God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

At the end of the year….

I guess, most of us agree: this was a specific difficult year for societies and in politics. Looking around in our world, there seems to be little hope for 2022:

In the USA, we see a country struggling to keep democracy alive and fight off a sort of white male fascism driven by a Republican Party not ashamed to base politics on lies and deception.
In Great Britain, the Brexit promises have failed in a big way and the current Premier seems to have difficulties with truth and honesty, let alone clear policies.
In Russia old demons of power and might through military means aka Putin style becomes dominant and endangers world peace looking at Ukraine.
China demonstrates its willingness to go the extra mile to kill everything which smells like civil rights; only look at Hong Kong.
Europe throws part of its values into the Mediterranean Sea by letting people drown in exactly this sea and looking at Covid-19, the switching on and off of parts of Africa without common sense does not give the impression that values are universal.

The corruption in South Africa continues, and those fighting within the ANC for power are still pretty safe of prosecution. Even the admission of the President that state coffer money was used for party politics does not draw any consequences – business as usual.

Covid-19 and the vaccine story has divided families and societies – and the virus laid open the impossibility for the human race to act jointly and with common sense in a complex world.

Environmental questions remain to be answered with urgency if the human race wants to survive and have a future.

So 2022 starts with an exceptional package of “needs to be addressed” – and if we would only look at the big picture we could fall into depression.
But there is always our small world within the big picture. There is always the magnitude of kind acts, of friendly and supportive smiles, of acts of goodwill, and if the late Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu is to believe – all those acts will at the end form the safety net rescuing and changing the world to the better.

There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t wait for any divine force to make it happen here on earth, we have to do it ourselves with our hands and our hearts.
Let’s be honest:
the world will exist even when the human race disappears – the world, our environment and the universe does not need us – we need to relate to all of them in a healthy way. And we only can do this, if we learn much more to understand each other as one human race only being able to thrive and survive if we limit ourselves not only in the amount of human beings living at the same time on earth with limited resources, but also much more share common values not only in theory but in practice.

We have to be much more attentive to this – and we have in church, politics and society to understand much more, that being a leader is not about a career and power play but service; we have to examine our systems of governing and our structure of living whether they serve life and well-being of all or only an elite. We have to understand ourselves as a part of nature, and our fellow brothers and sisters rather as a support system we depend on within our environment. Furthermore, we have to watch out, that our systems and AI are not so perfect, that they don’t allow any more for the diversity human mankind represents. Perfect systems, or rather almost perfect systems, are endangering individual lives and livelihoods.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; there is the prospect of a good future, there is the constant dream not only of a rainbow nation, but a rainbow world, a rainbow human race – a unity in diversity – a connectivity which can be felt when one is attentive and open to it. We can’t leave the world to the doomsday activists nor to the Querdenker or those using and abusing the world and humans for their own advantage only.

Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and hearts but also knowing that the majority of people of goodwill have to connect more to advance humanity, decency and civil freedoms carried by joined values for all.

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

World Aids Conference 2016

“What do you expect from the World Aids Conference 2016?” is one of the common questions asked in the last week. Well, what does one expect from a conference with more than 15000 participants in a country which was hit the most from the pandemic. Insights into new developments? I guess the most important factor for me is being able to get an overview first hand what is going on the world of HIV and AIDS around the globe. It is indeed the direct contact with activists and researchers where I learn the most  – while listening to their experience and insights – and which makes the trip to Durban worth time and effort. Communication, exchange, but also the feeling not to be alone in the fight against the pandemic leaves on with the resolve of continuing the work one is doing locally.

Durban 2016 is so different from the previous World Aids Conference held in Durban in 2000. At that time it was despair, hopelessness and the ignorance of politics which ruled the situation in South Africa. It was the time when HOPE Cape Town was born out of the need to stop the dying of children and parents. So Durban 2016 is also about achievements, about the millions on treatment, the figure of new mother-to-child transmission slowly going towards zero and the great feeling, that we from HOPE Cape Town have been part of this unbelievable journey of hope and frustration, often changing first place in the matter of an eye-blink.

