15 March 2018
The love we develop for the animals of the world is a bond that is hard to explain. It is one so strong that even after the animal is no longer alive, the love is still there and the memories. We know it is true with our beautiful Golden Retrievers that we have had the joy of knowing and loving during their life span.
They are loyal and ready to do the job they were trained to do.
Do the animals feel the same bond? It is hard to say, but we hear of those who have traveled miles to get back to a home where they once lived and were loved. They have the special senses that God has given them…smell, sight and a keenness far beyond human abilities. Their survival skills are many, but just as human infants, they often must rely on care and intervention to make it to adulthood.
Our military often owe their lives to the bravery of the dogs who have fought alongside them.
Recently I watched a story of love and care by one of a Marine stationed in Syria. His story and bond to a little dog caught up in the brutalities of war is worth sharing in this blog.
Video: Turn up sound
As the world becomes extremely tense and upset over the situation in Syria, the average person probably wonders what this is all about. The horrors of it, with chemical attacks on little children and civilians, make it a matter of total world concern. What is happening in Syria could happen in any country.
The best explanation with charts and statistics that I have seen so far is the following article posted by the BBC (British Broadcasting Company). At the end of this article is the question….”Will this war ever end?” That question is a hard one and is probably on everyone’s mind.
BBC ARTICLE BELOW:
Why is there a war in Syria?
A peaceful uprising against the president of Syria seven years ago has turned into a full-scale civil war. The conflict has left more than 350,000 people dead, devastated cities and drawn in other countries.
How did the Syrian war start?
Even before the conflict began, many Syrians were complaining about high unemployment, corruption and a lack of political freedom under President Bashar al-Assad, who succeeded his late father Hafez in 2000.
In March 2011, pro-democracy demonstrations erupted in the southern city of Deraa, inspired by the “Arab Spring” in neighboring countries.
When the government used deadly force to crush the dissent, protests demanding the president’s resignation erupted nationwide.
The unrest spread and the crackdown intensified. Opposition supporters took up arms, first to defend themselves and later to rid their areas of security forces. Mr Assad vowed to crush what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”.
The violence rapidly escalated and the country descended into civil war.
How many people have died?
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group with a network of sources on the ground, had documented the deaths of 353,900 people by March 2018, including 106,000 civilians.
The figure did not include 56,900 people who it said were missing and presumed dead. The group also estimated 100,000 deaths had not been documented.
Meanwhile, the Violations Documentation Center, which relies on activists inside Syria, has recorded what it considers violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including attacks on civilians.
It had documented 185,980 battle-related deaths, including 119,200 civilians, by February 2018.
What is the war about?
It is now more than a battle between those for or against Mr. Assad.
Many groups and countries – each with their own agendas – are involved, making the situation far more complex and prolonging the fighting.
Such divisions have led both sides to commit atrocities, torn communities apart and dimmed hopes of peace.
They have also allowed the jihadist groups Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda to flourish.
Syria’s Kurds, who want the right of self-government but have not fought Mr Assad’s forces, have added another dimension to the conflict.
The government’s key supporters are Russia and Iran, while the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia back the rebels.
Russia – which already had military bases in Syria – launched an air campaign in support of Mr. Assad in 2015 that has been crucial in turning the tide of the war in the government’s favor.
The Russian military says its strikes only target “terrorists” but activists say they regularly kill mainstream rebels and civilians.
Iran is believed to have deployed hundreds of troops and spent billions of dollars to help Mr. Assad.
Thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen armed, trained and financed by Iran – mostly from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, but also Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen – have also fought alongside the Syrian army.
The US, UK, France and other Western countries have provided varying degrees of support for what they consider “moderate” rebels.
A global coalition they lead has also carried out air strikes on IS militants in Syria since 2014 and helped an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) capture territory from the jihadists.
Turkey has long supported the rebels but it has focused on using them to contain the Kurdish militia that dominates the SDF, accusing it of being an extension of a banned Kurdish rebel group in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia, which is keen to counter Iranian influence, has also armed and financed the rebels.
Israel, meanwhile, has been so concerned by shipments of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria that it has conducted air strikes in an attempt to thwart them.
How has the country been affected?
As well as causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, the war has left 1.5 million people with permanent disabilities, including 86,000 who have lost limbs.
At least 6.1 million Syrians are internally displaced, while another 5.6 million have fled abroad.
Neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where 92% of them now live, have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.
The warring parties have made the problems worse by refusing aid agencies access to many of those in need. Almost 3 million people live in besieged or hard-to-reach areas.
Syrians also have limited access to healthcare.
Physicians for Human Rights had documented 492 attacks on 330 medical facilities by the end of December 2017, resulting in the deaths of 847 medical personnel.
