God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Some reflections on racism

Traveling the world and especially the USA one can’t escape the question of racism, let alone coming from South Africa were the question of race seems to be connected to all questions of life and seemingly influencing every decision made in this country.
I guess we all agree that there is only one human race and that the differentiation into human races was and is a political and social tool to suppress or discriminate or even dehumanize people of certain skin colors – or in our days especially in South Africa, hold them accountable for past or present discrimination.
Not seeing this is in itself racist – and even if it is tempting to claim for oneself to not seeing the colour of a person – it somehow denies people of colour the inherited history and emotions attached to their lives till today.
Racism is part of what we are born into – it is what theologian would call original sin or structural sin; for example: As a white European person – I am born into a world with certain privileges – I inherit certain implicitness without being guilty of anything. But I have to deal with it – and in a time of social media, of constant exposure of racist incidents it seems to be one of the Sisyphusian task of our generation.

But how do you address it? How do you address the discrimination of generations of people, of whole societies, of whole groups within a country, of a whole continent – how do you remedy the disadvantages and horrible consequences for the lives of whole generations?

Unfortunately you actually can’t make it good again – you can only try to compensate the living but it has to be done in a way not creating new hardships and injustices. And it sounds like squaring the circle. For it to happen I guess the following must be in place:

* The ability and willingness to recognize and to acknowledge the past and the present problem of “racism” and its consequences
* To recognize the “racist” in me
* To recognize that the marginalized group must find back the freedom and pride to be – I am sure the black conscience theory of Steve Biko can be of great help
* To listen to each other in really hearing the stories of each other – to try to walk in the shoes of each other for a while to understand without discussion and debate – just hearing what is said and feeling the pain, the desperation, the hope and the aspiration
* To find common ground in redressing the injustices without creating hardship and obvious new injustices
* To find forgiveness, because the burden of the past, which never should be forgotten, can only be accepted if and when forgiveness is given and accepted on all sides
* To give your all into the efforts of walking together, being patient with each other but determined to overcome and learn out of the past

Only on this base we can strive to overcome the past and to create a future which accepts a non-racist society where new words, a new language is expression of a new sibling-like relationship where indeed skin colour does not predetermine your place in society.

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

Fake News – Lies and Politics

Traveling from Africa via Europe to the USA I can’t escape the impression, that on all three continents fake news and blunt lies from politicians and other socially high-ranking individuals seems to become a global norm.

In South Africa I do understand the reason why there are so many people in society and politics, when caught in action or corruption simply start to lie with a straight face – even if the evidence is overwhelming. I guess it has to do with the times of apartheid where those oppressed had to learn to make a straight face while lying to the oppressors. Like getting accustomed in those times as a liberation movement to get everything for free which translates today in shameless corruption, so it seems there is a history which translates into lying without regret or bad conscience – and looking at some of the younger generation it is to fear that it got transferred to those who only know from history books what apartheid looked like.

In the USA a completely self-absorbed, egocentric and mentally autistic president paired with a last stand of white macho-behavior and white male dominance creates the poison of fake news – being then adopted and refined by Russian entities in a way threatening democratic process in its core.

In Europe anxiety about refugees triggered in Great Britain one of the greatest lying campaign in living history – promising e.g. millions per month for the ailing health sector in the clear knowledge that this would never happen. Amazing how those who pleaded with those arguments for the Brexit after the vote tried to disengage and leave the mess for others to sort out.

Reading social media coming from the AfD party and other right-wing organizations it seems that people learn quickly how to turn the truth around or how to mix truth and fiction in a way that distorts facts and leaves the reader at best confused. The way to see reality only through one pair of glasses and to refuse to walk in the shoes of others makes it even more militant and anti-democratic.

For me – the anxiety of a world to complex for most minds and anxiety for a foreign, emotionally not-known danger coming via strangers at the shores are the root source for those falling prey to all the fake news and even voting for those who lie without blushing and the question is: where are we heading? Is there no redemption or turn-around possible? Is there no way out or what will be the end of it all?

I am convinced that churches, religious organizations and NGO’s are here the first to stand up against fake news and falsehood – there are values not bound by denomination or creed which can be used to stand firm against a distorted world view made of fabrications – to call a spade a spade and to withstand the temptation to despair or give up or give in the current situation. I have to acknowledge that some churches e.g. in the USA support the current president, but looking closer one sees that faith has turned ideology and only the shell is called a denomination of faith.

Taking away the anxiety, taking away the fear and giving a meaning and sense to what is happening is the utmost duty of any faith – being ambassadors of hope and warriors against xenophobia,, fake news and violence is a natural consequence of working for the good of mankind. In this sense those entities play a far more important role within society than just the one limited to their respective chosen tasks.

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

One of those days…

Preparing for my flight to Europe and the airline already now know that there will be a more than 4 hour delay. Nevertheless they insist of being at the airport and check in at the normal prescribed time. Not really enhancing the mood.
Following the news also does not help – the Khashoggi case seems to develop slow but steady – to imagine that in a NATO country an embassy is used to kill a journalist and then cut him in pieces is not only appalling but it was one of the things I could not imagine – like so many developments in our current world affairs. USA, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Italy – the amount of countries which seemingly fall into the trap of authoritarian rule or xenophobic attitude  – weakening democracy and darkening the horizon of the new dawn of freedom, liberty, human rights and decency among countries most of us have had in the beginning of the millennium – seems to be growing.
Social media and modern technology hailed to bring people together are dividing and causing anxiety on all fronts of societies – in the moment one has the impression that the negative effects of possibilities to connect are clearly winning the day. And so do all those politicians with simple populist answers knowing perfectly well that disaster is looming when they gather enough followers. Populism is self-destructive – history has proven it over and over again.  And social media are weapons of choice for trapping those who are vulnerable to propaganda and easy solutions.

