Weekly Missive – August 28th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

Are we on the eve of Armageddon?

Love Syria

It’s Father Dave, and I confess that as I write to you today I’m feeling sick in my stomach.

It’s not something that I ate or drank (though I have had a second glass of red tonight to steel my nerves). It’s Syria, and it’s what I’m seeing on the news!

I’ve been watching and listening to European leaders and US and Israeli officials all talking about how urgent it is that we start bombing Bashar Al-Assad into submission, and all this before the UN inspectors have produced a single finding!

I remember having the same sick and sinking feeling on the eve of the Iraq invasion. I remember thinking then, “No. Surely they won’t do it. They’re not that stupid. They know there are no ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It’s all just saber rattling!” And now … 1,000,000 dead Iraqi’s later … history seems to be repeating itself!

Here’s how the scenario plays out in my mind:

  1. The US and NATO attack Syrian government forces on the pretext of the chemical weapon attacks.
  2. The government falls and the country crumbles into uncontrollable sectarian violence with jihadists gaining control of major areas (as in Iraq)
  3. Lebanon’s infrastructure cannot withstand the further influx of refugees (already almost 50% of the size of its citizenry) and so it falls into anarchy as well
  4. Iran is now left without allies (which I believe is one of the main aims of the game) and so Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, confident that Iran will not retaliate.
  5. Iran declares war on Israel and the regional war against the Shi’a goes into overdrive.
  6. Shi’a majorities in Bahrain and Iraq and elsewhere rise up and turn the entire Middle East into a cauldron of bloody violence.
  7. Israel eventually becomes the focus of the wrath of all its neighbours.
  8. The reverberations are felt throughout the world. Terrorist acts take place in every major city. There is widespread religious and ethnic violence, reprisals, etc.
  9. It all climaxes with some massive nuclear detonations.
  10. Everyone looks back and realises that there never were any chemical weapons attacks carried out by the Syrian government.

You might think this is all very fanciful, but I have military friends in the US that were put on ‘Class 1 Alert’ on the weekend, indicating possible immediate deployment to Syria! Meanwhile, my sources in Damascus are expecting the bombing to start on Tuesday!

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

with Mairead Maguire - my hero!

with Mairead Maguire – my hero!

Amidst all the beating of war-drums, I was greatly encouraged to hear the lone voice of my friend (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Mairead Maguire, calling upon her Foreign Minister to stop agitating for war! Says Mairead:

“Arming rebels and authorizing military action by USA/NATO forces will not solve the problem facing Syria, but indeed could lead to the death of thousands of Syrians, the breaking-up of Syria, and it falling under the control of violent fundamentalist jihadist forces. It will mean the further fleeing of Syrians into surrounding countries which will themselves  become destabilised. The entire Middle East will become unstable and violence will spiral out of control.”

You can read Mairead’s complete press release here.

And while Mairead Fights the Good Fight in Britain, my dear friend Ghinwa (who you met last week) is just fighting to stay alive in Damascus!

Ghinwa visting the Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus

Ghinwa visiting the Ummayyad Mosque (Damascus)

Ghinwa and her family are on the move, looking for somewhere safe to shelter. They have lost many friends and family members. As an Alawite, Ghinwa knows she is a target to Jabhat Al-Nusra and the armies of foreign mercenaries that besiege her city.

We haven’t been able to secure a time yet when Ghinwa can join us for a conference call and it will have to wait until she finds somewhere safe to stay. In the meantime, let me share with you our latest text exchanges:

 Ghinwa: I was supposed to contact with you on Sunday but I was caught in Damascus because of clashes on the way back home. I was lucky on Monday to avoid mortar shells. Anyhow, we are all OK. Trying to find a safe place to move on to in Damascus …

Dave: You are in my constant prayers, my friend – you and your dear sister. I hope we can speak again soon. … Just let me know if you want to do that phone conference.

Ghinwa: I wanted to do that but every day something new happens. I was unable to leave home in the past two days, and until now … there are clashes in the area around the place I live in. There are military operations now around Damascus, heavy clashes around us, I have information that there are around 4,000 Al-Nusra fighters in Muadamia. This morning those fighters used chemical weapons against the Syrian Army…

After the massacres against Alawites that killed some 350-400 people (we have the names of 256 persons of them) two massacres took place – one against Christians in Wadi-Alnasara area. 20 Christian people were killed there in what Islamist fighters called the Islamist battle to control Wadi Al-Nasara, meaning “Christans’ Vallley”, and a massacre against Kurds that killed more than 200 Kurds.

… I don’t know what to say!

Dave: God bless you, my sister. It tears at my heart to hear these things. Out here we are being told of various accusations against the government for the use of chemical weapons. I have no idea whether there is any truth to these but certainly things are terrible.

Ghinwa: Yes, I know these stories, but I know the accusations to the government are not true. When I checked videos on the Internet, telling the story that the government used chemicals against people in Ghota, I noticed those videos were uploaded to YouTube before the time the alleged massacre took place…

We see the same people in three different videos. Each video claims that those were killed in a different place. The only difference is that they changed the places of the bodies and arranged the scene in a different way. They put once that those people were killed in Kafr – batna, and the other video tells those where killed in Irbeen area.

