Monday, November 9, 2015

Finale! Anissa of Antioch by Jonah Pierce Brings Explosive, Totally Unexpected Ending!

Once the move was complete, the focus of my work at the MCA shifted from Syria to the situation in Northern Iraq, after ISIS had invaded the area in early August. ISIS fighters had massacred hundreds of Yazidi men and sexually enslaved their women; about seventy children died while fleeing, and about fifty thousand civilians were forced to seek refuge on Mount Sinjar after the Kurdish fighters protecting them fled the ISIS threat. The refugees were trapped on the mountain without food, water or medical care, facing starvation and dehydration. 
When the crisis emerged, Michael insisted that the MCA focus all of its advocacy efforts on the dire situation there, even though the Yazidi religion is not a sect of Christianity. “They are a religious minority facing the same exact threat from Islamist militants that we Christians face, and we must stand with them,” he explained. I completely agreed with him and was glad that we were doing whatever we could to help. I was angry and disappointed at the world’s delayed reaction to the crisis, but finally, in the second week of August, the U.S. responded with airstrikes on ISIS units and convoys in the Sinjar area, and eventually began an operation to rescue the refugees, who were sustained by humanitarian airdrops of food and water by U.K. and U.S. forces. 
Meanwhile, there was also the gut-wrenching news that ISIS terrorists had begun their promised killing of Christians in Mosul, and had started with younger victims. According to a few grisly reports, some children’s heads were placed on the top of poles in a city park. 
Yesterday, the entire world was finally exposed, for the first time, to the horrific barbarity of ISIS, when the Islamist animals beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley. After a North American reporter fell victim to Islamist brutality, the savage crime has been broadcast nonstop for all to see (as if this were the first time that Islamists had beheaded an innocent person). The disproportionate coverage was almost offensive on some level – like this man was somehow more valuable and worthy of global attention because he’s from the U.S. and a member of the media. But perhaps there is some silver lining in this atrocity (and the special treatment that it has received from the press): this issue finally seems to be getting the attention that it deserves.

Anissa of Antioch
The Syrian War, A New York Love Triangle, 
and A Mideast Christian State 
The Love of Antioch Series – Book 2

By Jonah Pierce

Only a Syrian refugee who is learning of the beheading of U.S. Journalist James Foley, could realize that such an horrendous action against the United States, could ensure that the issue would be getting the attention that it deserves. Because beheadings had been happening in Syria for a long time, without many even knowing or considering what this meant world-wide. Of course, this is not totally true in reality since there were people such as the author and others who have been trying to garner support...

In the book, Anissa's friend, Michael, a PhD candidate had taken on a major role in calling attention to what was happening in Syria, to Christians as well as minor religious groups. His goal, was to create a Mideast Christian State. As mentioned in my review of the first book, I am concerned that separating out Christians in a new state there would just continue the war. The only salvation would be that there would be a government to protect individuals from such atrocities that are happening daily...

Even some Sunni Muslims quietly complain
that ISIS is just bastardizing Islamic law
 as a way to impose its authoritarian rule 
 over the people of this city. 
So it’s really just about power and control...
Because of the importance of the book, while the material is for mature audience, the author recommends that this book not be read by those under 16 - the alternative book is more explicit and is available as preferred by adults.
Anissa gets involved with Michael's work while at the same time attending college. She had successfully completed her first semester with high grades; now she was willing to begin participating in other events and she made friends with Maya, who began introducing her to social sites and ultimately to a private party...

Held by one of Anissa's professors. The professor was known as a womanizer but also gave great parties and Maya could take her as a guest...which led to more... I'm not going to cover the on-again-off-again relationships Anissa had with both Michael and Julien, except to note that Julien was already attracted to Anissa after meeting her in class and that he was a very wealthy man, who became a contributor to the problems being addressed by Michael's group. 

Anissa still had some family in Syria, so, with the money, there was opportunity to try to get them relocated. to Kessab. This happened once, but where they relocated, it, too, was destroyed and only Anissa's sister was still alive...

