You’ll have to forgive me for the gap between missives.
The last one (May 13) was sent out while I was still in Iran, enjoying a short respite with my dear friend Sheikh Mansour Leghaei. It was a two-day stopover between Syria and Sydney. I wish it had been longer.
Since I got back in the country my feet have barely touched the ground! I’ve been preoccupied both with my Syrian experience and with issues associated with the burning down of our Church Hall/Youth Centre, which happened only a week before I left.
Making Sense of Syria
The more I reflect on the so-called ‘civil war’ in Syria, the more I become convinced that we could be on the edge of World War III.
As I understand it, the goal of those who are fueling the violence is to isolate Iran by severely weakening its only allies in the region – Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Having seen first-hand the terrible overcrowding of refugee camps in Lebanon, I can appreciate that all it will take to completely destabilize that country is to push another million displaced Syrians over the border. There are already close to a million refugees (mainly Palestinian) in Lebanon – a country that is already overcrowded with its native population of 4.3 million. Another million people will certainly break the back of the country’s infrastructure, and that is exactly what is envisaged should the strife in Syria continue for much longer.
So the world’s power-brokers play their games (and I hear on the news tonight that both Britain and France are now champing at the bit to pour more ammunition into the fray) while the Syrian people pay the price with their blood. The big oil and arms manufacturers are (quite literally) making a killing in Syria. It is entirely demonic!
We don’t see this side of the story, of course. Indeed, we don’t see much of the story at all in this country. It seems that all ‘Western’ media have been extracted from Damascus (with the curious exception of CNN)! The major Australian media companies are refusing to even purchase stories and photos from independent journalists and photographers in government-controlled areas on the pretext that it puts them in danger! We had an excellent journo and cameraman with us in Lebanon from Australian SBS television but he was pulled out and sent home before we crossed the Syrian border!
Whatever the reason behind the media blanket over Damascus, it means that most of us only see the conflict from the perspective of those embedded amidst the attacking rebel forces. This means that we only hear one side of the story. Moreover, it means that we only ever see Syria as a war-zone.
What I saw in Syria was not a war. I saw human beings trying to get on with their lives – lots of wonderful men and women with lovely families who were trying to make the best of their situation and who were committed to bringing about change in their country through dialogue rather than through violence!
God bless the people of Syria! God bless the many people working for peace, especially the religious leaders (both Christian and Islamic), the community leaders, and the young people! We saw so many beautiful young people in their teens and twenty’s who still believe in a bright future for their country and who were still willing to devote themselves to the work of peace. God bless them all!
Mother Agnes returns to Oz
I will stop eulogising over Syria in a moment, but I must mention two more things first:
Firstly, if you didn’t see the formal statements made by our Mussalaha Peace Delegation to Syria, I commend them to you:
- The Concluding Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation to Syria
- The Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation on the Refugee Situation in Lebanon
Secondly, in case you haven’t heard, know that dear Mother Agnes of Homs is going to be back in Australia in only three weeks time!
Mother Agnes is going to be raising both funds and awareness in this tour and there will be a $100/head fundraiser dinner on the evening of Friday, June 21st. I’ve already booked a table, so if you’d like to join me at my table I’d love your company. Just let me know.
If you can’t afford to join us at the dinner, I’m hoping to have Mother Agnes with us for church with us on the Sunday – June 23rd. That won’t cost you anything (and you even get a free cup of coffee afterwards)!
Binacrombi Boot Camp II
The Fighting Fathers held another wonderful ‘Boot Camp’ while I was away.
Ange tells me that the program ran exceptionally well. Apparently we not only had Christian and Muslim boys join us this time but a Jewish boy as well. Everybody demonstrated a wonderful camaraderie and commitment to the program, which was both challenging and invigorating!
Congratulations go to Fighting Fathers Mungo McCall, Caine Pennell, Danny Sarkis and Sol Egberime for making the weekend work so well!
Our next Boot Camp is scheduled for the last weekend in July. Given the icy-cold temperatures at Binacrombi at that time of the year, this one will be tailored towards the truly battle-hardened. Book now!
As I said before I left for Syria, one of the things I was most looking forward to on the trip was the opportunity to meet one of my great heroes – Maired Maguire.
I know that often when you meet someone whom you’ve admired from afar for many years they turn out to be a bit of a disappointment in person. Not so in this case! Mairead is as inspiring when you get to know her as she is at a distance! More-so in fact!
If you don’t know Mairead’s story and the role she played in the peace process in Northern Ireland (which won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976) you can read about her in Wikipedia or in a thousand other places on the web. For the moment, I’ll let my interview with her speak for itself.
If you can’t view the video, click here.
Before I go today I need your help with something:
I’m setting up a website on Syria – a site where I can post articles and videos that will keep us all up-to-date with the news on Syria that you won’t see on TV. I’ve purchased three domain names but I’m not sure which on to use?
Which one do you think works best? Please email me your thoughts or post them at the end of the blog in the comments section.
In closing, allow me to share with you some of pics I took in Iran with my friend, Sheikh Mansour.
If you don’t know the history between Mansour and me, and how I fought tooth and nail to prevent his ‘deportation without trial’ a few years ago, it’s all on savethesheikh.com.
Mansour is now back in Esfahan while his sons remain in Australia. His case is still before the United Nations Human Rights Committee for consideration. One day we hope to see him back in Sydney.
In the meantime, Mansour and I are hoping to develop some sort of online inter-faith radio show together. We’ve been planning it for years in fact. If all goes well we might be able to start something even next month! In the meantime, here’s a few photos of me and Mansour in Tehran, Qom and Esfahan (click to enlarge).
That’s it for today, fighter. I hope to be back with you this time next week.
Until then I remain …
Your brother in the Good Fight,
P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!