the circle of new infections. Stigma and discrimination, also in the health sector, add to the problems of not achieving a next generation of zero new infections.

So where does this leave us? First of all with lots of fresh motivation seeing and experiencing the other round about 15000 activists, researchers, doctors, community workers, lawyers; somehow confirming that one is not alone. It is great to mix and mingle and greet and smile and clap hands and feel inspired with all those fighting the same battle.

But it leaves us also with lots of continued and new challenges – the fight against HIV is not won yet, I guess some people were too sure claiming the end in 2030 – the virus remains a nasty challenge to the world and it will not give up easily.

So San Francisco will be next in 2020 – but even there is a question mark. Many activists felt and made it heard that Trump-land is not the ideal place to have such a conference. An ignorant world leader and lots of states with ignorant state laws might not be an ideal scenario for such a conference.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Madness translated into perspective

I guess there are not a lot of people who are not worried about the madness politics is presenting almost globally: be it the constant onslaught of a self-absorbed fake news producer like Donald Trump, be it the raw emotions raving through Germany when it comes to the questions of refugees, be it the bizarre battle in Bavaria about crosses in all state institutions or the renaming of the Ministry of Home Affairs into “Heimat-Ministerium” – the list could continue endless.

All those madness is an expression of a somehow deep down felt insecurity of the human race looking into the future. It seems that most people experience an inner anxiety which translates into yearning for the “good old times” or the “strong man” , holding on to what is known while not being able to clearly seeing what will come.

And what will come is tremendous – it has consequences so far-reaching that those anxieties have to be taken seriously – even if it seems that politicians are yet not able to really grasp or understand the magnitude of changes coming. Or if they do, they are not honest with the people on the ground.

The digital revolution which is unfolding in front of our eyes will be much more profound than the industrial revolution or any other which has shaped human mankind. It completely changes the way we work, we feel, we act and we plan. It makes it necessary to look with completely new eyes how people are organized, how countries and states are functioning, how democracy or a dictatorship is working, how wars are battled out. Whoever has watched Mark Zuckerberg giving testimony in front of the US American Congress speaking about the Facebook Community which spans around the globe will have gotten a glimpse how mind-blowing social media and inter-connectivity of people in reality is. Additionally artificial intelligence will shape our path into the future in a way most ordinary people can’t imagine. And not only those with money will rule the world, but also those writing the algorithms on which we more and more base our decision-making process.

The “fake news” debate and the Russian interference – the bots in social media and the personalized streamlined news of Facebook with targeted advertising is the starting point of a manipulation spree which promises to intensify in many different ways. All the health and activity monitoring watches and gadgets slowly change the way you think and act and motivate yourself.

Ethical guidelines for those writing the algorithms and programming the computers are urgently needed to avoid what will make Orwells “1984” novel a cheap copy of reality.

This also means that the way, Africa is developing has to be seen in a different light – the argument you hear often that Europe is so developed in democracy and other portfolios because it took so much time to come to today’s state of affair will hold no water anymore for the emerging states on the continent as time has to be factored out as a necessary part for such development. Developments in the area of digital progress are too fast.  And there is something else:

The intensity with which the human race tries to destroy the very fabric of the planet and makes it inhabitable is mind-boggling – just watch how the USA in the moment turns the clock back on recent achievements. We might be able to kill ourselves and our environment before we even have a grasp and we are ethically on top of a digital development which just begun.

If we want to succeed as the human race we have to pull on one string when it comes to cut down on destroying the planets resources – and we have urgently start to rethink the way we organize ourselves – how we want to keep up the core elements of democracy, good governance and social achievements globally. We need to develop ethical guidance in the digital mine field we are about to enter.

And we need to understand in Africa, that looking too much into the past we miss the train into a future where this continent should play a major role instead of chasing a history which is needed to learn lessons, but not to get stuck in. A fine balance where once again too many emotions will not help the cause.

Donald Trump and there-likes are the last stand of a chapter in human history – white male dominant racist – which comes to a close and nothing will change that – except when we continue to allow further destruction of human decency, academic wisdom, religious tolerance and all the parameters needed to keep our planet breathing.

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

Motherfu@#er – or summarizing an interesting year

Nobody can say 2017 was a boring or uneventful year – it does not matter where you live or work – we were all part of a developing global village story shaking the world to the core. Politically a constant fake news producer, self-styled ego-man, denialist on many fronts and womanizer was elected President of the United States and many people had to learn that between the big cities of the West and East coast are definitely not as progressive as the city dwellers – believing rather what they want to believe instead tackling the challenges and realities on the ground.
In Europe Germany stills waits for a new government to be formed while in Austria a populist youngster seems to be the savior of this country while in Poland and Hungary the right wingers demolish democratic advances and human rights achievements almost systematically. The British playing Brexit chess without knowing really where it will end and the EU searches its way through all the political pitfalls its encountered during the year.

