God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

H&M racism observations

I am aware that for some in South Africa the mere fact that a white person is writing about racism is seen as inappropriate – but I am also aware that in the madness of emotions and seemingly permitted violence by a political leader and self-styled revolutionary one cannot stay silent on this topic. Therefore – even knowing the danger of being misunderstood and attacked some observations on the matter who made headlines in South Africa’s news the last day.

H&M’s advertising of a “black” boy from the North of Europe wearing a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the jungle” caused consternation and mood swings in South Africa – culminating in trashing some outlets by brave EFF fighters supported by their political leaders who conveniently forgot that upholding the constitution is their duty as Parliamentarians.
There were also voices who saw the ‘racism’, but called for other means of protests while others could not see the “racist” point in this advertising.

As we have the freedom of expression in this country I dare to say that I personally don’t see racism in this hoodie story – but I see an insensitivity of the company looking into the South African markets. The question of race triggers here on the Southern tip of Africa lots of emotions – partly rightly so when we look into the history of country, but partly also clearly abused as a political tool and an excuse not to engage with one another on sore topics.
The accusation of “racism” is meanwhile a convenient tool to justify violence, looting and personal attacks – or, as just mentioned and demonstrated with the EFF’s action and comments of the self-styled “commander in chief” a political weapon to create instability, havoc and protest actions aimed on destruction.

I am aware that looking into the painful history and the question of healing will stay on top of the to-do list of South Africa for the next generations – the question of land and wealth distribution will linger and has to be addressed in the same way. We can only conquer those questions without creating new injustices if we listen to each others pain and guilt, despair and aspirations, hopes and nightmares…

South Africa stood 1994 with Madiba’s dream of a rainbow nation as a symbol of a global hope to lead the nations in overcoming injustice, racism and discrimination in a peaceful and dignified manner – we owe it to him and all those who gave their lives in the struggle that we don’t allow for cheap and quick unjust solutions but to remain an example the world can follow. It is a pains-taking task, the temptation to act out of emotions and to go for the quick fix will not lead to a better world and life for all.

Racism is ingrained into the history of humanity – it is a very stupid concept as there is only one race, the human race. But as a Catholic theologian I am also aware that history is full of those errors of judgement which lead to unspeakable terror – 100 years ago in my church democracy was from the devil and who ever advocated religious liberty was quickly outside the church. In the Middle Ages you lost your life using common sense not compatible with the church.
So looking into the past and acknowledging the unspeakable is the first part – accepting painfully also that for those gone there will never be a chance to compensate or to make it right. But we can learn out of it and make it right for our generation and more important for the generations to come – but abusing this past to great havoc and to continue to bring renewed separation to those living now means to prevent them to live their lives to the fullest. Instead of hate and division we have to forgive others and ourselves and work much harder to overcome inequality, discrimination and  all other stumping blocks for a brighter future for all.

Yes, there will real racists still be out there  – but let us leave them stand in the cold of their own hearts and dark corners – social media shit-storms just elevate them unnecessarily and make them heroes in their sick constituency. Some thrive of it like you can see with Donald Trump and other right-wing white machos.

South Africa – the cradle of mankind – let us work hard to make it a place where the human race started to acknowledge and to live as one – all equal under the sun.

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

Orlando

13407203_10154457792963643_1199818576249987981_nTraveling four weeks within the USA to establish HOPE Cape Town USA and visiting five states was quite a mission, but a wonderful opportunity to meet great people, to learn so much about this great country being plagued with so many problems from #blacklifematters, #stopHIVcriminalization to #prayfororlando.

I must admit that the latter really made me think and touched me in a way which I have not really fully understood. There is first the sheer unbelievable feeling to wake up to news of a mass shooting in Orlando – a single perpetrator killing 49 people and wounding another 25 before being shot himself. That alone makes you think about the gun laws in the USA, the unhealthy relationship between the freedom to carry a weapon as a constitutional right and a symbol of independence. The chocolate “Kinderueberraschung”, the chocolate egg with the surprise for kiddies is not allowed in  the USA because it is deemed dangerous for children, but you can buy an assault riffle without any problem. And to make this whole story even more confusing: people on a terror warning list are not able to fly with any airline in the USA, but they are allowed to purchase any weapon they desire. Logic is left in the dark and common sense seems to have disappeared.
But in Orlando, there are more layers – it was in a gay club where people were killed. A presumed safe place where LGBTI folks could relax and feel loved and appreciated amongst themselves turned into a deadly trap. An anyhow marginalized community received another deadly hit again and I must admit that the outpouring of condolences left a somehow bitter taste. Being it politicians or religious leaders voicing shock and condolences – I can’t help but notice the bigotry in their words having words of comfort for those they normally judge and put in a corner of sin and  wrongdoing.
I also learned about the story of “Pulse”, the club hit by this hate crime. The name is a reminder of a person having died from Aids related complications – the sister opened the club to remember his life and to create a place of joy and safety for the LGBTI community mostly hit in the USA from the HIV pandemic.

