Christians Aid Sunni Syrian Refugees

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Sacrificial Love of Lebanon’s Christians

Reaching out to a million Muslim Syrian refugees.

By  – American Spectator

I recently returned from the Middle East, where I captured stories for a film project about Christians living their faith in the face of crippling persecution. In Beirut, Lebanon, I spoke with two Lebanese Christians, Georges Maalouly — a 48-year old, Orthodox father of three — and his friend Father Joseph — a priest at St. Tetla’s Catholic Church. They explained how Christians in Lebanon are coping with the arrival of more than a million refugees from Syria.

Most Syrian exiles are Sunni Muslims, and their arrival has started to drastically alter Lebanon’s delicate sectarian balance of Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. Economically, Syrian workers are driving down wages, and refugees place a severe burden on Lebanon’s already overtaxed and underfunded infrastructure. Despite this, many Lebanese Christians are choosing to help meet the needs of these refugees.

Syrian refugees in the Lebanese winter.

Syrian refugees in the Lebanese winter.

Jordan: The civil war in Syria has been raging for over three years. How has the conflict affected the Lebanese people? What challenges have you faced? How do you balance fear and compassion?

Fr. Joseph: In the last five to ten years we have had so many people coming from Iraq and now Syria and they have not found many opportunities. But we have done many things to help both Muslims and Christians. We pray with them, we adopt them, we encourage them and we feed them. We will always be here for them.

Georges: If we think in a political way, it’s difficult for the Christians of Lebanon to absorb a high number of Muslim refugees because then they will become the majority and everybody knows that it is the wish of other Middle Eastern Muslim countries to transform Lebanon from a Christian country to a Muslim country. In this way Christians will lose all their rights and will not stay free. Also, Muslim refugees will get all the job opportunities and our salaries will become low and prices for food and housing will rise. Despite this, we are ready to receive the Muslim refugees and host them and help them in order to show the love and mercy of Jesus.

Tetla Atipa Convent

Tetla Atipa Convent

Jordan: Georges, a majority of the Syrian people are victims of both the authoritarian dictatorship of Assad and the Al-Qaeda led rebels, many of whom are not Syrian but foreign fighters from the Gulf Arab States, among others. What have you and those around you done to help the refugees?

Georges: As a Christian man, I adore Jesus Christ and I try to transmit his light to others and try to let him shine through me so that every soul that comes into contact with me may feel his presence. I’m trying to preach not by words only, but by my example, by the sympathetic influence of what I do.

We started a prayer circle with friends and family many years ago. The prayer circle became larger and grew to more than 50 people. We pray the rosary together and read the Psalms and the Bible. Also we gather money to help poor people as Jesus taught us. Both Muslims and Christians.

Nowadays we are also helping Muslim Syrian refugees, as some of them couldn’t get help from the Lebanese government. Our government offers some food and a tent as shelter, but it is not enough.

I have hosted three Syrian men at my home; they were refugees without money or food. We helped them find work, and, after a while, they were able to rent a studio apartment and move on. One of them is still with my family. He lost his father, who was killed in Damascus. We treat him as a son.

Jordan: Georges, could you tell us the story of Abed El Rahman and his two sons.

Georges: I saw a man who is called Abed El Rahman with two children living on the street inside an old broken car without food or any cover or money or even shoes. My prayer group gathered money on Christmas and we visited this Muslim family and offered to help them with all their needs. We were even able to deliver Christmas presents. They were very happy. We now visit them, as well as others, monthly to help them with food and other necessities.

Jordan: Fr. Joseph, how do you respond to those in your congregation who are scared of the influx of so many Syrian refugees?

Fr. Joseph: Recently I have had many Christians tell me that they are scared. “Of what?” I ask. “Of terrorists? Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Pray for them.” We must take on the example of Jesus Christ, Christianity’s first martyr. Even our church is named after St. Tetla, the Church’s first martyr! Let’s not forget, as St. Paul said, “We are to be persecuted, but not forsaken…because we know who is our shepherd.”

Syrian_refugees_in_Lebanon

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Jordan: Georges, you have family in Syria. How are they doing?

Georges: My wife’s family lives in Damascus, close by the village Kokaba, where St. Paul fell down from his horse when Jesus appeared to him in a vision. They are living day by day, they refuse to leave Syria and come to live with us. They are counting on God’s protection and St. George’s, the intercessor of their village.

