God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

30.04.2010 Human mankind

Does human mankind ever learn? Most people will answer with a clear “no”… We see it already in our small little world how difficult it is to keep peace with the neighbours or to avoid prejudice. In the finance sector of our days we see that the circle of failures already and those who have spoken about changing the system to avoid another crash of the markets are continuing their same old path.. some minor corrections are allowed to please the public.

In Bangkok people take a whole city hostage – stand-offs, shootings, killings, endangering of innocent people seems to be “normal” – nobody wants violence but everybody is captured so much in his own world and thinking that without “wanting it” one just jumps on every opportunity to gain and to damage those considered to be “the others”.

In our church, the “hype” about sexual abuse creates interesting reactions: the right wingers within our church try to equalise sexual abuse = homosexuality, the left-wing in the church proclaims the conjunction between celibacy and abuse – and instead of investigating the real reasons behind all these, one uses the opportunity for each convictions own gain. This is an abuse in itself and insults the victims. This times can be times of an honest review how church performs – as HIV and AIDS can be a subject to trigger an honest review of parts of our moral theology. Are we able to stand the test of times – or do we fail – again, as many would say.

Difficult times… indeed..

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

17.04.10 challenging times in Thailand

Bangkok under siege – thousands of so-called “red shirts” are blocking since weeks Bangkok and since days the business centre of the city. People died in clashes between police and demonstrators and the mood is not festive like in other days during songkran, the Thai New Year. My drive from the airport already shows the difference – few cars, no traffic jam – the streets are not packed and even the fun part – throwing water at everyone passing by is accompanied by less joy then otherwise. The big shopping centers in the middle of Bangkok are closed and business is loosing billions of cash and the country lots of tourists.

Since years I travel to Thailand – and since years the political turmoil is visible – two years ago I couldn’t leave the country because the airport was occupied by demonstrators – the year before military rule had taken over and one was greeted by a couple of tanks on the street – well, we will see how it develops the next few days.

And still, the mentality of the Thai population demands that even under these circumstances life has to go on, as normal as possible and obviously with “sanuk“, experiencing a moment of some joy and fun, even in sad circumstances. tackling life to the best of abilities. This is, what I admire, this ability of living life to the fullest in the very moment of existence.

Comparing Thailand and South Africa, there are so many similarities: the good will, but so often failure of government to get it right, corruption on all levels of society, poverty in most parts of the country, the inability of politicians to catch a full picture before making decisions, a complete different sense of logic than we have in the Western world…

But there are fundamental differences: you can walk the streets day and night without being scared of being robbed or mugged – the crime rates are very different. The delicious food one can find day and night at a street corner, the love for good food and the sense for beauty and perfection are other differences.

I feel privileged to be raised in a European society, able to work in an African society and relaxing in an Asian society – the mixture presents me with a openness – some would certainly say: relativism – I personally cherish, even if it leads sometimes to contradictions in my life which are difficult to explain to others.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , ,

14.3.2010 Thailand or never peace?

Once again politics in Thailand brings the country on the brink to chaos, this time the so-called “red shirts” on the streets of Bangkok trying to bring down the government. Sometimes I wonder about a lot of things: About how people perceive their political view as the only valid once. About how people think their doing is so important for the development of this world. About how people perceive the  state of affairs as static. People murder for their political views, people die for their country, politicians negotiate in a way one could think the nation has exist since the beginning of the world.

I advise to go somewhere in the desert or in the bush where there is no artificial light and have a look at night at the stars, at the milky way and all its unlimited extensions… And then feel how small and tiny we are… A bit more being humble would help in most situations.

I also think that by the way when I observe religious leaders and gurus – how they insist to know the truth and only the truth. People of the cloth have killed for their conviction in the past, wars have been ignited by religious views, so-called witches burned, Jews hunted, crusaders send en mass to Jerusalem.

I advise to go somewhere in the desert or in the bush where there is no artificial light and have a look at night at the stars… and you suddenly realise how little you know about this world and its existence and where we are coming from and going to. We believe, but there are so many things we still have to learn about the meaning of life – even the holiest man is still far away from knowing it all. If he is wise, he knows that he doesn’t know – and he is humble. We need a lot of wise men in our days..

All this reflection does not prevent from preparing for the week. After 2 weeks with limited internet I spent this Sunday in answering emails and preparing for the coming week. A Bavarian delegation is arriving and visiting HOPE Cape Town, the Austrian TV wants to have an interview, there are several meetings with representatives of the health sector of the province and much more. Hope there is time to live in between.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

05.01.2010 Holiday blues…

Staying on holiday so far away from home has two disadvantages: The first is that people forget that there is indeed a time difference and that phoning me in the evening means waking me up after midnight. Well, one might say, that one could simply switch off the cell during night – and yes, that’s right. But – and this is the second disadvantage: climax points of disasters and worries happening normally especially, when one is far away – so one is needed the most, when one is far away… Or is that only my fantasy?? 🙂

Nevertheless, Bangkok is starting to fill up again with people and cars and noise; normal life has come back to the city of angels. And checking the news I see our president dancing the Zulu wedding dance in full leopard outfit – his third wife, not to count the divorced one and the deceased one – and it is mentioned that he is already engaged with future wife number four. And it comes to my mind what that all means to fidelity in marriage – and the concept of marriage as we Catholics have. Not to mention that his now third wife has already three kids – so sexuality must have been practiced before marriage. Which is obvious for most Africans, as after paying the lobola the couple is allowed to engage in sexual activities before the wedding ceremony – old African traditions – once again – what does this mean to the more Eurocentric view of Catholicism which puts sex only into the marriage.

Here in Bangkok I am reading in the moment a book about katoeys – the third gender in Thailand – and once again I asked myself, what does the existence of such a third gender mean in the framework of Catholic moral theology.

So not, only sleepless nights, but also so many questions and so little answer…  And all this has indeed also to do with the topic of HIV and AIDS and how we approach it.. Well, I still have more than a week time to find some…  🙂

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.08.2009 Saturday blues… and the spirit house

Saturday, in the morning shopping – in the afternoon working. A sermon to prepare, emails to answer, a future to be developed… so much to do and so little time sometimes. A wonderful and sunny day so far – winter in Cape Town can be like summer in Europe – so beautiful and relaxing. It is indeed a gift to live at the end of Africa – such a beautiful spot, unique and full of atmosphere.

And yes, my spirit house has arrived in Cape Town and hopefully customs will be so friendly to release it soonest. A spirit house is a traditional small house mainly used in Thailand. It houses the spirits of a house and one must give eating and drinking and not to forget some joss sticks on important days. Can a priest believe in such things? Well, I can.. 🙂 at least I love that idea of being reminded every day that this world is so much more than we can feel and touch and hear and see…. And believing in the community of living and death, as we do as Christians, why not manifesting this thought in a Thai tradition. The part of my soul which is surely Thai origin is so excited and I am sure, my Buddha statues at home will be happy to be in company of a spirit house. Feels more home for them… 🙂

I am excited and can’t wait to see the spirit house – and hope it will be done as ordered. Otherwise another reason to go back to Thailand..  but I guess, I am never too short of reasons to visit my beloved Thailand. 🙂

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

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