God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Racism – the original sin one cannot escape?

Visiting the Duke University with its vast history of racial divide and coming together there can’t be any evening meal with lecturers of history without at some point touching on the question of racism in the USA. Stories told about black movements on Duke campus – and those experiencing equality and black conscience movements in Montgomery and in other parts of the South States of the USA – for a German living in South Africa an intense evening of sharing the pain and questions arising from history and the challenges future will hold.

While it seems that my US American friends have made peace with the fact that as a white man, one cannot escape the original sin of racism purely by being born from a white mother and father -I still grapple with the fact whether it is fair to be again and again put in the structural and personal white privilege and somehow racist corner – no matter how engaged or involved one has been in healing the racial divide.

Recognizing the past, acknowledging structural privilege is one thing – making it the Cain’s mark of every white person for the foreseeable future is another. My question was on this eve and still remains whether talking in the same “termini” our forefathers have done will assist in overcoming a racist past and leading into a non-racist future. While under Obama and Trump here in the USA seemingly the topic is discussed much more prominent and controversial – so different from the usual US American way of being nice , shallow on this subject and avoiding conflict – we also going in South Africa and I guess in many parts of the world through a renewed debate on this topic. Yes, maybe it is true that we on all sides have to speak out and speaking out might even hurt – not only the listener, but also the speaker acknowledging truth we can’t allow for this seemingly original sin to linger and therefore darken the future of future generations.

Maybe the debate, the pain ,the accusations are a necessary redemption to be in the future saved from the evil of racism – maybe the revolution of social media taken note of all the racist acts and laying in bare in the public to see, to judge, to mourn, to decry – maybe all this is necessary in the development of a human civilization, which at the end only knows one race, the human race – later looking back on today’s debate and yesterdays history in sheer non-believe that racism was even a possibility to entertain for so long in history.

For me, this question remains after this eve as painful as ever – and the question-marks keep nagging how to approach a seemingly original sin which keeps on poising societies in our times. My experience at Duke University was a reminder how much had been done, and how much still has to be done – and how many circles we have already run without really moving in-depth forward on this question.

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

Prayers needed! Really?

It seems that prayers are in high demand in our days:
In South Africa ANC representatives are making the round in churches and asking for prayers to get their house in order.
In the USA politicians are praying for the victims of Las Vegas and on Facebook and social media the call for prayers is all over, from Orlando to Paris and now back in the USA we are called to pray again. Prayers are needed indeed when one sees the state of affairs in many parts of the world, when one notices the despair of people and the craziness of terror and politics and sometimes it seems terror and politics are exchangeable in the sense that people are hurt, lives cut short and common sense buried.

Maybe it is time to mention that prayers without the appropriate action will fail to do anything good except comforting those trying to  escape responsibility. Contemplation and action, prayer and deeds are interlinked as human mankind is interlinked in the spirit of Ubuntu. Sending good thoughts only work when there is the reflection what I can do to change a situation.
We could pray for hours for the well-being of the ANC here in South Africa – as long as those in charge allow for corruption, state-capture and stealing in their own midst without acting against the perpetrators no prayer will heal this situation. We can pray for hours for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting but as long as those in charge in the USA refuse to take action against the gun lobby being able to do business as usual those prayers are empty and the expression of sympathies a blunt lie.

And it is not only those who are in office – those who have elected people into office are equally guilty if they only pray instead of making sure that those voted in power are doing their work correctly and making responsible decisions. No one, not even the ANC in South Africa has a privilege to be in power – and Jesus might come earlier than expected to Mr Zuma (my South African friends will know…)  – all those in higher offices are there for a time and with a responsibility. And in a democracy the power lies with the people.

Prayer can bolster this responsibility, prayer is making this responsibility more visible as it connects to the divine, to the source of humanity and to the foundation of why we have rules and regulations and a political and social system with certain values and ethics. It is not a fix for failures, the divine does not pop in to plaster over ignorance. But prayer can be the beginning of redemption and turning around a situation. It is certainly as a connection to all beginnings a means to reflect, if necessary repent and try to do better.
Let’s hope that is meant when politicians ask for prayers or pray themselves in the public space and in front of TV cameras. And that people asking for prayers on social media also turn into themselves to look where their responsibility lies besides sharing a call for prayers.