Jordan: Fr. Joseph, what do you say to those who lose hope?

Fr. Joseph: We are in Lebanon and we will stay in Lebanon. Nobody will remove us. We will die here. The Turkish came to Lebanon and spent 400 years here. Then they left. Next, the Syrians came to Lebanon and then they left. We are still here. We have faith in this land.

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

More Chemical WMD Attacks in Syria

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Syria rebels, government report poison gas attack

By Bassem Mroue – Yahoo News

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government media and rebel forces said Saturday that poison gas had been used in a central village, injuring scores of people, while blaming each other for the attack.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said the poison gas attack Friday hurt dozens of people in the village of Kfar Zeita in the central province of Hama. It did not say what type of gas was used.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that people suffered from suffocation and breathing problems after the attack, apparently conducted during air raids that left heavy smoke over the area. It gave no further details.

State-run Syrian television blamed members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front for using chlorine gas at Kfar Zeita, killing two people and injuring more than 100.

FILE: Aug. 28, 2013 citizen journalism file image provided by the United media office of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a member of UN investigation team taking samples of sands near a part of a missile that is likely to be one of the chemical rockets according to activists, in Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria.

FILE: Aug. 28, 2013 citizen journalism file image provided by the United media office of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a member of UN investigation team taking samples of sands near a part of a missile that is likely to be one of the chemical rockets according to activists, in Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria.

The TV report claimed the Nusra Front is preparing for another chemical attack against the Wadi Deif area in the northern province of Idlib, as well as another area in Hama. It did not explain how it knew the Nusra Front’s plans.

Activists in the village could not be reached Saturday.

An activist from Hama who is currently in Turkey and is on contact with activists and residents told The Associated Press that the attack occurred around sunset Friday. The man, who goes with the name Amir al-Basha, said the air raids on the rebel-held village came as nearby areas including Morek and Khan Sheikhoun have been witnessing intense clashes between troops and opposition fighters.

An amateur video posted online by opposition activists showed a hospital room in Kfar Zeita that was packed with men and children, some of whom breathing through oxygen masks. On one bed, the video showed six children on a bed, some appearing to have difficulty breathing while others cried.

The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other AP reporting of the attack.

Chemical weapons have been used before in Syria’s 3-year-old conflict. In August, a chemical attack near the capital, Damascus, killed hundreds of people. The U.S. and its allies blamed the Syrian government for that attack, which nearly sparked Western airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces. Damascus denied the charges and blamed rebels of staging the incident.

The Syrian National Coalition called on the United Nations to conduct a “quick investigation into the developments related to the use of poisonous gas against civilians in Syria.” The coalition claimed that another chemical weapons attack Friday struck the Damascus suburb of Harasta, though state media did not report on it.

An international coalition aims to remove and destroy 1,300 metric tons of chemicals held by the Assad government by June 30 in the wake of the August attack. Syria’s government missed a Dec. 31 deadline to remove the most dangerous chemicals in its stockpile and a Feb. 5 deadline to give up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons. Assad’s government cited security concerns and the lack of some equipment but has repeated that it remains fully committed to the process.

In the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest and one-time commercial center, the Observatory and state television reported intense clashes Saturday, mostly near a main intelligence office in the city’s contested neighborhood of Zahra.

Syrian state news agency SANA reported earlier Saturday that several mortar shells hit the government-held neighborhoods of Hamidiyeh and Khaldiyeh, killing at least six people and wounding 15.

Aleppo became a key front in the country’s civil war after rebels launched an offensive there in July 2012.

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

SOLG – Syria in Perspective – 2013 in Review

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

The Year 2013 in Review – Syrian Liaison Opposition Group 

The Syrian Opposition Liaison Group (SOLG, a Stand Up America US project) was established in 2012 and has been aiding the true Free Syrian Army High Command to communicate its message to the world. Since there is so much confusion in that war torn, bloody land, and the world’s press is handed so much misinformation and propaganda, the SOLG has worked tirelessly to share the truth on the ground.

