Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Should Fight Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao’s easy victory over the previously unbeaten Chris Algieri has built up pressure for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to happen possibly in the first half of 2015. There has long been a clamor from boxing fans and promoters the world over for the two boxers to fight. However, issues on drug test, money and personal grudges prevented the much awaited fight to materialize. Boxing fans put the blame on the non happening of the fight more on Mayweather than on Manny Pacquiao. They think that Mayweather is making excuses to avoid an encounter with Pacquiao so that he could maintain his undefeated record.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are today’s world most popular boxers. And a boxing match of them is estimated to generate as much as 1 billion dollars in pay-per-view revenue alone considering that Pacquiao’s fights in Macau, China has spurred interest in boxing in that country. Boxing promoters are working out for the realization of the fight and are contemplating to give Mayweather juicy offers such as a bigger prize and a rematch option in case he loses the fight to make him accept the challenge. If the fight takes place Mayweather is estimated to earn from 150-100 million dollars and Pacquiao from 100-60 million dollars. That kind of money is the biggest purse they could ever earn in their career if they could cut a deal for the dreamed mega fight.  

Both fighters are already very rich and famous and have cemented their legacy in boxing. Floyd Mayweather is the reigning undefeated welterweight boxing champion and has fought the best opponents in his weight category except Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao is an eight division world boxing champion and has fought the best opponents in different weight divisions.

Former boxing champions such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Oscar de la Hoya, Felix Trinidad among other boxing greats had never turned down a challenge from worthy opponents in the course of their boxing career.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. should agree to fight Manny Pacquiao. For what good are his undefeated records and his money if he continues to avoid one of the best opponents there is to fight? Pacquiao has already signified his willingness to fight Floyd anytime, anywhere and that his phone is always open for communication with Floyd regarding the fight. Mayweather and Pacquiao both become what they are now because of the patronage of the fight fans that enjoyed seeing their fights. They should return the favor by seeing to it that the fight should happen. Both of them are in their mid thirties and there are only few remaining fights left for them. Mayweather is a long reigning undefeated boxing champion and is currently considered as the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound. However, his refusal to face Manny Pacquiao might overshadow that reputation. And the future might remember him in boxing history as a cowardly undefeated welterweight champion.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Armed Conflicts in Syria and Iraq Threatens Christian Communities with Extinction

Photo credit to Massalim (from Wikipedia)
Civil wars and rebellions in Syria and Iraq have triggered the Diaspora of Christians to other lands where they can make their family safe from harm. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Arab Spring which toppled down well entrenched authoritarian leaders and the rise of the ISIS in Syria and Iraq have had a negative impact on the lives of Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis.

Peoples in the west have negative views on autocratic leaders such as the late Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Khadafy of Libya and the deposed and imprisoned Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Although those leaders were considered as dictatorial and corrupt, they were able to effectively control troublesome and problematic groups such as the Islamist extremists and the separatist minorities. On the positive side, the strong authoritarian regimes had made Christians live peacefully with their Muslim neighbors. The deposition of Hussein only resulted to a replacement by a weak leader who could not deal with rival factions in Iraq. In the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president. However, the military view Morsi and his organization as extremist, and the military led by General  Abdel Fattah el Sisi deposed him in a coup d’ etat in 2013. If Morsi had stayed long in office, the Christians could have been a target of persecutions in Egypt and could result in their leaving the country. It is noteworthy that in Morsi’s short stay in office there were clashes between opposition groups and his supporters, and there were mass protests by the people in the streets.  With Morsi gone, Egypt now has enjoyed a relative peace compared to other countries that are also affected by the Arab Spring such as Syria and Iraq.

 Although the west depicted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad as a brutal dictator, minorities such as Christians have not suffered persecutions under his leadership. Armed oppositions of his regime such as the Nusra Front and the ISIS are groups with extreme religious views and are considered terrorist organizations by the west. Replacement of the present Syrian leadership with any of these groups may not bode well for the minority Christians living in Syria.  