“To Kessab.” I looked up as I tried to recall what I knew about that place. “Isn’t that a Christian-Armenian village?” “Yes. It’s about a five-hour drive west of Raqqa, and is just south of the border with Turkey. Actually, it’s roughly where historical Antioch was located, but it’s been an Armenian village for centuries.” “Why there?” I asked, tilting my head slightly. It seemed odd for my family to be moving to an Armenian village, although the fact that the village is Christian certainly made the decision more understandable. “So many places, like Homs, are now out of the question with fierce battles raging between Islamists and the Syrian Army. Many non-Armenian Syrians – especially from the war-torn cities of Raqqa and Aleppo – have been seeking refuge in Kessab, and in other coastal cities like Latakia and Tartus. I personally suggested Latakia to him, because there are more Alawites and regime protections there, so it seemed like a safer bet. But nothing is guaranteed, and Luke said that he has a very good friend in Kessab and some business contacts, so he thinks that village would be his best option at this point.”

This short video is In support for the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria.
Kessab was attacked on March 22nd. At around 4 am, this peaceful civilian town was attacked by 3,000 attackers coming mainly through Turkey. Almost all civilians escaped, few young men were killed/beheaded. Until this date (April 19,2014) Kessab is still occupied by the invaders.

.. mentioned that he was doing his best to find Syrian rebel contacts who could track down the details of the kidnapper who held my sister – a situation that was now confirmed, unfortunately. I can’t even imagine what poor Maria must be enduring these days and my heart aches every time I think of her. Michael already sent money to many potential informants, after allocating the last $ 50,000 in the MCA’s bank account to get precise information on Maria’s whereabouts and to pay any ransom that might be involved in releasing her. He is even offering the captors some initial money in exchange for allowing a Skype call between her and me, so that I could at least see that she’s still alive. He said that our call may happen even later today, so I’ve been full of anxious anticipation to talk with my sister again. Michael decided that he would also be making a trip to Syria soon, both to help with the release of my sister, if and when that could be arranged, and to manage the countless details that he was having trouble overseeing from afar: coordination among different Christian militia groups, ensuring their proper military and related training, developing and communicating policies for sharing certain emergency resources that MCA had purchased, church repair projects, etc.

This second book is also written in diary form; however, Julien takes turns with Anissa as both are writing. Each of these individuals are also under therapy, so readers have the opportunity to learn not only about events but the inner thoughts of these two main characters as they describe their issues with the therapists...There are, of course, spots of narrative related to history and the lives of characters, but there really is no problem in keeping up with the story in the chosen format.

The format on one hand does not easily permit twists and turns, the author uses ongoing references of major issues that have not yet been covered, so that when the major finale twist that many of us expect in a novel, well, I can only describe it as a monumental "detour"! When that happened, for me, the entire novel came together and answered any earlier issues that had been raised about what was happening. Brilliant in its conception, it also carries an important underlying issue that we must all remember... Not everybody wants to participate in wars and killing. There are many who want to live in peace, as was happening in Syria--before!

Although I didn't believe that Anissa's new life in America was realistic for those torn from their homes, I did think the conceptual development of the overall story allowed for this new life, albeit with Anissa having to go into therapy and continuing to have flashbacks and nightmares... Kudos to the author for bringing a variety of issues effectively into the book--issues that MUST be addressed world-wide! I was grateful to have the opportunity to read these two books and develop the empathy needed to realize the tragedy of living under fanatic rebels...

May you share concern for those who have lost their homeland, this time in Syria... I consider this a must-read, don't you?!


Adult Graphic Version Available

Jonah Pierce graduated from Harvard College, where he studied mostly literature, psychology, philosophy, and film. After college, his first job brought him to New York City, where he was working during the attacks of September 11 – an event that profoundly marked him and deepened his interest in global affairs and the Middle East. Almost fifteen years later, Jonah was moved by headlines about the tragedy in Syria and the threat of ISIS, and wondered how these developments might feel from the perspective of a Syrian refugee. He began to envision a young Syrian woman fleeing fear, violence, and tragic loss, and finding a new life in the United States. Thus was the character of Anissa Toma born, and The Love of Antioch series recounts her saga.