In doing so, MG Paul E. Vallely of Stand Up America US (SUA) and his Senior Middle East Advisor, Col. Nagi N. Najjar, have traveled to the region several times in 2013 on fact finding and humanitarian aid missions. On one of those trips last August, the SOLG obtained special permission to enter Syria under the protection of the true Free Syrian Army High Command on a fact finding mission to Aleppo, Syria.

The following video is a compilation of parts of their trip into the war zone. They visited many areas in the Idlib and Aleppo Governorates, meeting with crucial leaders on the ground, and witnessing the horror that is Syria. Since they were under heavy security, all provided by the true leadership of FSA Supreme Commander Col. Riad al Asaad, and his second in command, Col. Malik Kurdi, they were able to travel safely. Over 400 FSA troops provided the back bone of security deploying heavy weapons, vehicles, and security protocols.

Please watch the whole video here or at SUA:

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Middle East has decided it can no longer rely on America

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Editor‘s Note – In a stunning development, one obviously prompted by tensions between the US and the gulf oil states, many Sunni states were represented in Kuwait at a summit that focused on mutual defense because of the rise of Iran’s attempts at regional hegemony. The Middle East has decided it can no longer rely on America.

The timing was also important as Iran actually walked out of talks with the US and the west as reported Friday Alakhbar English:

Iran has quit nuclear talks with world powers, accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the major powers in the talks, both played down the suspension and said talks were expected to resume soon.

But Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said the US move went against the spirit of the deal struck in Geneva under which the powers undertook to impose no further sanctions for six months in exchange for Iran curbing its controversial nuclear activities.

In addition to creating their own joint military command, they called for interlopers, the rival foreign militias in Syria to leave the theater:

Gulf Arab states demanded foreign militias quit Syria and said President Bashar al-Assad must have no future role Wednesday, in a declaration his Iran- and Hezbollah-backed regime denounced as meddling. Wrapping up a two-day annual summit in Kuwait City, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s leaders welcomed what they described as the new Iranian government’s shift to a positive policy toward the six-nation bloc.

The GCC leaders also approved the formation of a joint military command, but postponed a decision on a proposed union. Adopting a firm stance on Syria, the GCC “strongly condemned the continued genocide that Assad’s regime is committing against the Syrian people using heavy and chemical weapons.” It called “for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria,” in a clear reference to Iran-backed Shiite militias from Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement which are supporting Assad’s troops against Sunni-led rebels. (Read more at Arab Times.)

Once again we see more evidence that the foreign policy of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry has been an abject failure regarding Iran and Syria. John Kerry can play it down and use appeasing words, but he has been ‘punked’ once again. It must be asked again, what is Obama’s actual policy on any aspect of the Middle East?

Israeli/Palestinian talks – failure; Syria ‘red line’ – failure; Iran nuclear program/sanctions talks – failure; supporting the MB in Egypt – failure; reset with Russia – failure; failure after failure, and it reaches beyond to Afghanistan, China, and North Korea to name but a few. In fact, his foreign policy, and that of his last two Secretaries of State and UN Ambassadors – abject failures.

America is now less than a ‘paper tiger! Cross posted at StandUpAmericaUS.org, please read on:

Gulf nations to create joint military command

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab neighbors wrapped up a summit meeting in Kuwait on Wednesday by agreeing to establish a joint military command, paving the way for tighter security coordination even as their regional rival Iran pursues outreach efforts in the wake of its interim nuclear deal.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also agreed to lay the foundations for a joint Gulf police force and a strategic studies academy, according to a summary of the group’s closing statement carried by the official Kuwait News Agency.

Gulf Nations Summit

Taken together, the initiatives suggest that the U.S.-allied Gulf states are seeking to do more to ensure their collective security amid the prospect of warmer relations between Iran and the West. The Islamic Republic agreed last month to freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from Western economic sanctions.

Many in the Gulf remain wary of Tehran’s intentions. Saudi Arabia in particular sees a stronger Iran as a threat to its own influence, and it and other Gulf states are major backers of the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government is backed by Iran. [Read more…]

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Al-Qaeda at 25

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare

Bin Laden is dead but the bad idea behind his terrorist organization lives on

By Stewart Post – National Post

As the Soviet army was preparing to limp out of Afghanistan a quarter-century ago after eight pointless years, Osama bin Laden and his hardline Egyptian allies gathered in northwest Pakistan to ask: what next?

