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Boardman writes: "It's hard to find any evidence that Mother Agnes has committed anything worse than what others consider thought-crimes and politically incorrect observations, some of which are actually correct."

Mother Agnes has lived in Syria for 20 years. (photo: unknown)
Mother Agnes has lived in Syria for 20 years. (photo: unknown)


Syrian Nun Seen as Threat to War Resistance

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

21 November 13

 

ere's what it looks like when a respected reporter talks about his blackmail note to an established anti-war organization regarding the organization's upcoming conference in a tweet on November 15:

jeremy scahill @jeremyscahill I've informed organizers of @STWuk that I will not participate in their conference if Mother Agnes is on the platform.

The reporter is Jeremy Scahill, who was booked as the keynote speaker and to show his film "Dirty Wars" (based on his book by the same name) at the November 30 International Anti-War Conference in London, put on by Stop the War Coalition (STWuk), which was first organized in 2001 in opposition to an American attack on Iraq. More than 12 years later, the coalition notes dryly on its web page for the conference, "We need more effective anti war resistance internationally. This conference is a chance to analyse, build links and lay plans."

Scahill's threat to boycott the conference became moot the following day, when the dreaded Mother Agnes withdrew from participation. Her letter read, in part:

"It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention, even prompting some other speakers to consider withdrawing. This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Musalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.

"The basis of our work toward peace is reconciliation and forgiveness. This means extending an olive branch to some who may initially refuse it, and accepting an olive branch from others who are despised, even by our friends....

"Some may feel that an injustice will be done if I speak at your conference. Others may think that injustice will be done if I do not. Because my participation in your conference may be used by some to distract from your valuable efforts towards peace, non-violence and reconciliation, I believe it best to withdraw from participation."

Why did the invitation from Stop the War to a nun working to stop war raise objections?

Push comes to shove, and Mother Agnes is an apparent pushover. She's also not flogging a movie. And the abuse she's suffered online was as real as the pressure on Scahill and others to have nothing to do with her. It's hard to find any evidence that Mother Agnes has committed anything worse than what others consider thought-crimes and politically incorrect observations, some of which are actually correct.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Carmelite nun and mother superior of the Monastery of James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria, which has a community of three monks and twelve nuns. Born in Lebanon in a refugee camp 61 years ago, she is Palestinian on her father's side and has worked in Syria for about 20 years. She is the spokesperson for the Catholic Information Center in Beirut, where the Musalaha Initiative also has its office. Mother Agnes became a nun at 19, after several years in the late 1960s as a self-styled "hippie," traveling to Europe, India and Tibet. Unlike others with an equally public profile, Mother Agnes has no Wikipedia page.

In June 2012, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire praised Mother Agnes as a peacemaker:

"In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a 'third force' seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of Christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme."

What makes her controversial to people around Stop the War Coalition is their perception of her as a supporter of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Clear reasoning behind this perception is hard to come by. The reality for Christians in Syria is that their choice of friends is limited: the government represses them along with everyone else, but some rebel groups have taken to massacring Christians. With rebel groups numbering 1,000 or more, none are likely to be a reliable protectors.

Mother Agnes's heretical view of the Damascus chemical attack

In August 2013, when the world learned of the still murky chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, Mother Agnes questioned the prevailing Western view that the Assad government carried out the attack. She prepared a 50-page report questioning the authenticity of videos of the aftermath and submitted her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council. As The New York Times of September 21 reported:

"When Russia's foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, wanted to bolster his argument that rebels had carried out the poison gas attacks near Damascus on Aug. 21, he pointed to the work of a 61-year-old Lebanese-born nun who had concluded that the horrifying videos showing hundreds of dead and choking victims, including many children, had been fabricated ahead of time to provide a pretext for foreign intervention.

"'Mr. Lavrov is an intelligent person,' said the nun, Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, with a wide smile in a recent interview in this Lebanese mountain town. 'He will never stick his name to someone who is saying stupidities.'"

Taking a position on the chemical attacks that is supportive of the Assad government has led to intensified criticism of Mother Agnes as an Assad pawn. French reporters have written a book accusing her of conspiring with the government to kill another French reporter in 2012. She has sued the authors for libel.

The Syrian uprising started with peaceful protests in March 2011, but soon turned violent. Mother Agnes accuses the West of fomenting the violence to create a pretext for military intervention and re-ordering of Syria. In November 2011, she wrote an open letter to President Assad, challenging the government over its treatment of hospital patients and prisoners, as reported in Vatican Insider in November 2011:

"Dear Mr. President, I have lived and worked in Syria since 1994, and I have learned to esteem the unique position Syria holds in the world of culture and of religions. But I am shocked to learn from Amnesty International that in the hospitals run by the government the wounded suffer discrimination and maltreatment because of their ideology. And I am saddened to find that, in the prisons, there are people there who have never been tried in court, or even accused of anything.... I ask for a serious inquiry into the hospitals and prisons, under the supervision of the International Red Cross, together with the creation of a committee to accelerate the exercise of justice."