On the African continent the looting of South Africa continued and the brazenness in the face of several court decisions and revelations about those captured by the Guptas only increased as if they would know that their time is running out. Zimbabwe got rid of uncle Bob after a shameless Grace pushed for power while in other African countries there are the usual suspects extending their welcome by changing laws and constitutions. The question of refugees from Africa to Europe continuous to be a matter of grave concern and indicates that problems are not solved but always pushed to the next big political meeting.

In the Roman-Catholic church the opposition against Pope Francis clearly tried to score points in ridiculous ways and the hardly hidden hurt vanity of one cardinal stood out as an example of unhappiness with the current way our church is steered – while Catholics as such are discovering the depth of faith in a new and exciting way – even if mercy is a concept known since the beginning of Christianity.

And all this is mirrored in the social media – where etiquette seems to vanish while emotions are running high. Lots of contributions are lacking respect or brain like this example which I choose to publish because it shows the consequence of having leaders steering those emotions, playing with the uneducated and their sentiments, leading by bad examples or supporting the wave of false or misleading information which results in a mixture of unreasonable demands, non-logical approaches, denial of realities and the fostering of ideologies we thought to have beaten long ago.

So there is undeniable a sort of chaos ruling the world in the moment – with leaders uneasy and seemingly battling to make sense and to come to conclusions beneficial for all.  Democracy seems to take some hits while social media and the change in technology and communication has completely changed the environment people are operating. And if you look to China, where they develop a tracking system for all citizens and plans to work with scores to give or take privileges like loans or traveling, it becomes blatant clear where the challenges for political systems will be found in the years to come.

All this said there is also the acknowledgment that all challenges are also opportunities. Opportunities to resist and grow, opportunities to re-evaluate and correct, to discuss and discern and to move on forging a way for more humanity, more human rights and liberties as well as dignity for everybody. So nothing is doomed or lost at all.

In this context the work of NGO’s and civil right groups becomes so more important to assist in achieving the for-said goals. They are rightly seen as a threat to governments leaning towards dictatorial behavior as seen in Egypt or Russia, let alone China. To support those NGO’s and to value their contribution to a better world remains important when we now go into the next year 2018. Good vetted non-governmental organizations with a proven track record are in the coming years the lifeline to fill and bridge the gaps of governmental work, civil society has to play a much bigger role and charity organizations will be much-needed to continue their work for those many falling through the cracks of organized societies.

So at the end it is a mixed review but not hopeless, it is full of challenges we will have to turn into opportunities – it is a starting pitch for 2018 which will make the work of all interested in humanity exciting, demanding and rewarding at the same time. May it be for as many as possible a blessed year and may the emotions express themselves in a way respecting each other.

 

 

 

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

Sick and tired of violence

Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine and Israel – the news of violence, war and terror is a permanent feature on all news channels and I realize fatigue is setting in watching and zipping to all those channels with news seemingly to be for years the same.
Paris, Bamako – lock down in Brussels – and waiting for the next hit – around the world travel warning from the US and the discussions about sacrificing our freedoms fought for over long periods seems to head into a new direction of Orwell’s 1984 and even moreSouth Africa – #feesmustfall of the students means meanwhile arson, violence, destruction – almost hundred attempted murders per day in South Africa, from which are half successful. The taxi mafia continues to rule the streets and create havoc – service delivery protests can’t be without violence and damage anymore and whoever wants to take a drive on the national road N2 between Cape Town and Somerset West must be on the watch out – even police officers are not exempt falling victim of violence.
Coming back to the big world again – happy bombing from France – revenge for Paris, together with Russia and David Cameron can’t wait to extend his military reach in the Middle East – together with the continues and relentless extra-legal killings via drones – another permanent of this year’s news – especially when collateral damage means that unfortunately innocent people are killed too.
And as this would not be enough blood shed the state sponsored killings in the USA and Saudi-Arabia, but also not to forget in Indonesia and in other places seems to pick up again – another example that the capacity of governments and people to exercise respect for the sanctity of life degrades in the moment.

I must admit that I am in the moment sick and tired of all the violence on so many levels. Trying to get into the spirit of Advent as a Christian even worsens the situation as it becomes painfully clear how much we are away from the hope of Advent as the preparation of welcoming somebody in the world we see as the Prince of Peace and the messenger of unconditional love to all creation.
It seems that the new lonely caller in the wilderness we hear from in the bible changed his name from John the Baptist to Pope Francis amongst some other religious leaders . His travel this week to the war-thorn region of the Central African Republic with all the unknown and the danger would be a sign, that there might be other ways to answer violence and brutality than with weapons and violence.

