God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Signs of the times for the Roman-Catholic Church

I am not sure how to explain the feeling when convictions, you are holding deeply in yourself suddenly are voiced officially and formally in the church, you are serving since more than 30 years. It is not even a triumphant feeling – that would anyhow be much too early, looking at the universal Catholic Church – but it is a relief that thoughts, you were punished for, ideas which were forbidden to speak out lout (like the ordination of women priests under John-Paul II) are not any more only whispered in the dark corner of the church.

Participation of laity when it comes to the election of Bishops, gender equality within the church – and yes, it means all genders; ordination for women, celibacy as choice. A clear jump to overcome the Middle Ages and to arrive as the pilgrims finding their ways through the times into the 21st century.

Obviously we are not there yet, but knowing that German theology had always an impact and is indeed well reasoned and studied, there seems to be suddenly light at the end of a very dark tunnel. There will be now a forceful stand-off of those wanting to remain in the past. And there will be a decision to be made whether the universal Catholic Church allows for a synodal way forward which also strengthen the local churches and gives them the leverage to own decisions on certain levels; or whether the institution is imprisoned in the thought that all must do the same. Diversity in Unity would be the catchphrase; and the Orthodox Church gives us examples of this diverse unity based on baptism and creed.

While the dirty truth about child abuse continues to rage in the church, especially in the German church currently, it opens the view clearly on structural sins of power, male dominance and tons of “brothers in the fog” as the late Cardinal of Cologne described the priestly abusers he and others covered up. Many countries have gone through the discoveries of abuse and many churches in Africa have not even started to look deeply into their own backyards; the German church might be the one which later will be attributed the courage to name and shame the wounds and draw the necessary consequences.

There will be lots of oppositions within the church; there might be more splits and division, but this is part of the process of transformation. There will be the exposure of big gaps between different theologies and pastoral practices when it comes to Europe and Africa. We should not be afraid of all of this. The Catholic Church has waited too long to walk the talk about the values of participation, democratic rule, gender equality being advocated for others but internally rejected those values for their own institution.

Let’s be clear: this is not a German revolution. Think of the Amazon Synod, which also was thought-provoking in their requests. It is about taking seriously the sensus fidei , which was also highlighted in the German Synod text about the framework of its own reflections. It is about taking seriously the synodal church as envisioned by Vatican II; being somehow covered up and almost made forgotten in the times of Johannes-Paul II and Benedict XVI. In many ways, we now start to understand and try to explore the deeper sense of what was said in the sixties of the last century. And if Paul VI would not have forbidden certain discussions, the church would have moved certainly faster into the realities of the 21st century.

Another clarification: All discussions don’t touch on the essential of the good news: the unconditional love for all people, the promise of a meaning in life and the certainty that we are part of a much bigger and divine picture we constantly have to discover anew. The bible is full of stories of people exactly doing this: discovering that understanding and pictures of the divine changes, that the divine touches their lives in ways unexpected; the bible is a book of transformation from Abraham till Jesus. The “word of God” as it is liturgically often called, is not set in stone, but it is set in the hearts of a diversity of humans, we in the church call ‘the sons and daughters of God’. And the church as an institution and a living entity should encourage this living and developing connection between the world and divine. This can be scary at times for many, but diving in the deepest question of existing is not for the faint-hearted.

I often in this day’s think of the first apostles and specifically Peter, who had also to learn that the spirit of God showed him, that his understanding of how things should work, was thrown out of the window. Think of Acts 10:44-48, or think of what we call the first council in Jerusalem.

We live in exciting times for the church, we live in painful times too and in uncertain times. And exactly this uncertainty tends to support the motion to keep the known and to not jump into the unknown. I am convinced that we don’t have a chance but to move if we want to remain relevant as a church. We don’t have to move all in the same speed as a church and within the church, but we have to walk, sooner or later, to keep meaning to our message for this world. Otherwise, we will become a self-serving institution with no relevance for humanity.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

2018 National Senior Certificate results and false hope

Every year the same scenario: the results of the written 2018 National Senior Certificate exams (equal the German “Abitur”) are publicized and discussions erupt in South Africa about the real numbers. While the Department of Basic Education announces the pass rate of 78,2 % and celebrates achievements, others are pointing out that the figures are trumped-up – as more than 400 000 students never made it to the final exams and if calculated in, the pass rate would be lower than 40%. Also worries of manipulation of results are voiced as needed benchmarks are changed to create “more fairness” by those advocating the higher numbers while others see it more critically.