The crisis in Syria and Iraq has brought forth the emergence of groups that have extreme religious view such as the al Nusra and the ISIS. The ISIS has captured swath of lands from those countries for its caliphate. Wherever it goes it commits unimaginable atrocities to fellow Muslims, Christians and other minorities such as the Yazidis. Its onslaught seemed to be unstoppable at the start, but lately its image of invincibility has started to crumble with the gradual recapture of ISIS-held lands by the Iraqi, Kurdish and the coalition forces.

ISIS has a signature style of casting terror into the minds of its victims to make them submit to its will. Its acts include forcibly converting Christians and other groups including even the Shias to its extreme interpretation of Islam. Christians are given the option to pay the jisya tax if they will not change their religion otherwise they will leave the area or be killed. People who cross ISIS’ path will be killed, their properties seized and their female relatives raped or turned into sex slave. Under this condition Christians and even Muslim evacuate to other areas for their own safety.

It remains to be seen if the ISIS could successfully and effectively run its caliphate. Its seized oil wells and refineries are bombed by US and coalition planes to cripple down its ability to fund its operations. However, some analysts say that ISIS is not easy to defeat. And they are not certain when the conflict ends. But until then Syria and Iraq will be depopulated gradually of its Christian minority. Christians will emigrate to the neighboring countries and to far away western countries including USA, Canada and Australia. And probably those who do will not come back. The armed conflicts have paved the way for an eventual disappearance of Christianity from the land of its birth. It is ironic that as the Christian faith steadily spreads in many countries making it as the largest religion of the world as ever, it is slowly disappearing in the land where it has a 2,000 year-old rich biblical and historical legacies.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kobane, a Significant Battle Site between the Kurds and the ISIS

A US Air Force Photo from Wikipedia
The initial military successes of the ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been reversed with the recent gains made by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces which are supported by US and coalition airstrikes. Waging a jihad and trying to establish a caliphate based on its extreme interpretation of Islam,  the Islamic State, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, is a big threat not only to the security of the Middle East but also to the world.                                                            
Although it claims to be inspired by Islam, the ISIS is disowned by Islamic religious and political leaders who say that its action is un-Islamic. In the battle fronts Muslims and non-Muslims are the victims of the ISIS’ aggression. Local tribesmen have to cooperate or do the bidding of the terror group lest they be punished. ISIS brutalities include among other acts mass executions of captured enemies and kidnappings of women and making them as sex slaves.

The terror group is able to sustain its operation through seizure of oil fields and selling oil through the black market, kidnapping for ransom and other illegal activities. It is also able to have its supply of recruits with the use of the internet. Its effort in the social media such as Facebook and Twitter has attracted fresh fighters from western countries, USA, Canada and other parts of the world. Lately, however, the number of new arrivals has decreased which is an indication that the appeal of the terror group to attract new members to its fold might have been affected by flood of news report depicting it in a very bad light.

The Kurds are indigenous people in parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran who are courageously resisting the ISIS advance into their territory. While some Iraqi forces ran away from the enemies in battles, the Kurds prefer to fight to the death rather than giving in to the demand of the terror group. The Kurdish forces in the battle front include even women. The Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic minority in the Middle East who has suffered long years of persecution from the leaders in the four countries where they live in.

To show its power, the ISIS has to deal with the Kurds defiance. It has attacked some Kurdish inhabited area to include Kobane which is situated in the Syria-Turkish border. The ISIS captured part of Kobane on September 2014. But fierce resistance of the outgunned Kurds has kept the jihadists from moving further. At that time many analysts thought that it would just be a matter of time before the town could fall to the terrorists. However, the intervention of the US with its air support has helped the Kurd stall the advance of the ISIS and prevented it from capturing the city.