Much of Syria’s rich cultural heritage has also been destroyed. All six of the country’s six Unesco World Heritage sites have been damaged significantly.
Entire neighborhoods have been leveled across the country.
INTERACTIVE See how Jobar, Eastern Ghouta, has been destroyed
How is the country divided?
The government has regained control of Syria’s biggest cities but large parts of the country are still held by rebel groups and the Kurdish-led SDF alliance.
The largest opposition stronghold is the north-western province of Idlib, home to more than 2.6 million people.
Despite being designated a “de-escalation zone”, Idlib is the target of an offensive by the government, which says it is targeting jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.
A ground assault is also underway in the Eastern Ghouta. Its 393,000 residents have been under siege by the government since 2013, and are facing intense bombardment as well as severe shortages of food and medical supplies.
The SDF meanwhile controls most territory east of the River Euphrates, including the city of Raqqa. Until 2017, it was the de facto capital of the “caliphate” proclaimed by IS, which now controls only a few pockets across Syria.
Will the war ever end?
It does not look like it will any time soon but everyone agrees a political solution is required.
But nine rounds of UN-mediated peace talks – known as the Geneva II process – since 2014 have shown little progress.
President Assad has appeared increasingly unwilling to negotiate with the opposition. The rebels still insist he must step down as part of any settlement.
Meanwhile, Western powers have accused Russia of undermining the peace talks by setting up a parallel political process.
The so-called Astana process saw Russia host a “Congress of National Dialogue” in January 2018. However, most opposition representatives refused to attend.
The blood of the martyrs still flows. Father Frans van der Lugt refused to leave the Christians of Homs, Syria and now he has been shot in cold blood.
One may recall Homs became an opposition stronghold and the Syrian government launched a military assault against the city in May 2011. By 14 January, the government was in control of Homs except for the Old City, which remains in rebel hands and is under government siege. Fighting has left large parts of the city destroyed.
Aljazeera reported the murder of this Dutch Priest:
“I can confirm that he’s been killed,” Jan Stuyt, secretary of the Dutch Jesuit Order, told the AFP news agency by phone.
“A man came into his house, took him outside and shot him twice in the head. In the street in front of his house.”
Stuyt said he was not aware of particular threats to van der Lugt, adding that the priest would be buried in Syria “according to his wishes”.
Van der Lugt spent nearly five decades in Syria, and said in February that he considered the country to be his home…”
The following was written in the Daily Sun in February news concerning Father Frans and why he did not leave :
BEIRUT (Feb 5, 2014): There is little food or hope left in Syria’s besieged Old City of Homs. But an elderly Dutch priest has remained there in solidarity with the Syrians he considers countrymen.
Father Frans van der Lugt has spent nearly five decades in Syria, a country he loves so dearly that he considers it his own, although he was born in The Netherlands.
Despite crushing hardship in Homs, where residents face a daily struggle to find food and the Christian population has dwindled to a few dozen, the thought of leaving could not be further from his mind.
“I’m the head of the monastery, how could I leave it? How could I leave the Christians behind? It would be impossible,” he told AFP in an interview over Skype.
“The Syrian people have given me so much, so much kindness, inspiration and everything they have. If the Syrian people are suffering now, I want to share their pain and their difficulties.”
Father Frans, a Jesuit, arrived in Syria in 1966 after spending two years in Lebanon studying Arabic.
At 75, his eyes still sparkle behind his glasses as he talks, and he smiles as he describes his relationship with his adopted home.
But he describes soberly the suffering of the estimated 3,000 people left in Homs’s Old City, under a suffocating army siege and daily regime bombardment.
Father Frans was Dutch, but U-Tube showed a mob gathered to behead a Syrian Catholic priest in Gassanieh, Syria. It showed people standing around with their cameras and phones getting pictures of what was about to happen. As the Syrian Priest, whose name I do not know, was actually beheaded, the video was censored. It is hard to believe that people can do this in the name of religion, but Father Frans knew the dangers he faced. Yet, he stayed in the name of Christ and the love of God.
There have been many martyrs for their faith in Christ starting with the disciples who knew Him personally. Fox’s Book of Martyrs tell of those who were persecuted; refusing to denounce their Lord; and paid the ultimate price. In the Holy Scriptures, Book of Revelation 20:4 we are told:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years…”
Father Frans will be with those who were faithful to the end.
According to the AP:
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighters from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front and the Qalamon Liberation Front still control Maaloula, an ancient village that is home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Rebels captured this village on Saturday and it is reported that nuns are trying to find safe places for the orphans that they care for. Priests are also being tortured by extremist Muslim rebels.
Situated about 40 miles northeast of Damascus, Maaloula had until recently been firmly under the regime’s grip despite sitting in the middle of rebel-held territory east and north of the capital.