The radical Palestinian cleric Abdullah Azzam wanted the Arabs who had fought the Soviets to take their battle to Israel. But what emerged from that three-day confab at bin Laden’s house was something far more ambitious.

Like boys forming a secret club, they drafted membership rules, an oath and a vague mission statement: “Al-Qaeda is basically an organized Islamic faction,” they wrote. “Its goal will be to lift the word of God, to make His religion victorious.”

The 25th anniversary of Al-Qaeda is, if nothing else, a milestone to the perseverance of a bad idea. Bin Laden is dead and his terrorist training camps are gone. But the notion that an army of religious fanatics can reorder the world through unrelenting violence has proven persistent.

Al-Qaeda was conceived as “a vehicle to promote a global jihadi revolution,” said Prof. Bruce Hoffman, director of the Centre for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University. “And I think it’s still going on. It’s changed, of course, but I think Al-Qaeda was always as much an idea as an organization. And what we see is that the idea, unfortunately, still has considerable resiliency.”

While Al-Qaeda’s central command in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been decimated since the 9/11 attacks, it has spawned affiliates in pockets of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, where self-appointed soldiers of God have hijacked local conflicts and aligned them with Al-Qaeda’s global agenda.

Since 2003, Al-Qaeda has “absorbed or merged” with 10 terrorist groups and upped its presence in 19 countries, Prof. Martin Rudner of Carleton University wrote in a paper published this month in the journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. “In the words of a high ranking British intelligence official, ‘Al-Qaeda has split like a piece of mercury into different groups in different countries,’” he wrote.

Al-Qaeda had 15 members when it launched in the fall of 1988. What the founders envisioned was a base — al-qaeda, in Arabic — for their Egyptian-inspired ideology, which combines armed militancy with a claim to divine legitimacy.

What may have been its first act of terrorism occurred a year later, when Azzam was killed by a car bomb in Peshawar, eliminating bin Laden’s chief ideological rival. It was another nine years before bin Laden issued his infamous call to action, in which he urged the killing of “Americans and their allies, civilians and military,” and said it was “an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country.”

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks established the Al-Qaeda brand but if its larger strategy was to become the doctrinal headquarters for a global conflict, it has accomplished that. “I would say that it’s proven to be a tremendous success. It’s outlived its founder and leader, and that in and of itself is proof of its viability and vitality,” Prof. Hoffman said. “At the end of 2013, it’s a thriving enterprise.”

Wherever they have popped up, Al-Qaeda fighters have succeeded by being the most militant, dogmatic fighters on the battlefield. They have deliberately targeted civilians, eliminated rival factions that challenged them and mastered the use of propaganda to tap popular discontent and perversely cloak their political agenda in religious terms, quoting from scripture to justify horrific violence.

Many had hoped the Arab Spring would be the end of Al-Qaeda, which was irrelevant as popular protest brought down one Middle East regime after another — something decades of terrorist violence had failed to accomplish.

For a while, Al-Qaeda stumbled around in Mali and Yemen. Its affiliates pulled off high-profile attacks at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, an Algerian gas plant and Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall. But it was the Syrian conflict that put Al-Qaeda “back in the game,” as a declassified Canadian Security Intelligence Service report put it.

Extremist factions that follow Al-Qaeda doctrine — notably the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Al Nusrah Front — are entrenched in Syria now, and they have brought with them suicide bombings, beheadings, and their aggressive version of Islamic law, forcing women, for example, to wear only the black head-to-toe robes of ultraconservatives.

Since 2003, Al-Qaeda has "absorbed or merged" with 10 terrorist groups and upped its presence in 19 countries, a recent journal article noted. - Romaric Ollo Hien/AFP/Getty Images

Since 2003, Al-Qaeda has “absorbed or merged” with 10 terrorist groups and upped its presence in 19 countries, a recent journal article noted. – Romaric Ollo Hien/AFP/Getty Images

“They are mostly foreigners coming to impose their ideologies on us,” a Syrian who was tortured by ISIL members in Raqqa province, told the BBC this week. His crime: he was deemed a “non-believer” for supporting secularism. [Read more…]

DeliciousDiggGoogle+RedditPinterestSpurlShare