Looking at the lowering of standards to achieve the necessary results to be able to study foundation is laid for a lot of disappointment and complications. Having the certificate clearly does not prepare most students for university – but the for-said beautification of results gives lead to the impression of students being able and ready to attend university. Besides financial difficulties frustration is the consequence when students then discover that they are unable or not enough prepared to follow academic studies – and the breeding ground is laid for the unrest and violence we saw in the #feesmustfall movement in so many instances.

A broken basic education system leads to massive drop-outs in the process and for many others to unhappiness, anger and frustration for those who made it further. Add the frustration and expectations of parents and family and the perception that not missing preparation but “the system” hinders success of studies one gets the poisoned mix of entitlement and attitude, which is exploited by those who bring then the “race question” and “decolonization”to the toxic mix.

If politicians would be honestly concerned about society they would start fixing the basic education system, putting money into better schools, teachers training, cutting the wings of unions interfering and manipulation the education system and slowly built up a school system of excellence for all.  Then no quotas and no exam result manipulations would be needed and a fair chance would be given to everybody entering the education system.

And it should also be clear that academic study is not the ultimate goal for everybody – vocations in other professions are needed and qualifications in skilled craft and trades are equally important compared with a Bcom or a Master degree.

Lastly: transformation in this area is needed and needs time – and if South Africa would not have wasted now years falling into the coma of corruption, incompetence and cadre deployment, the country would be much more advanced as it is in our days. Blaming only the bad old times of apartheid only works for those less educated or being so ideologized that facts don’t matter.
Education is the basic requirement for entrepreneurship, equality and the willingness to work hard to achieve dreams in life – too many young people have been left behind or given the false impression of entitlement  – time to change course and give the younger generation the tools for a future of prosperity and the ability to contribute meaningful to society.

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

Weekend in reach…

What a week it was again – full of encounters and many of them very enriching for one’s own life. But also dull moments, moments that hurt and were you suddenly realise how different other people look at you and judge you.
The transformation process of HOPE Cape Town is still in full swing and my guess is, that end of the year we are sorted in a way that has prepared us for the next 10 years to come. Transformation time is often traumatic, because beloved habits or ideas have to be abounded and fresh, unknown wind is blowing. But I belive that there is that meaningful line in everybody’s life,  also in a life of an organisation, that makes sense and brings the best out of people.
I remain concerned about the state of the church – Vatican leak, the conservatism of church leaders, the anxiety to let the Spirit roam freely, the unification and streamlining instead of bringing out the best of diversity in the universal church, the fight against a relativism which might be none at all, empty churches in Europe, structural reforms which sometimes destroy more than it supports what is still left – I read that the US Catholic church is doing politics in going to court over the health reform – contraception – the most ignored teaching of the church as a catalyst to fight government. Not sure I do understand it in full. I just wonder…

Tomorrow I will say Mass in Milnerton – Holy Trinity Sunday – what a challenge for a priest.. – but at the end it is not about a theological construct but about the unconditional love of God. Not more and not less..

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Transformation and development…

After 10 years, it is always good and right to put an organisation to a stress test, as it is called today, meaning to review the strength and the weaknesses and to see which way leads to a good future.  The new director for HOPE Cape Town, the transformation from a management committee to a board, new research and government strategies ask for a good review of our work. After being 5 years in existence more in the shadow of the HOPE Cape Town Association, the HOPE Cape Town Trust is now also asked to define its new role as the guardian of the donations.  It is indeed an exciting time for HOPE Cape Town, even when it means more work then usual, more thinking and more discussion about the right way forward. It is good to have people in both boards who have HOPE Cape Town and its work at their hearts and minds. Mission statements and goals must be adjusted and redefined – there is still lots to do for this year to have this process finished until the next AGM’s are due in January 2012.
And there was today a great news that HOPE Cape Town got a donation which will enable us to start also to work in Manenberg, together with Fr Wim and the Catholic parish. They have already great success with afterschool care provided together with the Amy Biehl Foundation. Partnerships always means to get synergies and to use the resources as best as one can. Transformation is necessary, but the normal work at grass root level goes on as most of the portfolios which enables children and families being affected or infected with HIV to see a light at the end of the horizon.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , ,

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