God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

There is no free education

It is amazing for me to hear again and again about “free education for all” as this slogan misses completely the point. Listening to some of the students commenting on this drama unfolding in South Africa in the moment, I have to ask myself whether they are indeed students. Students should have at least an initial ability of how to understand and analyze a problem which seems to be non-existing in most statements. They sound learned, repeated, memorized like a matric exam. No own thinking needed.

Education is never free – even if tuition fees are falling there are always people picking up the bill for the studies – it will be the taxpayer having this role. To be able to do so for those students not to effort a study, there should be enough taxpayers and less corruption to begin with. So if students want to bring change, they should demand from those in political power to demand circumstances allowing for this dialogue to happen. Burning libraries, burning history and collective memories, destroying facilities only add to the impossibility affording fee free studies.

I also wonder seeing the pictures of violent clashes on campus – where are the parents in this unfortunate battle? Are they silent because they feel the youngster express also their anger against state, society and all the other entities one feels left out? Is the “demand” of the students not rather also silently bolstered protest of those still hurt from Apartheid times and left alone in this pain by the present government?

Another question I ponder: Even if the studies themselves are free – there are other costs for housing, transport, books etc – also all free? Or bursaries which in the moment seemed to be a free for all as not a lot care to pay back and the government allows for it to happen. Watching a report on this topic recently I was quite taken back by a former student explaining in front of a camera that he does not dare to pay 100 Rand back as per loan agreement – even earning a decent salary now himself after having a bursary throughout his studies. No shame, no guilt – he simply did not care – and once again the question: What did parents tell him how to conduct himself in an ethical manner?

Last but not least: I hear students have on their lips: “decolonization of the universities” . Universities are indeed  a colonial institution brought to South Africa. My question would be: do we want to get rid of the universities or what is the aim of the decolonization? I really believe a bit more academic maturity is in this discussion the order of today.

Students have the right to protest, they have the right to be unreasonable in demands, but they don’t have the right to destruction, violence, disturbance – and maybe it is time for the parents to reign in and for the students to concentrate their anger and rightful questions onto those who at the end are responsible for a climate of appropriate and affordable studies: our politicians who are seemingly more interested in their own powers and privileges while wasting the money which could be used for a meaningful compromise in this matter.

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

International Criminal Court for the Vatican?

“International Criminal Court proceedings for the Vatican’s stance on condoms” – this was one of the questions asked when discussing the question of HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa at the Osnabruecker Afrika Festival. “Surely not” – so my clear answer, but the question shows how much people are bothered by the outdated views on condoms regarding the pandemic on HIV and AIDS. It is getting more and more difficult to reason the case for all the consequences of Humanae Vitae and honestly: the battle is lost for the church. The faithful are not only not following the church in this anymore but feel more and more irritated about the fact, that this is even worth a discussion in our days. How much ground have we lost through this debate about a piece of rubber? Too many for my taste.

And what to tell the youngsters of the Ursulaschule, the diocesan High School in Osnabrueck – those who are experiencing their first love and – depending on the given family values – know that they should abstain (what they don’t do) as marriage in Germany is more and more a thing for people in their 30’s – and once again: who really waits that long? So what to tell them in their realities?

With the changes of the liturgical words “pro multis” Pope Benedict XVI has shown that he can and is willing to rectify decisions of his predecessors – so why not in this case a correction that ends debate and let us move forwards to all the other important questions we have to answer in these modern days.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

28.10.2009 450 youngsters…

A big surprise when I enter the Liebfrauen church in Bitburg for the first part of my day: talking and celebrating a prayer service with the students of the St. Willibrord Gymnasium. Round about 450 students are filling the church – I am not sure what I thought before but I was indeed surprised to see so many youngsters. Talk and service went well, we were able to connect and it seems, at least according to some teachers afterwards, the noise level was significant lower than in other services. The youngsters listened – a good experience and quite energizing for me. And energy I needed: After the service I met with 120 students of class 13 – the Abitur class.  At the “Haus der Jugend” we had time to discuss matters and to try to bridge the gap between South Africa and Germany. And again an audience to connect to – with good questions and I hope some good answers too.