It is said that the perpetrator has pledged is loyalty to ISIS which brings me to the third and forth layers I am contemplating in the moment. The radicalization of people and the darker flip side of social media. It seems that the world becomes more radical, be it on governmental level or in social life: if you don’t get what you want or you disagree with your neighbor it seems that violence is the way to go for most people. Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq are examples but also looking into Africa, into South Africa where the local elections are due in August: how many counsellors and politicians have been killed in recent weeks and months, just as a result of power play – even within a party? Paris and Brussels and now only yesterday in England MP Jo Cox,  violence and killings mark more and more the political or ideological battle for minds and hearts.

And social media play their part in this big times. How easy is it to bring graphic contents into the world and to distribute it to every corner of it. How easy is it today to sit at home and being radicalized by watching violent videos almost like bloody reality shows. But would censorship be the alternative like the SABC, the South African National Broadcaster having decided to ban all violent protest from airing in the news?

A last layer (of many more in my mind) to mention is the realization that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly. An old wisdom newly internalized after a trip where everywhere I go there is gun violence and innocent bystanders are in danger. So life is precious and should be lived every minute up to the fullest.

The last four weeks have indeed triggered a lot of contemplation and reflection on how the world ticks in the moment and how much I want to tick with this world in the same tune – or even not. I can even sense a mild form of radicalization, not violent at all but being more conscious about who I am, what I stand for, what is important in life. And that is not only due to all things mentioned but also thanks to the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet or to meet again: our newly appointed directors of HOPE Cape Town USA: Stacie, Shirley and Joe; Dan and Claudia in New Jersey, Veronica, Inga, Khadija, Tim and Rebaux in California, Rev Neil from the Cathedral of HOPE in Dallas/Texas; Bruce and Diane in Chicago and all those who came to the meet & greet event in Dallas/Texas.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog: HOPE Cape Town USA is established and we file now for the federal tax exemption status. If you want to know more, please visit http://www.hopecapetownusa.com

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sick and tired of violence

Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine and Israel – the news of violence, war and terror is a permanent feature on all news channels and I realize fatigue is setting in watching and zipping to all those channels with news seemingly to be for years the same.
Paris, Bamako – lock down in Brussels – and waiting for the next hit – around the world travel warning from the US and the discussions about sacrificing our freedoms fought for over long periods seems to head into a new direction of Orwell’s 1984 and even moreSouth Africa – #feesmustfall of the students means meanwhile arson, violence, destruction – almost hundred attempted murders per day in South Africa, from which are half successful. The taxi mafia continues to rule the streets and create havoc – service delivery protests can’t be without violence and damage anymore and whoever wants to take a drive on the national road N2 between Cape Town and Somerset West must be on the watch out – even police officers are not exempt falling victim of violence.
Coming back to the big world again – happy bombing from France – revenge for Paris, together with Russia and David Cameron can’t wait to extend his military reach in the Middle East – together with the continues and relentless extra-legal killings via drones – another permanent of this year’s news – especially when collateral damage means that unfortunately innocent people are killed too.
And as this would not be enough blood shed the state sponsored killings in the USA and Saudi-Arabia, but also not to forget in Indonesia and in other places seems to pick up again – another example that the capacity of governments and people to exercise respect for the sanctity of life degrades in the moment.

I must admit that I am in the moment sick and tired of all the violence on so many levels. Trying to get into the spirit of Advent as a Christian even worsens the situation as it becomes painfully clear how much we are away from the hope of Advent as the preparation of welcoming somebody in the world we see as the Prince of Peace and the messenger of unconditional love to all creation.
It seems that the new lonely caller in the wilderness we hear from in the bible changed his name from John the Baptist to Pope Francis amongst some other religious leaders . His travel this week to the war-thorn region of the Central African Republic with all the unknown and the danger would be a sign, that there might be other ways to answer violence and brutality than with weapons and violence.

But would that also be possible with ISIS or Daesh? Is there another way than throwing bombs?

I am convinced that bombings are not the answer, but that there are other strategies more promising to end this evil:
For example to acknowledge that there is a steady stream of unhappy Europeans following the call of ISIS and if we really want to root out such extremism we have to start in the suburbs of Paris, of Brussels, of Hamburg, of all the major cities in the USA. We have indeed to battle for the minds and the hearts of those feeling that they are not part of our society. Secondly let’s stop fulling the war in this region with selling weapons to “rebels” and other those, in the moment seemingly on the right side of history – in Afghanistan and Iraq history has thought us that the right side of history can quickly turn into the wrong one – ask the CIA which actually made Bin-Laden the person he became later on. Or Saddam Hussein, who was bolstered first to fight the revolution in Iran before falling out with the USA. Do we never learn out of mistakes?
Bombing, killing, extra-juridical killing by drones – it all creates an environment where people from ISIS will indeed flock together and new terrorists and suicide bombers are created on a daily base. The sad story of Israel and Palestine shows how the devils circle of violence never stops until somebody breaks it. And I am convinced to stop ISIS to gain more territory and cutting them off from the oil trade or trade of antiques will dry them out – cut them of the honor to connect them with  religion or Islam by getting the Umma to simply distance themselves – I am quite sure it will help to make this self-proclaimed caliphate a footnote of history in short time.