I’ll check the videos and send them by email if you wish, Father.

Dave: I will publish what you send me, sister, and try to get the word out. My only concern is whether it’s putting you at any greater risk by having your name and face associated with this information.

Ghinwa: I am already on their death lists. Belonging to Alawites is a justification to kill me. It is something I was born with, not something I chose. So no problems of putting my name and pictures there.

Ghinwa with our delegation in Damascus

Ghinwa with our delegation in Damascus

In case you think Ghinwa’s claims about the videos are outrageous, I note that Veterans News Now are reporting that Al Jazeera and Reuters published news of the latest Syrian massacre one day before it happened (see here)!

Faith without Love = Fundamentalism

As we all know, the looming war on Syria is not just a political issue. It’s also a faith issue.

In the New Testament “Letter to the Hebrews” (chapter 11) the author eulogises over all the wonderful things that people have accomplished throughout history through their faith. When I read this though the first thing that occurred to me was that Al Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra also claim to be ‘faith organisations’ , though it seems to be a very different sort of faith to anything I’m familiar with.

How do we distinguish between good faith and bad faith? As a child I once believed that anybody who espoused the Christian faith must be a person of good faith whereas all members of other faiths are the bad guys. Then I studied the history of the church and realised (to use Desmond Tutu’s phrase) that “God is not a Christian”.

I believe the New Testament itself gives us a straightforward way of distinguishing between the faith that kills and the faith that gives life, and I it’s something that I think all Christian people need to take to heart.

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you can’t view this video, click here

Vote Wikileaks!

Let me conclude this week’s missive with a shameless plug to all my fellow Australians: vote Wikileaks at the coming elections!

As George Galloway said when he was with us, if Australia votes in Julian Assange as a Senator we’ll be sending a message around the globe saying that Australia does not accept the ways that governments lie to their people and engage in murderous wars without the consent of the voting public!

And while the Wikileaks Party may not be the most polished and professional outfit in comparison to the more established party machines, one great thing Wikileaks does have is a solid policy on Syria (click here)!

with John Shipton (Julian Assange's dad) after church

with John Shipton (Julian Assange’s dad) after church (click to enlarge)

Let me conclude this missive with the same question with which I started:

Are we on the eve of Armageddon?

I think we could be. In my mathematical reckoning FSA+USA=WWIII

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear what some of the leaders of the churches in Syria and around the world believe:

“if there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war” 
Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, President of Caritas Syria

The West thinks that with the Sunnis in government democracy will replace the dictatorship, but this is a great illusion: regime change by force, without giving security to the secular parties of inspiration, will trigger a conflict worse than in Iraq.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch, Youssef III Younan

“the situation in the Middle East is becoming more and more critical as each day passes… there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests.”
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Rai

Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the United States is acting as an international executioner … Once again thousands of lives will be sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy; among them there are, first of all, Christians, about whose fate no one cares.”
Metropolitan Hilarion, Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate.

Will you pray with me, fighter, as I pray with so many sisters and brothers across the world that this threat to unleash all hell on the people of Syria will come to nothing?

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

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!

 

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – August 14th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

I hope you’ve been travelling well since last we touched base. It’s been a period of highs and lows for me.

In terms of what’s been happening in our little hamlet of Dulwich Hill, it’s been almost all highs. In terms of what I’ve seen going on in other parts of the world (such as Syria) it’s been frankly heart-breaking.

Let me share the highs first:

The rebirth of the Youth Centre!

We had a magnificent afternoon at the Salvo’s centre in Dulwich Hill last week, celebrating the re-opening of our beloved Youth Centre and Fight Club in their new venue!

Re-opening the gym and Youth Centre at the Salvos hall

Thank God for the Salvo’s (click to enlarge)

It’s a real win-win situation! :-)

The Salvo’s recreation hall and lounge area provide a magnificent space for both sporting activities and informal gatherings for our young people. In truth, it is a better space than we were ever been able to provide in the old church hall!

Having combined forces, we now also have (potentially) twice the person-power to drive the project forward. It’s just a pity that it took an arsonist to burn down our old Youth Centre before we were forced to see the many advantages of working together!

Admittedly, we are a bit thin on the ground at present with regards to staff and volunteers. I’m trusting that this will all be resolved over the next couple of weeks, but if you’re in the area and you have some time to volunteer just let me know!

a few rounds in the new ring with Kath Biggs

A few rounds in the new ring with Kath Biggs

And if you can’t join us in person, please consider ‘liking’ the Facebook page that the Salvo’s set up for our new venture.

Tears for Syria

I said when I came back from Syria that I felt I left a part of my heart in Damascus. It is still there. I still see the faces of so many of the people I met there and I wonder if they are OK.

One person I have kept contact with is Ghinwa Maia. She was translator for our delegation while we were in Damascus and is a sweet young girl, about the same age as my eldest daughter. That’s Ghinwa on the right, below, with her sister, Rima, on the left.

