God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

Decolonization

The word “decolonization” is in South Africa a buzz word – especially among students it seems to be the holy grail of changing and transforming universities and centers of study and learning. The suggestions how to achieve it are indeed very diverse – up to the point that students demand to abolish traditional sciences and start anew to discover that the world is not flat. Obviously such ideas are not helpful and mirror quite a limited understanding of the world for a student and even put into question if a person with such demands has the maturity to study. Also burning libraries or destroying paintings and university property does not help in reaching the goal of “decolonization”.
For me the word has a much deeper meaning – reflecting on the history of colonization and the madness of today’s political leadership as seen in a President Trump or President Zuma I see the word rather more broadly defining the transition of human civilization in this global village into a new area. The advent of social media and the consequences of instant information of today’s news and the readily available information about the past, the history and – if reflected and the dots joined – its dynamics shift us humans into a new understanding of who we are and how we can live and should live together. People like Trump and Zuma are representing history, representing a lost world – comfy for the ones who want to keep it desperately and painful for those who are trying to flee out of it by all means.
Decolonization is needed for both parties – because both draw their movements and ideas from a past gone and in fear of the unknown coming in the future. Decolonization is practical, economical, academical and mental – and I bid, that when the real South Africa gets a chance to decolonize without all the political pressure and violence and corruption, it could lead the way and Africa could be transformed from a lost continent into the beacon of hope for the world. We have to start a meaningful conversation without creating a battlefield.

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

As 2016 winds down…

As the year 2016 comes to a close, there is the usual time of reflection. On first view 2016 was indeed for the global community a very sad year: populism was triumphant, in the USA a self absorbed womanizer was elected to be the next president and as even history shows that you can’t run a country like a business as Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy clearly showed – the US system granted victory to the next failure with dire consequences to be seen if I may add. The human race is not learning nor is it able to master and digest what modern science and social media throw at them. After creating the global village and interconnecting with each other – humans are back to nationalism, patronism and guidance by anxiety and promised simple solutions.
In Germany, my home country this all reflected in the drama unfolding regarding refugees, the strengthening of the right-wings, the clash between those following in the footstep of reborn Neonazis and common sense and the uphold of human rights. A battle endangering the European Union symbolized in the Brexit and in the high amount of votes in the Austrian presidential elections. It seems that balance is lost and panic rules.In South Africa 2016 was the year of the Zuptas, the state capture, Nakandla, the SABC8 – and if conspiracy theories to capture a state are known in fiction, it shows reality in the Gupta’s attempt with the help of a president, who surely would have been a great village elders but he is completely out of place as a leading statesman. The mixture of tradition, corruption, brutality, streetwise cleverness is breath-taking and dangerous. And it hurts those suffering the most: the poor people of South Africa.
In this context the systems human mankind created to organize itself are not only abused in a constant way from those in power, but they also develop a perfection which makes them inhumane to its core. The spirits we created are taking over and it seems that compassion, seeing every situation as what it is, indeed a special one, as an impossible undertaking.
An example is the ongoing discussion in the Roman-Catholic Church about Amoris Laetitia: it shows a great example that people are resisting to except that there is no black and white, or in the computer language “zero” and “one” – systems have to be clear cut and judgements have to follow this rule. The law, which is an expression of mercy is seen as a threat to order when applied with the component of conscience and judged situation recognized as unique.
All in all the complexity of life and the interconnection with the possibilities of social media and constant news updates of all sorts seems to overstrain most humans and counter the believe in globalization – the pendulum is going into the opposite direction with a dire outlook into 2017. Anxiety and populism are governing our global village and both are used and abused to keep all afloat for the benefit of a few.

In this scenario the work of NGO’s and community based initiatives like HOPE Cape Town and millions of others are mere drops in the ocean – but those drops seem to me the only hope we have to survive the waves of inhumanity serving those aforesaid few. Those drops are the basis to conquer the negativity and abuse happening in our days, be it religious, social or political – those drops will make sure that 2017 will see rays of hope, rays of faith, rays of love reaching those suffering under the systems which try to maintain the status quo of this world.

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

Orlando

13407203_10154457792963643_1199818576249987981_nTraveling four weeks within the USA to establish HOPE Cape Town USA and visiting five states was quite a mission, but a wonderful opportunity to meet great people, to learn so much about this great country being plagued with so many problems from #blacklifematters, #stopHIVcriminalization to #prayfororlando.

I must admit that the latter really made me think and touched me in a way which I have not really fully understood. There is first the sheer unbelievable feeling to wake up to news of a mass shooting in Orlando – a single perpetrator killing 49 people and wounding another 25 before being shot himself. That alone makes you think about the gun laws in the USA, the unhealthy relationship between the freedom to carry a weapon as a constitutional right and a symbol of independence. The chocolate “Kinderueberraschung”, the chocolate egg with the surprise for kiddies is not allowed in  the USA because it is deemed dangerous for children, but you can buy an assault riffle without any problem. And to make this whole story even more confusing: people on a terror warning list are not able to fly with any airline in the USA, but they are allowed to purchase any weapon they desire. Logic is left in the dark and common sense seems to have disappeared.
But in Orlando, there are more layers – it was in a gay club where people were killed. A presumed safe place where LGBTI folks could relax and feel loved and appreciated amongst themselves turned into a deadly trap. An anyhow marginalized community received another deadly hit again and I must admit that the outpouring of condolences left a somehow bitter taste. Being it politicians or religious leaders voicing shock and condolences – I can’t help but notice the bigotry in their words having words of comfort for those they normally judge and put in a corner of sin and  wrongdoing.
I also learned about the story of “Pulse”, the club hit by this hate crime. The name is a reminder of a person having died from Aids related complications – the sister opened the club to remember his life and to create a place of joy and safety for the LGBTI community mostly hit in the USA from the HIV pandemic.