And let’s recognize and acknowledge that the wealth of Europe has its base in the exploitation of the African continent and the European colonies worldwide – and that they owe the people in Africa, in South America and where ever all the empires stretched for longer or shorter periods of time. Lots of country borders have been drawn on paper and without looking at situation. Lots of governments and dictators came into power because – at that time –   they either belonged to the anti-communist quarters or the other way around. We still haven’t worked it through – and we still are tempted to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. European governments judge not fairly but whatever suits best the Western World – they don’t have the focus on uplifting the people worldwide but what gives them more profit and fosters the lifestyle, Europe and North America wants to keep as long as possible. Let’s be honest: the conviction that we have to develop a new world order, a new way of dealing with each other is still in the infancy of the conscience of human civilization. We have conquered the technology but the rest lacks behind.

Advent – new beginning – may the feeling of being sick and tired of violence turn into a new approach of making the world a more peaceful place on all levels of life – a life to be called to live to the fullest.

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

Mandela Day…

Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July, 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”. And obviously HOPE Cape Town is also celebrating Mandela Day with a special event taking place in Blikkiesdorp this year. But I believe Mandela Day should be almost every day – there is always and every day a possibility to better the life of somebody, to make somebody smile or why not take the opportunity to better oneself – learn a new skill, try out a new approach, learn something about those we call strangers or foreigners or even of the history of this beautiful and so troubled country South Africa.
To make Mandela Day an every days efforts: this is the reason for most NGO’s being founded and run over time. Whether it is in ecology or health or youth development or whatever field – it is amazing how many people are involved in doing exactly this and in my humble opinion it outweighs all the negativity reported in the various newspapers and media outlets. We only have to realize it. Especially in South Africa, where negative headlines from corruption via crime/violence to unemployment seems to have taken over and overshadow all the good which is done around the Cape of Good Hope. So maybe Mandela Day can also inspire us to look at those little and often small efforts of good forces in the world, but not only look at them but magnifying them, supporting them, cherishing them, talking about them and last but not least taking them on as our tasks and callings of today. Do good and talk about it, inspire others to follow in the days and weeks after the very day, this would certainly change this part of the world.

Filed under: Africa, General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Violence and no electricity

Working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in South Africa isn’t for the fainthearted, keeping the work up to standard, adjusting to new developments, identifying the gaps government is not able to fill – not to speak about the ideological and dogmatic difficulties for a priest to work in this field. Recent days and weeks are making this work even more difficult as South Africa seems to go again and again through phases of xenophobia resulting in looting of shops of foreign nationals and the wounding and killing of those seemingly being more black than a South African skin. Xenophobia and racism against other African nationals is also prevalent in our days with Durban inner city looking like a war zone and violence spreading to Johannesburg and Pretoria and other places. King Goodwill Zwelithini triggered those incidents happening now through his comments asking Non-South African people to leave South Africa accusing them of creating problems. The press quoted him saying: “As I speak to you, you find there are unsightly goods hanging all over our shops. They dirty our streets. We cannot even recognize which shop is which. They are all blocked by foreigners… We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries.”
After the killing spree in 2008 ,various flames up of xenophobia attacks on a yearly returning base and the last ones recorded beginning of the year in Soweto,it seems that nothing has been learned by politicians or society to prevent an re-occurrence. It did not help, that Edward Zuma, son of the president, adds his public comments that foreigner are exploiting South Africa and that they should rather leave.
This all creates an explosive atmosphere in the township communities, where residents ask themselves what is next watching the pictures of killings and thousands of displaced people within their own country.

Adding to this situation is the ongoing Eskom crisis in the country which plunges again and again in a more or less systematic roll out of blackouts parts of South Africa into the dark. Load shedding now for days, for most of the country three times a day no electricity and the situation is self-inflicted: the government has messed up a great deal in not allowing the national electricity provider Eskom to develop. Cadre deployment, nepotism, incompetence , Black Economic Empowerment and ignorance added and is adding to the troubles we are in here in South Africa. According to Minister Brown, the electricity problems will continue for the next two years.

What does this mean to the work environment of an organization like HOPE Cape Town? No electricity no modern communication, and even if we have electricity in our offices it does not mean those have we are trying to contact – work is constantly hampered in the moment. No electricity means in Cape Town no robots functioning – in South Africa’s most congested city, when it comes to traffic it means that travel time doubles and rush hours become a nightmare similar to Bangkok. Xenophobia gives thugs and criminals a reason to exploit such a situation and one can sense the unease building up in black township communities. No electricity means closed shops, lost business, candlelight meals and much more…

Violence and no electricity, illegal land occupation and fighting the demons of history (and their statues), crime and corruption, nepotism and unemployment  – South Africa has more than enough challenges in our days and makes daily life not always a pleasure. But still HOPE Cape Town and all the other NGO’s and people of goodwill (punt intended) will continue to assist turning the tide in their respective area of expertise to give hope and future to those living in South Africa.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
5 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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