Turkey which was earlier hesitant to provide military assistance to the embattled Kurds in Kobane has now allowed hundreds of peshmerga forces to enter Kobane through its territory. This peshmerga forces now is using artillery to pound ISIS positions. This development is a big boost to the morale of the Kurds in its effort to repel the ISIS from Kobane.

To some analysts Kobane is of less significance than to other areas that are also besieged by the terrorists. But the city has now gained prominence with the attention given to it by the world media. The city is now widely known to many people all over the world because of the ISIS phenomenon. Whichever side prevails in this ongoing battle will have the psychological edge over its opponent. For the ISIS a victory in Kobane is an inspiration to expand the coverage of its caliphate, and for the Kurds, a victory is a promotion of solidarity and loyalty to their own ethnic group and to the land or the territory which they consider as their own. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Kurds

Kurdish girls
The Kurds are semi-nomadic tribes living in areas that is called Kurdistan which spans Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. They are ethnically related to the Iranian people and speak Kurdish, a language of the western Iranian branch of the Indo-European language. The Kurds have a population of about 26 to 34 million in Kurdistan that live within the territory of other countries: about 55% in Turkey, about 18% each in Iraq and Iran and a bit over 5% in Syria. Kurds represent 18% of the population of Turkey, 7-10% of Iran, 17% of Iraq and 9% of Syria. In addition, there are about 1 to 2 million Kurds who are living in Diaspora. Most of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims, but there are others who profess diverse beliefs such as Christianity, Judaism, Yazidi and Shia Islam.                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                 Kurdish-inhabited areas                                                                                                 
The rise of Islam and the Arab conquest resulted to the conversion of the majority of the Kurds to the Muslim faith. In the 11th century the Kurds were subjugated by the Seljuk Turks, and Kurdistan was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. Ethno-linguistic and cultural differences as well as suppression by the Arab and Turkish rulers gave rise to the aspiration of the Kurds to have an independent state of their own. 
After the end of WW1 and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds were promised an independent state of Kurdistan in the Treaty of Serves in 1920, but this was not kept. The proposal for independence was dropped from the provision of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

In Turkey, the desire of the Kurds for an independent state and the government’s effort for the nation’s integrity resulted to the suppression of the Turks and to their rebellion. Out of this conflict the Marxist inspired Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan or PKK has emerged. The PKK and the Turkish army engaged in an open war from 1984 to 1989. The PKK was listed by the United States, Turkey and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

In Iraq, in 1970, the government announced a peace plan that would provide the Kurds autonomy. However, its policy of Arabization was a contradiction to that plan and created an atmosphere of animosity between the Kurds and the Iraqi regime. The Kurds were subjected to harassment such as deportation from their ancestral lands and then having the lands resettled by Arabs. In 1991 Kurdish guerillas captured Erbil and Sulaimaniya from the Iraqi troops. The Iraqi government retaliated by imposing fuel embargo to the Kurds and by stopping salary payment of civil servants in the Kurdistan region. The move of the Iraqis backfired when the Kurds held a parliamentary election in 1992 establishing the Kurdistan Regional Government or KRG. The authority of the KRG and the legalities of its laws were recognized by the new Iraqi constitution that was ratified in 2005. In Syria the Kurds have also experienced persecution and discrimination such as prohibiting them from using Kurdish in naming their children and their business and in speaking their own language.

The Kurds have fared better in Iran than in other countries that include parts of Kurdistan as their territory. This is maybe due to the linguistic, ethnic and other affinities which the Iranians and Kurds share. Kurds in Iran have the least desire for an independent state than those Kurds of other countries.
The Arab Spring which toppled autocratic leaders in the Middle East also sparked the civil war in Syria. ISIS an offshoot of Al Qaeda has come out as the biggest threat not only to President Bahar al-Assad but also to the entire Middle East and the world. The militant Islamic group conquered a large swath of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate lead by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The brutalities employed by ISIS such massacres of men including children, mass abduction and rape of women, destruction of historical and religious sites and persecution of people on account of their ethnicity or religion have shocked the world. Some Muslim countries including clerics have denounced the ISIS and called their actions as un-Islamic.