There is still so much to do – the transmission rate in South Africa is still scary high, other countries also register more new infections and a vaccine seems to be still far away. There are still millions of South Africans dealing with stigma and discrimination on various levels. There is still so much stigma attached, so much fear and anxiety when it comes to dealing with HIV and Aids. We are definitely not there where we want to be, and the next 10 years will be crucial in the attempt to make a new generation of zero new infections a reality. Given the moment state of affair in South Africa, all the service delivery protests, corruption, political ignorance and the still wounded society there is more than a question mark to put behind the question: Will we achieve a victory?  HIV is more than a medical syndrome, it has to do with poverty, with hunger, with despair, with job creation, with investments, with intact families, with proper sex education, with the end of religious bias towards moral questions – and obviously when looking at it globally the amount of resources will depend on how governments want to spend their money. Looking at madness of violence and terrorism, racism and war it seems that HIV will continue to have only a backseat. And this might compromise the achievements reached till today.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wanderer between worlds

Often I am asked about “my holidays” when I return from a shift as chaplain to sea for one of the cruise liners going around the world in our days. And when I tell them it does not feel like holiday people don’t want to believe me.
Well, as a matter of facts, there is indeed the usual work load of a chaplain:
saying Holy Mass, conducting prayer services for passengers and crew, playing escort for land excursions. It means also being present 24/7 for a possible crisis or counselling, confession or any approach by passengers or staff.
On the other hand it is clear, that being on a cruise liner is indeed also a break from the normal routine of my work in South Africa and therefore has a sort of “holiday effect” of some kind.
What I discovered over the years is that the gap between the realities I know and partly work in and the “perfect world of luxury holidays” is widening and that it seems more and more difficult to bridge this gap or to just accept that those worlds live almost parallel to each other. The vast amount of food wasted on a cruise liner and the knowledge that at home kids go hungry to bed is difficult to comprehend. The way people often romanticise poverty while doing excursion in so-called third-world-countries is sometimes hard to swallow when overhearing it.
Giving talks about my work and engaging into discussions show how big the gap is between the realities people on board are coming from and the realities I know from my work.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the luxury of a cruise ship once in a while. It is nice to be pampered and looked after and to have the chance to eat and drink whenever I feel like it. I also know that I have to be home in both worlds, as only then, encounter can happen and gaps can be bridged and understanding and help can be born out of the worlds meeting each other one or the other way. But there remains still this little devil of doubt whether it always works to bring realities together which couldn’t be more different. The only thing I know is that I am trying hard and that I need both worlds to do what I see as my calling.

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

Criminalization of HIV – AIDS

Bad criminal laws...Poisoning  –  terrorist attack  – bio-attack  –  murder  — attempted murder  –  assault

 

the labels of law are unbelievable – sometimes even if there is no knowledge of the infection or no transmission occurred

 

Did you know that giving birth, breastfeeding, spitting as a HIV positive person can bring you into jail in some countries?

 

In Sweden, even consent is declared invalid by law if transmission occurs

 

It is not those who know their status who drive the pandemic but those who don’t know. But would you go for a test when you know that a positive result might bring you in jail through your sexual activities, even if it is protected sex and no transmission occurs?

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The burden of travelling

Most people like traveling and I have to admit, most times I also like traveling too. The airport controls can be unnerving – but having no cell and no internet for a couple of hours is relaxing – well it seems that it is all coming back into the cabin of new airplanes. Traveling brings you in touch with other traditions and cultures, simply with other realities which might sometimes be strange, sometimes funny, but always good to know. And here the burden starts: Who at home to share the new knowledge and experience with? How to implement it into daily life? Does really anybody in the closer vicinity wants to know how things have changed for you? Does it really fit into the settings you are living in? And when it comes to my church – it is even worse as the word “relativism” is very quick used to bring downfall to different perspectives and their approaches. How much do I wish sometimes that all people could share in the diversity of the world and yes, how relative the way is, we are living in our small little world and that there as so many alternatives which have the same value than our solutions and habits..  Sometimes it is a burden to think broad and diverse…

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

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