The village was a major tourist attraction before the civil war. Some of its residents still speak a version of Aramaic, a biblical language believed to have been used by Jesus. Maaloula is known as the last surviving place where Western Aramaic (Aramaic of Jesus) is still spoken.
Some History facts:
For many centuries, the desert has provided escape and isolation for those who have left their normal life, to be alone with their God. From the beginning of the first millennium, it has been a sanctuary inhabited by monks and hermits which, in the 3rd century AD, became the birthplace of Christian monasticism.I
Mar Sarkis is one of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. It was built on the site of a pagan temple, and has elements which go back to the fifth to sixth century Byzantine period.
Mar Sarkis is the Arabic name for Saint Sergius, a Roman soldier who was executed for his Christian beliefs. This monastery still maintains its solemn historical character. Mar Taqla St. Thecla Monastery holds the remains of St. Taqla (Thecla); daughter of one of Seleucid princes, and pupil of St. Paul.( according to author, James Gordon)
Modern-Day Tragedy for Syrian Christians:
The savage attacks on the village of Maaloula highlights fears among Syrian Christians that the alternative to Assad’s regime — which is made up mostly of Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam — would not tolerate minority religions. The spotlight now is on the deep-seated fears that many of Syria’s religious minorities harbor about the growing role of Islamic extremists on the rebel side in Syria’s civil war. This very fear should be a focus that every Senate, House Member and Americans should be asking when looking at Syria. Would we enable those terrorizing the Syrian Christians to take control in this Civil War?
The video below shows scenes from Maaloula Monastaries.
Yesterday, our prayers at church were that the U.S. Congress will do what is best when voting whether to strike Syria. It is a very tough situation…and the proposal to do something in a “limited” response may not deter anything at all. It is an area that is already devastated and now its people have been attacked with chemical weapons. Nevertheless, the world is watching and waiting to see if we have any spit left in our mouth at all. (that is an old N.C. saying…as to guts).
An article by Jeffrey Heller and Angus McDowall said “…Tzachi Hanegbi, a Netanyahu confidant who sits on the Israeli parliament’s defense committee, complained that Obama’s statements had delivered further proof to Iran – and North Korea – that “there is no enthusiasm in the world to deal with their ongoing defiance regarding nuclear weaponry…To us in Israel, it says one thing: …‘If I am not for myself, then who is?'” …
For all the unease that Israel has about Syria’s rebels, who have at times fired into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, it is pushing hard against Assad now after learning to live with the Syrian leader and his father over the past 40 years… The message from Netanyahu was clear:”There is a man in nominal control of Syria who is using chemical weapons against civilians. That has to be stopped.”
Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Shoura Council, said that U.S. strikes should aim to end Assad’s rule…Askar said “If the attack is just a punishment to show that the international community will not stand for chemical attacks, Assad will just remain in his place and do his bloody work. The second scenario is to finish the business.”
Another report on August 28 said, “An unnamed senior Syrian army officer told the Iranian news agency Fars: “If Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire and such an attack will, in turn, engage Syria’s neighbors.” Israel is “prepared for every scenario” and will respond forcefully if necessary, Netanyahu said.”
In looking at future threats to tiny Israel, Iran has already said they want to wipe Israel off the map. When their nuclear weapons are ready, they intend to make this attempt. There is no way that tiny Israel will sit back and wait for a chemical or nuclear attack on its people. They now have decided that they can not depend on Washington to “watch their back” and may have to go it alone!
Going it alone, as we know, is impossible. Someone will have to step up to the plate with them. When the American war ships were sent to the Syrian coast…the Russians sent some of their own to keep an eye on what is going on. Can we ever believe that the Russians would defend Israel if they should be attacked with any form of weapons? Never! There is too much involved with Russia’s oil interest with Syria….not to mention the oil interests of the United States and Europe.
For those who say, ” It is not our war…the Middle East has been fighting one another for thousands of years…” This is a new day. We are connected one nation to another through our own cyber abilities. Radical terrorism has spread across the globe. Any time a war breaks out…especially on a big scale or a limited one…there is an impact on most everyone in the world. The stock markets in major countries go ballistic…gas prices sky rocket…air freight and truckers take a great hit…and so do we in our own homes...for it is a trickle-down effect that no one can deny.
Economies around the world will not recover for years even if dictators are toppled…so others can take their place. There is also the Suez Canal to consider along with human lives from any disaster. The rest of the world depends on keeping this open. Yes, it is all a huge mess. No nation can be perfectly right in any decision made.
Only God knows what will happen by the decisions to be made now…and in the long run. The world cannot expect Israel to go it alone ….for they can’t. Every church, temple, synagogue, and mosque should be pleading for God’s help!
We are all in it together like it or not.