It’s Father Dave here and I’m actually now in London, having finished my week in Syria where we’ve been spending time with both politicians and refugees, sharing in the joys and sorrows of the Syrian people, and boxing with kids on the streets of Damascus, Lattakia and Homs!
I have so much to share – pictures, videos and stories – that it’s going to take me a little while to put them all in order, but I want to share something with you today so I’ve chosen one picture that has behind it one amazing story:
See the pic above (you can see a larger version of it if you click on it). On the left you will recognise our beloved leader, Mother Agnes. The man in the middle you are less likely to recognise. His name is Sheikh Tahhan.
Sheikh Tahhan is apparently the only man in Homs that the FSA fighters trust if they want to take advantage of the armistice offered by the government. He roams the streets of Homs and seeks out rebel fighters who want to hand in their guns and stop fighting. On the right of the Sheikh is one of these fighters who is no longer fighting. Two of his mates are at his side (out of picture).
Naturally Sheikh Tahhan is a prime target for those who want to keep the fire going, and he is very aware of the fate of Jesuit Priest, Father Frans Van Der Lugt, who was shot in Homs only last week. Father Frans was apparently also involved in this same work – mediating between the government and rebels who want to lay down their arms.
So why, you might wonder, are both the Sheikh and Mother Agnes smiling when they both have prices on their heads? The reason is because the Sheikh has been telling Mother about a high-level meeting between the rebel leaders of Homs and the government’s Ministry of Reconciliation in Damascus. Apparently there is talk that the entire FSA contingent in Homs will hand in their arms and seek reconciliation with their fellow Syrians. If this happens it will mark the beginning of the end of the violence!
So many commentators are saying that there’s no end in sight to the Syrian catastrophe. If what the Sheikh has told Mother is correct though it could all be over within a couple of months! As I see it, if the Syrian rebels of Homs successfully take advantage of the armistice, other FSA fighters will follow quickly. Of course this won’t affect the more powerful rebel groups such as ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra, who are made up mainly of foreign fighters on jihad. But if the Syrian members of the rebellion stop fighting the government there is every chance that many of them will join with Assad’s forces to expel the foreigners! Once this happens the violence will wind up very quickly as the foreign backers who are funding the conflict will quickly cut their losses and pull out.
Of course nothing is certain and there are still many things that could become road-blocks on this path to peace. The Americans are still training rebel fighters in Jordan and graduating them at the rate of around 150 per month (see this excellent first-hand account by Sara Williams if you haven’t read it yet) and the Canadians have apparently been making preparations to enter Syria themselves, all guns blazing (see here)! Beyond this insanity though the victory of government forces seems inevitable. Moreover, if there ever really was any common ground between those Syrian rebels who were fighting for democracy and freedom and the foreign takfiri (who now make up the greater part of the rebel ‘alliance’) it has by now completely evaporated.
That’s enough from me today. You can see where my heart and my prayers are. I am hoping that the next time I am in Syria it will be to celebrate peace and to participate in the rebuilding of this shattered country. So many people have suffered and it will require a massive amount of sustained energy to reestablish the infrastructure of the country. Even so, my respect for the strength and determination of the Syrian people gives me every confidence in a bright future for this wonderful land and I look forward to joining hands with the Syrian people to do what I can to share in that rebuilding.
Your brother in the Good Fight,
P.S. If you’d like to see some of the media coverage we had in Syria, check out these Arabic and Farsi language articles (using your brower’s translator):
- Young Journalist Club: Reverend Boxer Syria is looking for?
- Mehr News: Father goes to do boxing, delighting Syrian children
P.P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.