Weekly Missive – September 11th, 2013

[imaioVideo v=1] Speaking at the “Hands Off Syria” rally in Sydney
(if you can’t view this video, click here

Hi there Fighter,

It’s been a dramatic week!

While America prepares to unleash hell on Syria, Australia has elected a new government that promises to make life hell for asylum seekers!

We live in dark times – dark times indeed – and yet, as ever, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it!” (John 1)

For me that light shone most brightly this week in St Peters’ Square in Vatican City where the Pope led a hundred thousand people in prayer for Syria and for peace.

We are at a critical point in human history. The powers of darkness are emerging from their crevices and the stench of death is in the air. At the same time, I have never in my life seen the church so united as they are over this looming escalation in global violence.

The forces of darkness and light seem to be lining up! It’s time for all of us to decide where we stand!

I swore at the Television!

I swore at the TV the other night!

I appreciate that this sort of thing doesn’t accomplish much, but I couldn’t help myself.

I was listening to Barack Obama addressing a press conference. He had a look of deep sincerity on his face as he said “It’s not me that has drawn the red line over chemical weapons. It’s the international community”. I cried out “BULL****!”

Whatever opinion you might have of Syria and of the American President’s plans to bomb Damascus, we all know that the international community is NOT behind Barrack Obama!

Not even the American public are behind him! Indeed, in no country in the world (apart from Israel) does Obama have anywhere near majority support for his militaristic agenda, and the man knows this full well! And yet he smoothly spits out his lie – that the whole of humanity is supporting him in his stand, and then the camera pans around the room to focus on more sincere faces, nodding in agreement.

It’s all so smooth and it’s all so convincing and it’s all so entirely FALSE!

Truly this President is far more dangerous than his predecessor! George Dubya was a clown – albeit a criminal clown, but a clown nonetheless – and we all knew it! This guy is slick, and he seems like such a nice man! That makes him far more dangerous!

There was one valuable lesson that I learnt from my first Martial Arts instructor, Mr Kim. He taught me “your mouth can lie but your body can’t lie”. He was referring to people who said they were looking for a friendly sparring session but once they got into the ring it was an all out war! The principal applies across various areas of life. If you want to know what someone is really on about, don’t just listen to what they say. Watch what they do!

Barrack Obama’s record speaks for itself. Military expenditure is greater than under any previous administration, a covert domestic surveillance programs is eroding American civil liberties, whistle-blowers and dissenters are being handled with unprecedented brutality, and now Mr Obama seems to be on a personal mission to destroy what is left of Syria!

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Christians around the world unite!

joining hands with Mother Agnes and the Melkite Patriarch in Damascus

joining hands with Mother Agnes and the Melkite Patriarch in Damascus

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it!”
(John 1)

I can say in all honesty that I have never in my lifetime seen the church so united on any one issue. It seems that every Christian leader in the world is speaking as one in their opposition to Barrack Obama’s plans for war with Syria!

In St Peter’s Square the Pope openly denounced those “captivated by the idols of dominion and power” who destroy God’s creation by war, and earlier in the week he wrote to leaders of the G20 meeting in Saint Petersburg, urging them to “lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution” for Syria (see full report here).

Meanwhile, Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch (who was my host while I was in Beirut earlier this year) spoke optimistically to the faithful in Damascus “This is the start of the victory. No to war. Yes for peace.” (see full report here).

Archbishop Matta Roham, Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates, was explicit in his concerns: “It is easy to pave the way for air strikes on Syria, but it is difficult to end the war and the consequences of these attacks throughout the Middle East”. (see full report here).

Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior-general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was even more explicit in his condemnation of Obama’s plans, saying that any attack from the United States will be a “terrible mistake” and an abuse of power. “The US has to stop acting and reacting like the big boy of the neighbourhood of the world. This leads inevitably to abuse, harassment and bullying of the weaker members of the community.” (see report here)

Not to be outdone, mainline Protestant and Evangelical leaders have also been adding their voices to the growing throng.

Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, pointed out the negative effect military strikes would have on Christians in the Middle East. His remarks were given during a meeting of Christian leaders in Jordan. He added “I couldn’t find a Christian leader at the conference who supported military intervention”.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore echoed Tunnicliffe’s concerns, saying, there are just-cause principles missing “both to justify action morally and to justify it prudentially.” (Read both full statements here).

I must say that I find all this deeply encouraging! It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly and unambiguously through every branch of Christ’s church! The only question is whether those in power who claim to be Christians will be willing to listen!

Shall we meet in Damascus?

Mother Agnes with children in Damascus

I must be honest and say that I don’t expect the light to prevail in the short term.

The US Congress is yet to vote on the US attack as yet, of course, but President Obama has not ruled out the possibility that he will personally authorise an attack even if his Congress votes against it! The people of Damascus are expecting the bombing to start on Thursday.

I haven’t heard much from my friend in Damascus, Ghinwa Maia, over the last week. She and her family are on the move, looking for a safe place to hide. The one text I did receive from her said “We are not afraid of the US strike itself as much as we are afraid of terrorist groups moving on the ground while the US would be covering them from the sky!”

This is indeed a legitimate concern. According to all reports, Jabhat Al-Nusra and various Jihadist groups are massing on the outskirts of Damascus, ready to use the American missile strike as air cover while they make their ground assault!

If appeals to common sense and the vote of Congress won’t dissuade Mr Obama from the path of violence, I can only see one other strategy remaining. Concerned people from around the world will have to gather in Damascus to act as human shields. Should we go together?

A number of people I know in Syria, Lebanon and the US are trying to put together a human-shield program at this very moment. Indeed, there have been 100’s of emails circulating over the last week as we rapidly try to organise something.

The problem is that it can’t be a rush job. One friend who was involved in the human-shield program in Baghdad in 2003 warned me that a poorly organised program only serves to put more people at risk. It needs to be well organised, and this takes time. The problem is, of course, that we don’t have time.

At any rate, I know that Mother Agnes and various Christian leaders are planning on being involved and I am certainly interested in joining them. I mentioned this in church on Sunday and a handful of others expressed an interest too. Would you be interested in joining me in Damascus too, fighter?

As I say, I don’t have any details at this stage but if you’d like me to keep you in the loop as plans develop, just hit me back and let me know. Take note though that while I’d like to take a sizeable team with me, I’d prefer to take only those who are over 50 years of age and don’t have any young dependent children.

The Cost of Discipleship

It was serendipitous that our Gospel reading last Sunday was that dreaded passage from Luke 14 where Jesus says that we need to ‘hate our fathers and mothers and children and our own lives if we want to follow him!’ (Luke 14:25-34).

The passage has always confused as well as disturbed me, but this time when I read it, it all seemed to make sense! Jesus is addressing His disciples the same way a military commander might address his soldiers. The issue is not really so much how they feel about their loved ones but whether they are willing to let go of them. In other words, Jesus is asking His disciples whether they are ready to die for Him (or rather with Him)!

[imaioVideo v=2]
(if you can’t view this video, click here)

As is always the case, thoughts of death reminds us of how much we have to live for!

This month is a time of great birthdays for us here!

Last weekend we celebrated our dear parishioner, Rabiatu Kamara, turning 21!

Rabiatu turns 21!

Rabiatu turns 21!

Today I celebrate my dear daughter, Imogen, turning 16!

Imogen turns 16!

Imogen turns 16!

This month is also Ange’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.   Indeed, with so much to celebrate it seems like an odd time to be planning a trip to Damascus. And yet it is precisely our appreciation of the value of human life that makes the survival of the people of Damascus so imperative!   We’ll talk again soon.

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!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four