In late October, Mother Agnes, through the Musalaha Initiative, was involved in establishing a cease-fire and evacuating some 5,400 civilians from Moadamiya, a rebel-held city near Damascus.

Mother Agnes is currently on a six-week speaking tour in North America, largely ignored by most media. In Cleveland on November 14, she received a special peace award from the mayor, a congressman, and a senator. The tour ends December 4.

Jeremy Scahill has yet to explain his own behavior, but columnist Neil Clark, writing for Russia Today, blames "liberal hawks and neo-cons" for silencing the nun because:

"Mother Agnes' testimony reveals that the so-called 'War on Terror' is a sham - that in Syria, the Western countries and their regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are on the same side as the extremist Islamic terror groups that we are told are our greatest enemies."



William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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+34 # Activista 2013-11-21 22:11
Mother Agnes should be Nobel Peace Prize winner ...
...horrifying videos showing hundreds of dead and choking victims, including many children, had been FABRICATED ahead of time to provide a pretext for foreign intervention....
...Saudi Arabia and Israel, are on the same side as the extremist Islamic terror groups .... are facts, reality

USA mass media war propaganda would even Goebbels cringe/blush?
Can the regime without objective information survive? Are we on the way of Soviet Union crash?
 
 
+40 # tonywicher 2013-11-21 22:40
Thank you for this article! I was on Twitter when Scahill made this infamous tweet. I immediately tweeted back that as far as I am concerned, Scahill has lost his journalistic credibility.
 
 
-29 # Rick Levy 2013-11-22 00:23
As a matter of fact the Israeli branch of Al Queda was directly involved in the terrorist attacks on the peace loving, benevolent democratic Assad regime. Further, Amnesty International, a rogue operation, is blatantly lying about mistreatment of oppositionists in Syrian government hospitals.
 
 
+17 # StuBones1960 2013-11-22 06:43
Quoting Rick Levy:
As a matter of fact the Israeli branch of Al Queda was directly involved in the terrorist attacks on the peace loving, benevolent democratic Assad regime. Further, Amnesty International, a rogue operation, is blatantly lying about mistreatment of oppositionists in Syrian government hospitals.

You're not serious, are you?
 
 
+3 # Rick Levy 2013-11-22 19:22
It was a satire.
 
 
+12 # barbaratodish 2013-11-21 23:49
Only people that have excess money, freedom to travel, etc., can go to this F******G conference, so how can it be representative of those who are most affected by wars and the effects of war, namely those who are the most absolutely, and immanently exposed to life and death issue?
 
 
+21 # Gordon Berry 2013-11-22 06:13
What is the truth? These two sides of the argument appear incompatible! But i find it hard to believe a nun would go to such lengths to publish lies when the rest of her life is a lot more saintly...Eithe r she is a dupe or Scahill is taking sides (a dupe of Israel?) instead of being a real independent journalist.
 
 
+27 # chuckvw 2013-11-22 01:06
I don't get Scahill here. An explanation would be helpful... I buy and read his books, and I find this disappointing.
 
 
+34 # tigerlille 2013-11-22 03:23
Scahill's little temper tantrum reminds me of the antics of the radical male-control-fr eaks of the anti-Vietnam war era. Sister Agnes is no doubt familiar with their ilk. How can there be peace when a so-called peacemaker persists in villifying another peace maker in this cowardly fashion?
 
 
-31 # stannadel 2013-11-22 05:11
Agnes is an apologist and propagandist for the brutal Assad regime and that's why Scahill refused to appear with her. Boardman has shown his true colors by joining her in its defense and the commentators here who seem to accept his argument are just displaying their ignorance or duplicity.
 
 
+2 # cwbystache 2013-11-22 06:46
It comes as a given that a journalist show his or her true colors and I've yet to see Boardman do other than that--if the reader receiving the work is color blind, well, that's another issue.
 
 
+27 # tigerlille 2013-11-22 07:13
Ok, since I am ignorant and you are not, just what has Sister Agnes said or done that precludes a person of good conscience working towards peace in the middle east from speaking at the same conference where she is speaker?
 
 
+14 # WBoardman 2013-11-22 10:23
For what it's worth, my true color here
is waiting to be chosen.

Conclusive evidence of much of anything in Syria is
hard come by at a distance, or apparently on the ground.
(The final quote in the story encapsulates much of it.)

Scahill's behavior, bowing to pressure to support
blackballing, is so far inexplicable from someone who
has done so much really good work.

Mother Agnes takes positions that seem pretty consistently
to support the Assad government in a way, but she also
calls for non-partisan decent treatment of all, which
seems to infuriate partisans on all sides (and there are
so many). Also she gets some slack as part of the Palestinian
diaspora and a Christian in a country where a dictator
may be Christians' best hope for survival.

The interference of outside powers in the Syrian uprising
is mostly covert but presumably coming from all sides with
little good resulting for the majority of Syrians.