Maybe that is the reason why I believe that beaming people via SKYPE and conference call and Whatsapp are not enough to really engage with each other. I prefer the surely more expensive and time-consuming way of meeting the people, share some time with them and discuss matters relevant in person.  It is then and there that real conversation is happening – encounter in the real sense of the world. And if you can’t hide behind a slogan or a screen or a party or an ideology but one is looking into the eyes of the person sitting opposite – real communication, real problem solving is happening – real understanding is given birth.

I am convinced we have to stop being computer screen warriors and instead really engaging with the world. Clicking “like”or any other emoji might give a feeling of having done your bit – but this is self-deception and fooling oneself. It is also the only way that we can stem the non-sense of populism, bad right-wing politics  and – in the case of the USA – anti-academic attitude like denying climate change. Otherwise we are playing with our future – but maybe Mother Earth is happy to continue to exist without human beings – maybe it is not a great loss if the human race is failing and fading away.

Be it as it be – I am preparing for flying out today and I am looking forward to meet all those in the next days and weeks who are part of the HOPE Cape Town family or interested to know about it and maybe join those spreading hope and engaging with real people. Real people, who want to live with dignity striving for decent prosperity and who want to create a future for the next generation to come.

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

Beyond understanding

Beyond understanding and inhumane – certainly not wise nor in the tradition of the great religions of this world: the way certain countries deal with the refugee crisis. Instead of realizing the magnitude and desperation of the situation, but also the historical challenge, politicians in the USA and Europe trying to hold on a world which has long gone and hold no water anymore for the dire human tragedy in the times of a digital revolution bringing the pictures of good or cruel deeds onto the surface of social media – and consequently into the homes of everybody. And the reaction can be so different:

There are those who grasp somehow the magnitude of the challenge, who see the tectonic shift in how the world moves combined with the plight of human creatures yearning for a decent life without war and unrest or economical hardship giving their kids no chance in life. And there are those who – by all means – try to keep a world view up which is long gone – but in desperation they support a white, male, European and North American dominance ruling the world with an economic system which pays lip service to real development while cementing superiority of a white macho- first-world mentality with a degree of variations.

Added to this is a “trump-ish”style of “me and my country first”attitude making landfall also in Europe – really believing that the structures of country boundaries and societies are set in stone and have to be protected by all means necessary. Amazingly even studied people like academics and journalists seem to fall for a static world view. Ad a fascist tendency in some countries or the call for a strong man – believing that a political messiah like Orban in Ungarn, Trump in the USA or Kurz in Austria can rescue the little world view a loud minority holds against a silent majority and the mess beyond understanding is ready to rule lives. Not to mention the resurrection of the brown mud represented by the AfD in Germany or there-likes in Europe.

No, as long as only the next election is eyed for and populism replaces real politics – as long as a world order favors those who have and disadvantages those having nothing anyhow – as long as we don’t tackle the problems jointly and understand that we are meanwhile a global village having to learn to understand each other and live with each other – the circle of violence and war, of unrest and power play, the circle of winners and losers and the rule of a Western white macho male society will continue to dominate daily lives. And this costs lives every day.

It is time to understand that the way the systems work will not hold water under the bridge any longer – and that the attempt to keep an old world order in place at any cost will not only cost lives, but it will simply not work at the end. The longer we wait to understand this, the longer the suffering of those who remain at the bottom of the old order.

Steps into a new world order are needed:
A new world order which recognizes the failures and mistakes of the past, which recognizes history,  which understand the inter-connectivity of all people of the one and only human race and which puts the environment as a top priority on the political to-do-list. A new world order balancing the need for stability with the acknowledgment that nothing is forever and development means always also movement to new shores.
For that we need politicians and leaders with a vision – not “Kurz-sichtigkeit” or a view limited to the next election date or – like in the case of Donald Trump, decisions only made looking to please those who have elected him – without any appreciation whether this hurts the rest of the world or not.

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

A brief travelling thought…

Coming from again load shedding and flooded/water-scare South Africa, flavored with a war of words and deeds on racism, corruption and the consequences of colonialism

into Europe with its refugee driven and blown out of proportion debates only recognizing black and white in those discussions

before heading to the US showing no mercy in separating kids from immigrant parents based on an abuse of bible quotes while starting a trade war with the rest of the world

well, it becomes clear just looking at those examples that the world in the moment has its moments of madness – many more could be added.

Ideology and power play creating havoc while playing with an undefined world-wide anxiety and pure ignorance – populism at its best undermining any attempt to look at situations in an open reflective manner.

But in all the madness there is this level of grass-roots workers and activists one meets on the way, those who haven’t given up on looking holistically onto the world, accepting that others have the same rights to dream big, follow their hopes and aspirations; on this level one meets those who are able to still distinguish between what serves the world versus what serves certain folk’s self-interest.

And not only this, those just mentioned may be the only ones who are able to keep the needed balance and so reducing the harm done to the human race by this madness unfolding in the moment.

But as the world goes in cycles, there is always hope for better times ahead – where people will reflect and insist more on the unity part in all the diversity found among people. So no need for despair, rather a motivation to keep on moving…

 

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

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