It is said that the perpetrator has pledged is loyalty to ISIS which brings me to the third and forth layers I am contemplating in the moment. The radicalization of people and the darker flip side of social media. It seems that the world becomes more radical, be it on governmental level or in social life: if you don’t get what you want or you disagree with your neighbor it seems that violence is the way to go for most people. Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq are examples but also looking into Africa, into South Africa where the local elections are due in August: how many counsellors and politicians have been killed in recent weeks and months, just as a result of power play – even within a party? Paris and Brussels and now only yesterday in England MP Jo Cox,  violence and killings mark more and more the political or ideological battle for minds and hearts.

And social media play their part in this big times. How easy is it to bring graphic contents into the world and to distribute it to every corner of it. How easy is it today to sit at home and being radicalized by watching violent videos almost like bloody reality shows. But would censorship be the alternative like the SABC, the South African National Broadcaster having decided to ban all violent protest from airing in the news?

A last layer (of many more in my mind) to mention is the realization that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly. An old wisdom newly internalized after a trip where everywhere I go there is gun violence and innocent bystanders are in danger. So life is precious and should be lived every minute up to the fullest.

The last four weeks have indeed triggered a lot of contemplation and reflection on how the world ticks in the moment and how much I want to tick with this world in the same tune – or even not. I can even sense a mild form of radicalization, not violent at all but being more conscious about who I am, what I stand for, what is important in life. And that is not only due to all things mentioned but also thanks to the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet or to meet again: our newly appointed directors of HOPE Cape Town USA: Stacie, Shirley and Joe; Dan and Claudia in New Jersey, Veronica, Inga, Khadija, Tim and Rebaux in California, Rev Neil from the Cathedral of HOPE in Dallas/Texas; Bruce and Diane in Chicago and all those who came to the meet & greet event in Dallas/Texas.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog: HOPE Cape Town USA is established and we file now for the federal tax exemption status. If you want to know more, please visit http://www.hopecapetownusa.com

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shitstorms….or some thoughts on social media in our days

It is amazing to follow social media and to see the storms of civil commotion and agitation from all walks of life on various issues getting people into a fever of excitement. Be it a question of racism like Mr Hards or Mrs Penny’s tweets in South Africa about entitlement and filth at the beach, be it a question of sexism like the word ” pantyprenuers” at an ANC anniversary meeting – or be it the discussions about the events in Cologne in Germany where more than 100 women laid charge against men looking like those “from North Africa” because of theft, rape and other criminal or unlawful behavior. My observations are not dealing with the matters as such but with the reactions on social media – it’s rather a search for the reasons of feeling often uncomfortable with what is posted or put out on social media. And these thoughts are indeed just thoughts, not conclusions or determinations.

It seems that everybody has an opinion and hammers the internet with this opinion, people getting into fights with each others, being disciplined, suspended, kicked out, threatened with physical attacks and other promises of revenge. Racism and sexism seems to be like a cudgel to accuse the other side not being in tune with the own opinion. Social media suddenly turns into a madhouse of accusations, threats, counter accusations and most people have obviously not only an opinion but also a remedy to avoid repeat of the perceived or real misconduct or criminal act; they know exactly how to battle racism, sexism, crime, discrimination and all the rest of it.

Seeing this in the framework of a world in various difficulties and seemingly overwhelming situations like the refugee crisis in Europe, the wars in the Near East, the battle of minds and ideologies in various African countries I can’t help the question to ask how this all ties together – what is it that make people so furious, so angry, so sure that they are right and most others wrong, so willing to defend positions, analysis, thoughts, impressions as the only valid and right ones.

My guess is it is often their own insecurity and anger and let me explain this:
It seems to me that the world is changing dramatically with all the access to information 24/7, all the constant input from politics, religion and society from the other end of the world as it would happen around the corner. Cellphones and tablets are peeping all the time announcing new messages and news. It seems to me like an information overflow – we cannot handle as human beings the constant influx and to counter it, we retreat to safe ground, either defending our own little world at any cost or running with the majority of opinions to not to lose out or been seen on the wrong side of society – in both cases up to the extreme. And if one gets “flack” – opinions suddenly are perceived as treats, as attacks and dealt with accordingly. The war of words begins…
Reading the sometimes tough and verbally violent opinions and demands on social media, the judgements without often knowing the facts and – or – just going with the flow I read in it the anger of a world getting more and more complex, offering too many options and possibilities, a freedom of choices while on the other hand governed by more and more automated systems in administration and society leaving less and less room for humanity and provisions for the individual case. Never ending information floods from everywhere in a seemingly smaller and more regulated world makes social media the perfect outlet for all the anger and frustration. The constant flow of information seems to force us to immediate reaction and comments – reading headlines on Facebook allow already for the like button and 140 letters of Twitter are enough to describe a complex situation.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to connect and to find related minds, it is indeed a great tool for social movements but as with all things it can also be used to marginalize and outcast, to create sentiments hurting people and societies but it never replaces real dialogue and the need for personal encounters. We have to acknowledge the limitations of communicating on social media – and we have to develop a tolerance and understanding that a person is more than the brief twitter or the status report – and that posting a link might be meant to stimulate discussion rather than portraying it as the own opinion. And we all know that sometimes our mouth is faster than our brain – and we have to realize that social media might be less forgiving than a spoken word retracted immediately.

So what I wish for is:
* read first and then share or post; don’t trust the headline
* think first and let anger vanish before posting
* give other posts the benefit of the doubt if possible
* raise your voice against xenophobia, sexism, racism, but in a dignified way and report it to the relevant authorities
* no tit for tats – it pollutes the social media

Filed under: Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
8 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
82 days to go.

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