Landlocked Kurdistan which lay on the borders of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran with rich oil fields is a logical ISIS target. And in fact some Kurdish territories are under siege by the militants. This situation will only strengthen the spirit of nationalism and cooperation among the Kurds. Even if majority of them are Muslims, Sunni Kurds came to the rescue of fellow non-Muslim Kurds such as the Yazidis during the conflict. There is also cooperation between the Marxist PKK and Kurds who are adherents of religious belief. Therefore, Kurds fight against the ISIS has unified them.

In the conflict involving the ISIS, it is the Kurdish forces that bear much of the brunt of the battle. In contrast to the Iraqi security forces which ran away from battles leaving behind their weapons to the enemy, the Kurds are a sight of bravery in combat. With the help of the US and European countries which provided them air support, the Kurds are able to slow or halt the ISIS advance.

The courage and determination of the Kurds to defeat a barbaric enemy has won the admiration of the world. Its defeat of the ISIS could only further their resolve to have an independent state of their own. And a victory might make many countries favorable to that aspiration. However it remains to be seen whether Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria would allow an establishment of an independent Kurdistan that is carved out from their respective territories. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Social Media and the Battle against the ISIS

The rise of the ISIS and its battle against the governments of Syria and Iraq and the Kurds and other armed groups has caught the curiosity and attention of people around the world. Negative news reports on ISIS members’ actions in combats and their treatment of captives and civilians have horrified many people.

Aside from the physical battle, the parties to the conflict also take into account its psychological dimension to boost the war effort. In this regard, the social media particularly Facebook and Twitter has become an unwitting tool or a venue for the battle to win the people’s hearts and minds in the conflict involving ISIS and its opponents.

Concerned of the bad publicity it has brought to Islam since the ISIS claims that it has carried out its act in the name of the religion, leaders of Saudi Arabia and religious clerics as well as some Islamic association of America and Europe have denounced the ISIS stating that the actions and behavior of its members are not compatible with the tenets of Islam. In fact Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan have joined the US led coalition to provide airstrike against the ISIS’ members and their facilities. Other western countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands and Australia have also given support to the forces that are fighting the ISIS such as the Kurds and the Iraqi army.

In a battle, the side which has a superior firepower, proficient and well motivated troops as well as good commanders usually prevails over its weaker opponent. However, the battle to win the people’s hearts and minds including those of the non-combatants cannot be overlooked. This is proven in the American defeat in the Vietnam War. And in the Arab Spring the social media particularly Facebook and Twitter was a tool that galvanized world opinion against state of affairs in the Middle East. The use of the social media stoked the flame of people’s revolt that toppled down long serving and well entrenched autocratic rulers such as the late Col. Muammar Khadafy of Libya and former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Appalled by the atrocities of the ISIS, some internet users are bringing their opinion and sentiments against it in the internet. Some formed groups in Facebook with the aim of denouncing the ISIS and of giving users updates on news and on the battle that is raging on between the ISIS and the Kurds and other forces opposing it such as the Iraqi and Syrian armies.

The opposition to ISIS is gaining momentum in the social media. And the post and the interaction of users about the ISIS could somehow influence world opinion for or against it. A group such as the ISIS that wants people to submit to their wishes and demands through sheer acts of terror cannot possibly win the hearts and minds of the people in the world.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Brutalities of the ISIS

Waging jihad to establish Islamic caliphate, the ISIS emerges as the most fearsome and well funded terrorist organization in the world. Its ferocity and determination have made it conquer large swath of lands in Syria and Iraq. During a battle Iraqi security forces fled from engagement leaving behind large quantity of weapons given to them by the Americans. The bonanza of American weapons and their initial military victories were a big boost to the morale of the ISIS fighters.