Rima and Ghinwa Maia in Damascus

Rima and Ghinwa Maia in Damascus

I’ve had some lengthy text conversations with Ghinwa over the last few days where she has been telling me about massacres taking place in Alawite villages in area of Latakia. Ghinwa is an Alawite.

Let me share with you some excerpts from our conversation. Note that English is not her first language:

Ghinwa: The situation is very bad now in Latakia province. 7 Alawite villages were massacred. We know about the killing of 136 villagers all killed on sectarian bases. A friend of mind lost 21 member of his relatives.

Dave: If you can think of some way we can hep from here please tell me.

Ghinwa: I don’t really know. But perhaps you could help spreading the news about what is happening here! A friend of mine is going to document the witnesses of those who ran away or perhaps injured … Maybe I’ll be able to get this info and translate them. Send them to you. I will keep in touch if I would still be alive.

That was a week ago. Yesterday I received this:

 Ghinwa: All of my friends who were documenting the name and the events of massacres in Latakia against Alawites are now being threatened to be killed by FSA and Al Nusra terrorists … On TV we are shown something different. It is only a propaganda. They’re trying to say that Alawites are not being killed or displaced. The truth is being hidden by mass media. .. This is sick… My sister now is very ill … I guess a part of her illness is caused by sadness … we are afraid.

Al Nusra promised to kill every Alawite and of settling those who came from Idleb and Aleppo instead of displaced Alawites. I have never been sectarian but what is happening here makes everyone think of sectarianism. I translated a report today from Al Jazeera International channel. They described Alawite vilages as being ‘settlements’ as if this land has never been a land of those Syrian people. I mean Alawites .. and even before Islam. Those who know the history of Syria, they know that Alwaites and Christians are the original people of Syrian and those Muslims came later on.

Dave: Have courage, my friend. All will be well. I am praying for you and for your sister. Please send my love to her. Are you happy for me to share what you are telling me with my online subscribers? I would like to share what you have said in my weekly email to my friends and supporters.

Ghinwa: Of course, Father, you could share all information with your subscribers.

my Syrian friend Ghinwa Maia

Ghinwa in Tartous

Please join me in praying for this courageous girl and for her family. I would also like to give you the opportunity to talk to her about their crisis – perhaps as soon as this weekend.

I have asked Ghinwa whether she would be willing to do a conference-call with members of our Fighting Fathers online community. We haven’t done one of these for a while now but the pattern is:

  1. I give you a phone number in the USA and a time.
  2. You dial that number at that time and enter the access code I give you.
  3. I do a brief interview with Ghinwa and then throw open the lines for discussion.

We’ll try to record the whole conversation for those who can’t participate in the call but, if we can make it work, it would be really great if we could have a good number join us live.

Anyway, nothing is confirmed at this stage. Getting a conference call to work from Damascus may prove no easy feat. Even so, if we can make it happen I’ll be emailing all subscribers before the end of the week with details.

Please note that it will be a Fighting Fathers members-only call. That should screen out any trouble-makers. If you’re not a financial member of fighting-fathers.com you’ll be able to listen to the recording afterwards but you won’t be able to participate live.

Stay tuned and keep praying!

The Rich Idiot

The struggles of Ghinwa and the people of Syria do help us put our own struggles in proper perspective, I think. If the worst problem we have is our mortgage, we’re doing pretty well really.

This was certainly Jesus’ perspective – “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). Jesus’ words to His followers about money-matters are as clear as they are unpopular.

This sermon on ‘The Rich Idiot’ of Luke 12 isn’t the most brilliant or insightful I’ve ever given and yet I was surprised at how many people were apparently challenged and helped by it. Let me know how it affects you.

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you can’t view the above video, click here.

And before I let you go today, I want to take a moment to welcome back to Oz one of our long-time members, Fighting Father Mike, who has spent most of the year in Gaza.

Mike has been working on Gaza’s Ark, and if you want to know all about that work you’ll find the Ark’s website here.

Michael in Gaza, promoting the Ark

Michael in Gaza, promoting the Ark

In short, Gaza’s Ark is sort of like the flip-side of the Freedom Flotillas, where the idea was to sail boats into Gaza from ports around the world in order to break the Israeli siege. In this case the idea is to sail a boat out of Gaza, filled with Gaza-made goods that can be traded in ports around the world to help support the struggling people of Gaza.

It’s a brilliant concept and I’d encourage you to make a financial contribution via their site. If you can’t do that, at least consider ‘liking‘ their Facebook page.

OK …

That’s more than enough from me for this week, but if you’re free this Sunday afternoon and in the area do consider joining us at the Croatian Club where a couple of our boys will be fighting, including the ever-popular Fighting Father Mungo!

In a bizarre twist, Mungo will be fighting the man I made I professional boxing debut against  back in 1996, then known as ‘Jimmy Pat‘! It’s a long story, but if you want to see the latest chapter unfold you’ll need to be there on Sunday!

Fighting Fathers members can send words of encouragement to Mungo through the member site. If you’d like to see ‘Jimmy Pat‘ in action, the archive of the last round of our 1996 fight is here.

I’ll hope to see you ringside on Sunday!

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

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!

Please follow and like us:

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four