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, , , , , , ,

Pentecost and Ramadan in exhausting times

 

 

 

 

 
Let’s be honest: our times are overwhelming in the moment – it is tiring to learn every day new scandals about our government, president and ministers and associates in South Africa. It is causing fatigue to see every day tweets and news from the US American president whose self-absorption trumps all his predecessors, adding to the complication of international politics. It is simply too much to watch the news and learn about new horrors of terror, killing sprees and war in our global village. And closing the circle and coming back to South Africa it simply creates sadness and incomprehension to read constantly about all the rapes and murders in a society having lost completely the moral compass.
“Enough is enough” one would like to shout and close eyes and ears to withdraw from all those stories, yearning for times of a “normal” life whatever it means for each and everybody of us.
Feeling helpless in the chaos of our times might be a normal reaction, but maybe such times remind us how important it is to know who we are and what we stand for. Maybe such times bring us closer together with those, who care, with those who mind more than their own business. Intact families and knowing the own values also helps as does speaking truth to power. Using whatever means one has to encourage each other and simply to do good, to do what has to be done and being a living example for others.
It is indeed difficult especially in South Africa to do so – the narratives of colored pain and historical entitlement versus prescribed guilt creates a sensitivity which is in danger to be the base for new injustices and for the time being complicates the ability to face all the challenges of life in our times.
We Christians celebrate Pentecost today – we believe that the divine spirit opens new doors and let people of different languages and faith understand each other. It is a reminder that our lives meant to be full of love, hope as well as tolerance and respect for each other. Pentecost opens a new dimension of faith being a tool to understand each other – it contrasts so greatly from those using faith as a tool of destruction or hiding place for their insults on the divine. Our brothers and sisters of Muslim faith celebrating Ramadan – a month of reflection and devotion to a God of Mercy. We should never forget in these trying times there is faith as a source of encouragement and rooting ourselves to withstand whatever is thrown at us. And not only to withstand, but to change and alter to the positive. The true meaning of faith: a source of hope…

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

blessed, joyful or horrible?

Depending on whom you ask these days, the answer how 2017 will play out is answered differently. In the USA Democrats fear a horrible start of a Trump presidency, in South Africa, President Zuma is joyful that the ANC, celebrating birthday today, has the same impact as the birth of Jesus and those in Istanbul having survived the attack on the nightclub will feel blessed to luckily escape the bullets of the shooter. So it seems that situations determine the outlook of the year just started to come to life.
Reflecting on it, I am not sure this is the right way to look at it. Situations I often can not change, they way I react is the only option to turn the tide or to get through the year sane and with the joy and dignity it deserves. So yeah, the facts might be favorable or unfavorable from the outside but at the end it is me who decides on how to work with them or through them. Trump is a pain in the neck and his election has shown the limits of democracy when millions of disappointed citizen believe a self-absorbed womanizer and liar, but exactly those limitations will trigger the sense of resistance and finally goodness in many: the values of protecting the poor, supporting those who have to flee their home, to uphold constitutional rights  – we will see a wave of humanity balancing the ignorance of the elected ones. Whatever the perceived outlook is for somebody: the year 2017 will be as mixed, as challenging, as rewarding, as surprising like any other year before. Like in every year it will open and close doors unexpectedly, we will see people gone for good and for some of us, the door of this life will also close forever.

Who you are will determine how you manage and see the year in respective – the inner values, your stand in life, your rooting in life will at the end be the compass to navigate through all the challenges ahead. And the same goes for organizations: having build and building core values with consistency and dedication, knowing what you are good at and where to improve, having a plan and still being flexible enough to reevaluate, being adventurous while knowing your trade is the recipe for success – and this success is in the case of an NGO like HOPE Cape Town measured in the quantity of hope and love you where able to pass on to those in need of support and assistance. Every smile of a child feeling healthy and loved, every positive outlook of a struggling youngster mastering the years before adulthood will be a marker of this success; every baby born healthy and put into the arms of an exhausted mother after birth will contribute to how this year is playing out for people. Let’s take what we are faced with in 2017 and turn it as much as possible into a blessing for all concerned.

 

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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