Homage to Raed Fares

Raed Fares died four days ago. He was shot dead by gunmen in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib. Who was Raed Fares?
Raed Fares, was the founder of Radio Fresh, an independent radio station broadcasting from inside opposition-held areas in the country.
He angered both militants and the Syrian government.

Four years ago, he suffered shattered bones and a lung puncture in an attempt to shut him up. There were more attempts.
Raed Fares did not expect to die quietly in his bed. He refused to carry a weapon. He said his fight was just dedicated to the people, and to the welfare of all groups, all society:

“What can they do? Kill me? Well let them kill me.                                                      I’m not going to leave and leave them the country”.

What did he do to upset both sides in this terrible, intolerable conflict? He protested against tyranny and injustice. He stood up for women in an unequal society. He promoted non-violent protest. He used hyperbole (such as playing sounds on his radio station of tweeting birds and ticking sounds, clucking chickens and bleating goats, and modifying women’s voices with computer software), to draw attention to the injustice of demands to take women off the air.

Does this sound familiar?

Love _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Yourself

You may recognise the missing words in this blog’s title. You can find references to these words in the Old Testament: Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 10:19. Jesus drew upon these verses to most clearly establish the best way to live and can be found in Mark 12.31, Matthew 5:43-46, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:32-35 and Luke 10:27. As the full text is central to Jesus’s message why leave words out?

Well just reflect for a moment upon the words that are left: LOVE YOURSELF. This may seem a selfish way to go, but not so. The problem is that people are finding it increasingly hard to love themselves. Low self esteem is rife, particularly amongst the young. This leads to addictions and unwholesome relationships. Low self esteem is also a characteristic of bullying, loneliness and isolation. This can all be summed up as an inability to love oneself. Loving yourself really means loving the person God created you to be. Not some other, more glamorous, beautiful, perfect somebody else, but YOU!

2000Here is some sad news from the Guardian this week: ” an Indian husband and wife who fell to their deaths from a popular overlook at Yosemite national park in California were apparently taking a selfie, the man’s brother said on Tuesday.

Park rangers recovered the bodies of Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, on Thursday about 800ft (245 meters) below Taft Point, where visitors can walk to the edge of a vertigo-inducing granite ledge that doesn’t have a railing.”

This unfortunate couple are not the only ones who have died trying to get themselves into the best shot for a selfie. The selfie has become an artificial form of loving yourself. It has become THE way to show how beautiful, glamorous, adventurous, perfect you are. But the selfie is a sham. It fools you into thinking you are what you think you should be. It is not the REAL you. Learning how to love the real you is not easy I grant you. It took me half a lifetime to discover that truth.

I think this is what Jesus was really getting at when he said LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF. There they are, the missing words. The words that everyone focusses upon. Yes, they are important. Of course the Gospel truth is that we must learn to love our neighbours but how can we love others when we don’t even love ourselves. Just ourselves, imperfect as we are in our own eyes but always perfect in God’s eyes because we are made in God’s image.