God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Travel – the adventure of being challenged

Cape Town – Munich – Nuernberg – Berlin – Frankfurt – Somerville – Raleigh – Santa Fe are only some of the touch down points on my travel just started. And so often while sitting in the plane to reach the first destination there is always this nagging question of whom do I meet or does it work out if and when I meet strangers being the first time exposed to the HOPE Cape Town family and its work. In our days there can be added worries about lost luggage, missed connections due to delays, broken rental cars, not functioning credit cards – the list is endless and to summarize it: if you travel you most times leave your comfort zone and especially traveling alone it is a challenge to conquer new territory and the hearts of new people passing by – often seen only once in a lifetime and still be remembered.

Of course there is also that moment you meet friends and family again – highlights similar to those when it immediately clicks with new faces and time flies by and a new friend and / or ambassador of HOPE is found.

Travel, as we all know, also broadens the horizon of thinking – habits thought to be normal around the world are suddenly questioned, new ways of seeing the world and understanding the smaller and bigger universe of people and societies arise out of the many encounters. But this obviously makes one more lonely on the long-term: coming home means that the old ways of thinking are expected of you – it remains difficult to bring home the newly acquired values and skills and worlds of thoughts.

Traveling between Africa, Europe and America shows that the global village is still an abstract – we use the same words and we mean completely different things.  So the traveler becomes also a bridge to understand each other – a translator of the many meanings a word and a world can have on our planet.

And with this also an NGO like HOPE Cape Town is transformed into a catalyst for understanding and tolerance besides all the social work it is doing on the tip of Africa.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Leaving Rio de Janeiro

Wow, what for a city and after Salvador da Bahia and other Brazilian places one gets really in the mood of Samba and a seemingly easy lifestyle. The visit in the first favela settlement on the mountain of “providencia” in Rio reminded us going into the “slum” that life conditions can be harsh. Like everywhere broken promises of politicians, false or disappointed hopes of a better life and an unbelievable strong sense for religion partnering the life of those at the margins of society. And amazing for me as a priest the combination of old African religion and Christianity – syncretism in the highest form but seemingly tolerated in society or at least ignored by those preaching the gospel in various official churches as we know them around the world. A real rainbow nation and if South Africa can learn from Brazil as a BRICS country then it is to live and let live the different cultures and traditions in a way worth a rainbow nation. And on the HIV/AIDS front Brazil learned quick that antiretrovirals are the better option than the African potato and that a network of care and the production and service delivery for all affected and infected including proper medication is a must. Of course, there are also similarities – time management, improvisation on the highest level with often a good result, crime in various cities, corruption on all levels of society, a brutal gap between rich and poor – there is room for joined ventures which would benefit both countries. For me the visit was a real enrichment – the various encounters will stay with me and I know already that this will not be the last visit in this huge country. Travelling the world means to learn a lot – but often there is nobody home who wants to listen to what one has experienced. We are all to busy with our own affairs. How much do I wish that all would have the opportunity to see what I have seen alone in the last 7 days. But that remains a dream – but with social media like Facebook and others one can at least share a glimpse of the colourful reality of the world around us and take this as a starting point for more attentive discussion how other countries manage their affairs and how we in South Africa can benefit from it.

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

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

What Harry Potter can teach us…

I visited the Island of Adventures – Universal Studios in Orlando today and I was amazed to see how loads of people visited the Harry Potter exhibition with an amazing ride and all kinds of displays.

An idea, some years ago not heard of; an idea, somebody – not known to the public –  had in her mind, developed, believed in it, put it into the reality of a book and millions of people worldwide know by now the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends, his battles with the dark side of life. Millions have found comfort in fleeing reality in the moments of reading, of watching the movies or even now enjoying the Harry Potter ride in Orlando.
We can ignore the criticism and worries of some right-wing Christians about the magical aspect of the stories. They simply don’t get the point. The point I want to make is very simple:

Should this not be a very good lesson that the thoughts of one person, an idea, a fantasy becomes part of reality in the lives of so many people. And not in history far away but in our times. Seeing all those people queuing for the ride, the excitement of kids – somehow it was an encouragement that one person without political or hierarchical  power can make the world as such more colorful, fill it with more fantasies, with longing for another world full of magic but still reflecting the harsh reality we all face every day in our daily living.

Not everybody can bring his or her thoughts on paper and into book form… but there are other possibilities. Harry Potter as an encouragement for everybody, that we are called and able to contribute to the well-being and development of this world in our circles and in a wider sense. I wish for this creativity also in the fields of HIV and AIDS and all those plaques bringing mayhem to mankind.

And by the way: I loved that specific ride: it combines the newest technology and stimulates all senses.. – it creates a new dimension of reality and somehow it reminded me, that creation is ongoing… Too far-fetched?

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

On my way to Washington

Since a long time the a major AIDS conference will take place in the USA again. Not that the Americans pulled out of the dealing with HIV, but their restrictive policy in making it difficult or impossible to welcome people living with the virus made the country unsuitable for any AIDS related conference in the last years. It shows that God’s nation on earth needed quite some time to understand how stupid and contra-productive it was to challenge HIV and AIDS with useless immigration laws. And this does not only counts for immigration. It becomes clearer and clearer that legal measures often are unjustified and hamper the efforts to combat the disease or turn around the tide. Let’s hope that during or in the aftermath of the conference more countries realise that they increase the risk of HIV instead of bringing it down when taking so-called preventative legal measures or trying to root out HIV with the penal code.  Only when people are able to receive a test result without the fear of discrimination, not only from fellow neighbors but also from states and countries, when they are allowed to enjoy the same freedom of travel like everybody else we will be a step closer to turning the tight of the pandemic. Let’s work hard to achieve this goal and start today.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, 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
6 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

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

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