Prevention, treatment, sexuality, sangomas, academic research, grass root projects, theology, church and condoms – there was not a lot untouched during the discussion – a lively debate.

After that I went with the principal and the teachers to the school to be formally welcomed in front of all teachers. The principal found some nice words of welcome and some of my very own teachers 30 years ago were still working – a pleasure to meet them again. 2 Jahrggangsstufen (standard 8 and standard 9) were singled out to have a discussion with me during the next two hours. Amazing to hear that some students came after the talk to pass on the regards of their parents who happened to be my friends and neigbors or classmates while I was myself a student of the school.

Then a nice drive to Aachen – changing briefly into Belgium to cut time and some more busy streets – and now I prepare for my evening talk about “HIV and AIDS as signs of the time” – with a discussion afterward with the students of the University of Aachen. As mentioned before the representatives of misereor, misso and others where not allowed to discuss this topic with me – and I still feel sorry for them: not talking to each other is the worst case scenario for us as Christians. It is indeed a shame, as I strongly believe that we all try to find ways and solutions serving mankind. And we do this with seriousness and we all deserve respect and a listening ear for our ideas. I hope and pray that this ignorance will cease soon and that we are able to engage in fruitful discussion. I am amazed to see who all is talking to me, also from the church side – but not those big Catholic development agencies. Are they are scared of competition? Or anything else I am not aware?

Be it as it is – I am looking forward to discuss a theology of HIV and AIDS with the students and to see, whether my very fragmented approach of theology, bounced on the minds of those students, can develop further. I continue to hope for the best…

Filed under: HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, , , , , , , , , , , ,

17.09.2009 School anniversary in Brooklyn

Yesterday evening I was invited to join a performance of students of the Holy Cross Primary School in Brooklyn near Cape Town – and as every year, it was marvellous to see how the first till seven grader performed and transformed a school hall into a studio, a landing on the moon, a school class 50 years ago and much more, all done with lots of music, singing and dancing. Seeing in the clear eyes of most of these youngsters one wonders while watching the performance how they will do in life. What will they achieve after leaving school? What future is for them in this wonderful paradise called South Africa, where the beauty and the beast are always in reach. Where world icons like Nelson Mandela live side by side by with people killing each other on a daily base for a cigarette, some Nike shoes or a handful of Rand.  Where the triumph of mind over 27 years of imprisonment meets the downfall of millions who cannot make a living for themselves still in our days and rely more or less on a handout of the government, too little to live, too much to die…

What kind of dreams, of hopes I had when I was in that age? I cannot remember exactly but I surely had not the worries and sorrows of everyday struggle these kids endure sometimes on a daily base. This from Holy Cross Sisters lead school is like an island of hope: a beacon of assurance that there is a way forward in this new South Africa. We can not honour enough those teachers and educators, be it in this particular school or all over the country who try their very best to give those kids a chance in life in giving them a base of knowledge. And yes, knowledge is part of development, is part of being able to be self-determined as an adult and to be able to contribute towards society and the community they live in.

But Brooklyn Holy Cross Primary School is for me also travel back in time, the school is a sort of deja-vu of my own school time – the way of teaching, of discipline … it all reminds me on my good old school days somehow ages ago.
In May I attended the 30th anniversary of my own “Abitur” and I it was amazing to see all those faces again I left in 1979 when starting to study theology and philosophy. How most of them had changed but still: again the deja-vu of behaviour patterns – not everything changed really.

I went home after the performance with joy in my heart having seen another generation hopefully being able to do better as we have done, being more wise in using our resources, caring more about nature and the ecology, avoiding meaningless wars and battles and.. and .. and.. And in my heart I also know that it will be most probably not the case. Is the world really going only in circles? Is every generation hoping that the next does not make the same mistakes? Like every parent is hoping to provide a better future for their own kids?

I am not sure, but nobody can take away the joy this eve seeing those kids having a fun of a lifetime while performing, parents to be proud of their kids, nobody can take away two hours of just being content with the world, the people around me and myself. That is more than I hoped for. Thanks to all students and teachers of this school.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

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