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!

 

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – September 17th, 2012

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave with you again, back from my Monday evening run, tired but still on a bit of a natural high from the endorphins. Even so, I’m far from content as I write tonight, as I fear that our world has taken a turn for the worse since we last spoke.

I’m thinking of the chaos that has followed in the wake that bad-taste Californian anti-Muslim movie going viral on YouTube. I won’t include a link to the movie as I don’t think it does anybody any good to watch it. I watched about two minutes of it myself and that was enough. It was evidently designed to provoke and offend, and the people behind it (who will remain nameless) have certainly succeeded in their aim.

Even so, the protests and riots that have taken place over the last few days in reaction to the movie – even in my own city of Sydney – have shocked much of the world. This in itself surprises me a little. I’m sure those behind the movie anticipated exactly this sort of reaction. I would have thought it almost inevitable!

I read what I thought was an excellent press release from the Free Muslims Coalition of America that both condemned the movie and the ensuing violence (you can read it here). What shocked me though were the comments (posted mainly by non-Muslim Americans I assume). A large number of those comments criticised the press release for condemning both the movie and the violence side-by-side, as if they were comparable crimes! The movie may have been in poor taste, they said, but that is hardly comparable to murder and violence!

Certainly I can see their point, but what those commenters seemed to lack was an awareness of the bigger picture. This is not a one-off attack from the so-called ‘Christian West‘ against Islam. For many Muslims this is just another grievous volley in what is an all-out crusade!

My friend Ali Baghdadi – a sincere and articulate Muslim man – put this very well in an email he sent out over the weekened:

“The enemies of Islam and its adherents seem to have a short memory. Muslims don’t. The burning of the Quran in Florida by a Christian priest, the urination on the Quran and Muslim dead in Afghanistan by US soldiers, the cartoons to demonize and malign Prophet Muhammad by a Danish “artist”, and the water boarding of Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and other parts of the world by US interrogators, are not easily forgotten. The “War on Terror” that took over a million lives in Iraq since the US 2003 invasion, as well as the unlimited US support of Israel, explain the degree of rage, anger, indignation and hate Muslims have for the United States government and its allies.”

I republished Ali’s letter in its entirety on IsraelandPalestine.org if you’d like to read it (click here). And you don’t have to agree with every word that Ali says to appreciate the sobering reality he is warning us of – that perhaps after all these years of violence against the Muslim world, the chickens are finally coming home to roost!

I’d encourage you to give Ali’s words some serious thought. And while you’re on IsraelandPalestine.org take a look at the two-and-a-half-minute video that I posted there yesterday about a Palestinian woman and her children (click here).

Try to imagine what your reaction to this video would be if you were a Muslim mother or father who already felt betrayed and persecuted by the West. See if this helps you to understand why this latest insult was, for some people, the last straw.

For me personally these incidents bring back to mind the last conversation I had with my dear friend, Father Labib Kobti – a great human-rights activist and one of the finest priest I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We were in the rectory of his church – St Thomas Moore Catholic church in San Fransico – saying farewell, and he said to me, “brother, your time may soon come”

By ‘your time’ he meant not just me specifically, but the time for all of us who have been working to build bridges between East and West, between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Labib foresaw what Ali Baghdadi sees – a deepening divide between East and West, increasing violence between Christians and Muslims and, along with it, a revival of genuine anti-Semitism!

For all of us who insist on treating our Christian, Muslim and Jewish neighbours with equal respect and love, our time may soon come! By opening our arms in love to everybody we are likely to be targeted from all sides. We must be ready to take a stand, and we must be ready to pay the price for the stand we take.

with Father Labib at Thomas Moore Church, San Fransisco
saying farewell to Father Labib at St Thomas Moore Church in San Fransisco


Let’s Discuss this further!

I’m very conscious that I’m doing all the talking here, and I’d really like to get your perspective on these issues, and I do believe that our new forum would be the ideal place to have you share your thoughts.

Please note that the new forum is at www.fighting-fathers.com/url/forum.

This is not to be confused with the old forum which is at www.fighting-fathers.com/forum

The problem we were having with the old forum was that it was constantly being SPAMMED and it was difficult to control who could post to it. The problem we have with the new forum is the opposite. Only financial members can post to it! This eliminates the problem of SPAM but it also makes the forum far less accesible than I would like.

Without wanting to bore you with the details, we actually lease the fighting-fathers.com membership platform, and some aspects of the software can’t be changed by us. I can’t adjust the settings on the forum to allow anonymous visitors to post. It’s not an option.

I have got a solution though: If you can’t afford the $10/month to become a financial member but you are keen to participate in the forum, contact me (my contact details are below). I’ll organise you a temporary membership (unless you are a spammer, in which case you can keep working on the old forum).

And now for something completely different!

Let me take time out for a moment from the painful subject of the global battle for justice and address something far less painful: Boxing!

My thanks go to Fighting Father Mungo who uncovered a video of my July 20 battle with Rod Walker!

This fight was not as I remembered it. I seem to remember being massively surprised in the first round with how good my opponent was, and doing quite badly. I then remember picking up in rounds two and three. When I look at it now, I think I did pretty well in the first round and started to look desperate in the later rounds!

[imaioVideo v=1]

I remember talking about this battle in a previous missive. It was a bout that started with a rude awakening for me as I realised that my opponent really knew what he was doing! As I remembered the fight, I did quite badly in the first round and picked up in rounds two and three. When I watch the fight now, it seems I did pretty well in the first round but started to look desperate after that!

At any rate, it was a close and noble bout, and it looks as if we’re going to have a rematch in early November! Be assured that I’ll give you all the details closer to the time.

The really exciting this is that Rod subsequently joined the Order of the Fighting Fathers, so after you’ve watched the video you can message him direct and give him tips on how he can take me apart in the rematch (or at the very least, congratulate him)!

In closing …

I’ve been prattling on long enough for one night, but let me mention two quick things before I go:

Firstly, you might enjoy my sermon from last Sunday. Unfortuantely there’s no audio version this week as my MP3 recorder has gone missing, but you can read the written version here.

The basic thesis of my sermon is that every complex problem always has a simple answer and it’s always the wrong answer! That might not sound much like a proclamation of the Gospel, but I see the cross of Christ as the ultimate illustration of this wisdom.

Confused? …. read the sermon!

And finally, thank you for all the lovely comments on my blog last week. You made my day! Feel free to comment again (and to post to the forum this week too)!

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
dave@fatherdave.org
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four