Mother Agnes's version of the chemical attacks and the kidnapped women and children from Latakia seems a
little screwy on its face, but there has been no credible investigation of that attack, so who knows -- it's also
possible there's more than one true storyline.

It's probably safe to say, however, that neither
Scahill or Mother Agnes killed Kennedy.
 
 
+7 # dandevries 2013-11-22 19:50
Thank you Wm Boardman for actually participating in these often confusing, and also often off-putting backs and forths. It is good to see someone paying consistent attention.
 
 
+3 # Activista 2013-11-23 23:09
"Mother Agnes's version of the chemical attacks and the kidnapped women and children from Latakia seems a
little screwy on its face, but there has been no credible investigation of that attack, so who knows -- it's also
possible there's more than one true storyline. "
... her version is most plausible ... not a war propaganda or even UN "story"
 
 
+14 # RMDC 2013-11-22 06:44
I'll take Mother Agnes over Scahill anyday. Scahill is part of the Democracy Now gang of pseudo liberal journalists. they are more concerned about their celebrity status than anything else. Their hatred to the so-called enemies of the US is just as bad as the same in any mainstream media, like Brian Williams. Scahill only has a different set of scandals to report than Williams does. But it is all celebrity and scandal mongering.

Mother Agnes is the real thing. She's not a journalist. She's a participant in the tragedy going on in Syria.
 
 
+11 # Ed 2013-11-22 07:14
Thanks for this article. It is only the second I have read on the matter, the first being Nick Clarke's on the website rt.com (as referenced above).

As an active member and supporter of Stop The War Coalition (STW) I was puzzled why they allowed Mother Agnes (MA) to withdraw. Mr Boardman puts more flesh onto the bone here, yet there are still more questions than answers.

For example, STW have consistently maintained that Quatar and Saudi Arabia have been arming and funding the rebels (supported by the US, UK and Israel) creating a proxy war between the US and Iran.

So why did they cave in so easily? Here are two possible reasons.

Could it be that the prospect of losing Clarke (and respected journalist Owen Jones too, I gather) when not only is Clarke a conference panellist but also STW have organised the showing of his film later that evening would be too embarrassing a climb down?

Or, as I would rather believe, STW decided that by allowing MA to withdraw it would give her even more publicity than as a “mere” panellist. She is currently on a UK speaking tour, fresh from the USA I understand.

Yes, I am fortunate to have excess money and freedom to travel. The registration fee is £15 ($22) for waged, £10 ($15) unwaged.

I will try to catch MA on her current UK speaking tour.
 
 
+18 # gd_radical 2013-11-22 08:12
Bottom line is that both Mother Agnes and Jeremy Scahill should be at this conference. If there is ever going to be a successful peace movement, multiple groups are going to have to be represented at the table. Shame on both for backing out and not sitting at the table.
 
 
+10 # cordleycoit 2013-11-22 10:50
I would like to hear from journalists outside the International Socialist sphere of thinking before passing a judgement on a nun. Looking for peace in the Middle East is an impossible task and the opposing sides are filled with brutalized people. I for one would like to hear a discussion of the facts of these accusations and acrimony before rushing to a convenient conclusion. More facts please...
 
 
+7 # rhgreen 2013-11-22 20:49
I have read and agreed with Scahill in the past, and I subscribe to The Nation. I think that Boardman has made a case here that Scahill needs to answer. I look forward to reading it, either online or in The Nation.
 
 
+6 # JJS 2013-11-23 08:40
Quoting Mother Agnes:
"It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention, even prompting some other speakers to consider withdrawing. This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Musalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.

"The basis of our work toward peace is reconciliation and forgiveness. This means extending an olive branch to some who may initially refuse it, and accepting an olive branch from others who are despised, even by our friends....

"Some may feel that an injustice will be done if I speak at your conference. Others may think that injustice will be done if I do not. Because my participation in your conference may be used by some to distract from your valuable efforts towards peace, non-violence and reconciliation, I believe it best to withdraw from participation."


The nun has class!
 
 
+3 # RICHARDKANEpa 2013-11-23 17:17
I read elsewhere that the extremist fringe of the al Qaeda fringe group in Syria is even attacking Kurds claiming Kurds are pretending to be neutral but secretly are for the government. In Libra Qaeda was a very controlling goon. In Syria semi-independen t goons on all sides are killing who they want.

I wish that Bashar al-Assad would give permission of Russia to arrest those claiming to be on his side and the Democratic wing does the same I guess with France since the US is usually trigger happy after American soldiers are shot at even without being certain who they are attacking back.
However I fear any plans can go wrong just leading to more and more outside intervention. How about a UN blockade of all outside military aid from any side unless it is at least 90% humanitarian aid.

Please, Mother Agnes is a peacemaker I am wish to be one as well. Let's stop criticizing Israel and the US unless in the same breath we praise the less than majority Jews and Americans that are opposed to their government's excesses and try to speak for oppressed by their leader.r those oppressed by their leaders.
 

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