The advance of the ISIS has displaced thousands of indigenous population. Its onslaught created a flow of refugees in Northern Iraq and the Turkish borders. The ISIS which is mostly composed of Sunnis is at odds with the local Shiites, and armed confrontations are common occurrence between them. Conquering an area, the ISIS militants give the minorities such as the Christians and the Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed. In areas that fell under their control after a military operation, the militants imposed harsh actions to the local populace. Women and children are separated from the men. The men including older male children are then killed execution style. The method of execution includes shooting, beheading and crucifying. Captured or kidnapped women are then raped or made as sex slaves. Selected young women are gifted to ISIS commanders as “wives”. Captured children are trained to become “holy warriors” or suicide bombers.

The US and western nations airstrikes have given the Kurds, the Iraqi security forces and other local militias a breathing space to deal with the ISIS. The Peshmerga the Kurdish armed forces which took the brunt of the fighting were able to recapture lost grounds. With US air support and weapons supplied by France and other European nations' the Kurds stalled or halted the ISIS advance into their territory.

Getting back at the Americans, the ISIS beheaded two American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in an effort to intimidate them and their allies. France which is active in the campaign against the terror group was also given a warning that its citizens will be targeted.

Despite the US air strikes, the ISIS militants have shown their superiority over local adversaries especially the Iraqi security forces. In the middle of September 2014, ISIS militants besieged an Iraqi army unit guarding a strategic supply route in Western Anbar. Suicide bombers dressed as Iraqi soldiers on bomb-laden Humvee vehicles drove through an army camp and detonated the bombs into the Iraqi soldiers’ positions. The explosions inflicted heavy casualties to the surprised Iraqi army. Amid the chaos and confusion that ensued, the militants then assaulted and overran the camp and killed as many as 250 Iraqi soldiers. Those who were not killed were captured or were able to escape. It is estimated that the Iraqi security forces lost about 500 of its troops that are listed as either killed or missing in that battle.

The brutalities of the ISIS have made some leaders and clerics of Muslim world such as Saudi Arabia to denounce the group. They stated that the group’s actions are disgrace to the Islamic faith and are not compatible with the principles of Islam. And that the ISIS does not represent the Muslims. Putting their money where their mouths are, Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain with Qatar in supporting role have joined the coalition of countries that conducted airstrikes against the ISIS in Syria.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental

The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Philippines. Pilgrims come to the shrine to pray, attend masses, make confession, make spiritual retreat or healing petition, and attend important religious occasions such as the Holy Week, the Feast of the Divine Mercy and the birthday of Mama Mary or the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.                                                                                                             
The shrine is situated on a 9-hectare Divine Mercy Hill in Barangay Ulaliman, El Salvador City. The main feature of the shrine is the statue of Jesus Christ. The statue was made in accordance with Mother Faustina  Kowalska’s  description of the Divine Mercy who is Jesus Christ who appeared to her in dreams. The 50-foot tall statue overlooks Macajalar Bay and awes visitors and pilgrims with its imposing size. Over the head of the statue is a halo. The right hand is raised in blessing while the left is placed on the breast which flows forth two rays. In the “rays” are stairs leading to the chamber of the Sacred Heart where devotees can make their petition to God. The ones in the right go up into the chamber while the others in the left descend into the ground. A well manicured garden adorns the sloping ground in front of the statue. And right below it is a huge lawn where devotees can gather to attend mass that is held in the open during special religious occasions. Devotees are required to dress modestly while inside the shrine premises. Female devotees are required to wear long skirt. Those without it are given one upon their entry into the shrine. Another important feature of the shrine is the almost completed church that is oval in shape and is spacious. On the outside at the edge of the roof is crown of thorns adornment that encircles the church.

Following pictures were taken during the birthday of Mama Mary on September 8, 2014 at Divine Mercy Shrine, El Salvador Misamis Oriental.