But would that also be possible with ISIS or Daesh? Is there another way than throwing bombs?

I am convinced that bombings are not the answer, but that there are other strategies more promising to end this evil:
For example to acknowledge that there is a steady stream of unhappy Europeans following the call of ISIS and if we really want to root out such extremism we have to start in the suburbs of Paris, of Brussels, of Hamburg, of all the major cities in the USA. We have indeed to battle for the minds and the hearts of those feeling that they are not part of our society. Secondly let’s stop fulling the war in this region with selling weapons to “rebels” and other those, in the moment seemingly on the right side of history – in Afghanistan and Iraq history has thought us that the right side of history can quickly turn into the wrong one – ask the CIA which actually made Bin-Laden the person he became later on. Or Saddam Hussein, who was bolstered first to fight the revolution in Iran before falling out with the USA. Do we never learn out of mistakes?
Bombing, killing, extra-juridical killing by drones – it all creates an environment where people from ISIS will indeed flock together and new terrorists and suicide bombers are created on a daily base. The sad story of Israel and Palestine shows how the devils circle of violence never stops until somebody breaks it. And I am convinced to stop ISIS to gain more territory and cutting them off from the oil trade or trade of antiques will dry them out – cut them of the honor to connect them with  religion or Islam by getting the Umma to simply distance themselves – I am quite sure it will help to make this self-proclaimed caliphate a footnote of history in short time.

And let’s recognize and acknowledge that the wealth of Europe has its base in the exploitation of the African continent and the European colonies worldwide – and that they owe the people in Africa, in South America and where ever all the empires stretched for longer or shorter periods of time. Lots of country borders have been drawn on paper and without looking at situation. Lots of governments and dictators came into power because – at that time –   they either belonged to the anti-communist quarters or the other way around. We still haven’t worked it through – and we still are tempted to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. European governments judge not fairly but whatever suits best the Western World – they don’t have the focus on uplifting the people worldwide but what gives them more profit and fosters the lifestyle, Europe and North America wants to keep as long as possible. Let’s be honest: the conviction that we have to develop a new world order, a new way of dealing with each other is still in the infancy of the conscience of human civilization. We have conquered the technology but the rest lacks behind.

Advent – new beginning – may the feeling of being sick and tired of violence turn into a new approach of making the world a more peaceful place on all levels of life – a life to be called to live to the fullest.

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

What has it really brought… the conference???

Being back in South Africa and back at my working desk and in my working environment the question remains and I am often asked: What has it really brought to go for 48 hours on flights with 18 hours stop over to attend a conference with more than 20.000 people I don’t know and which comes together for 5 days from all over the world.

First of all: I guess, I will take the shorter flight – only looking to save some hundred bugs does not do the trick and flying from the USA via Europe forwards and backwards is a pain in the neck. On the other hand it had the chance to get used to the new environment.. well.. somehow… 🙂
And even being with such a crowd together: I met people I know, even Prof Cotton from the own HOPE Cape Town Association board was queuing with me on the first day to get into the lecture hall passing the tight security. So it was not that lonely. But despite Washington not being very much involved into the conference, the conference remains a beacon of inspiration. I met so many people from so many angle of lives: I spoke to Thai transvestite and escorts, Russian gay activists fearing for the future of an open society, women from Asia, Africa, South America, HIV positive themselves or affected by the pandemic and all that spirit of keeping the fight going, battling against the odds, not giving up against politicians who don’t want to listen, societies, so traditional that one can’t even mention sexual words in public – it was inspiring. Talking to sex workers about their work experience, drug users who escaped somehow the tight visa control of the USA and made it to the conference, priests who are also doctors in the fields of HIV and AIDS – so many faces are still alive in my mind and in my heart and in my soul.

So, yes, even after some time it remains good to have been in Washington, also for my own well-being as an activist, as a priest realising again in all those encounters how important it is to fight on. To keep the fire burning, also in the very own church. Once again I was reminded what great organisation the Catholic church is when it comes to care, but also how disastrous the moral theology can be at times, putting lives in danger to say the least. The church as the community of saints and sinners were very close to me in Washington – and I could associate with both parts of it. 🙂

I will have meetings now in September with some of the folks I met in Washington and then I will see what in practical terms will come out of the conference for HOPE Cape Town Association and Trust – besides all the new material I could collect and bring with to South Africa. And I am confident that at the end the travel was beneficial to all concerned – as a Rotary saying says.

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
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Ball of HOPE 2018

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

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