An American Christian in Syria

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

Everyone needs a hero, mine is Dave Eubank. Over 20 years ago he started a relief organization called Free Burma Rangers. Dave had been an Army Ranger and decided that Burma was a good place to use these skills to bring relief to the minority indigenous populations in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma before a military junta seized control of the government. Burma is not a country of great geopolitical significance so the atrocities of the military junta received little international attention. It has been your typical ethnic cleansing scenario wherein any tribal or religious group not aligned with the ruling warlords have been raped, killed and driven from their land into neighboring refugee camps, predominantly in Thailand. In this case it is the Muslims along with other minority ethnic groups that have been the victims of periodic massacres carried out by government troops.

One of Dave’s sponsoring churches was Malibu Presbyterian where I attend, and so he has regularly come to Malibu to give us an update on his work. During these visits we have heard reports of his often successful efforts of warning villagers of approaching government troops, outwitting and outmaneuvering them, then hiding out with them in the jungle or making it outside the country to a refugee camp.

Over the years I have gotten to know Dave, and so when he is in town we go on walks together in a local neighborhood. Dave flatters me by expressing a real interest in my work and the criminal justice system in general. Luke 4:18-19 is the chosen scripture of his organization and thus you can see at the heart of his work is an overwhelming desire for justice on behalf of us all. It is quite an experience just walking around with Dave as I have never met someone who better exemplifies the Puritan Ethic of “never leave a place without having made it better.” Whether it is the elderly lady struggling to take out her trash who he runs over to help, or the young lady under the influence who needs a ride home, there is no good deed he won’t perform.

To be honest Dave is probably the only man I know that intimidates me. He doesn’t do it on purpose, far from it, Dave is by nature humble, but simply being around him challenges me to be a better man. I try not to resent this power he has over me, but at times I wonder just how it is that a man that has seen as much horror and tragedy as Dave can be so damn happy, so filled with joy, so willing to love everyone like himself. Its just not normal.

Due to the strength of Free Burma Rangers and the winning of some democratic freedoms in Burma, Dave has now expanded his efforts to include providing relief to refugees fleeing war torn providences of the Middle East. Be it Sudan, Iraq or Syria, Dave has been their seeking freedom for the oppressed. When Mosul was under siege he helped supply 5,000 refugee families with food and water, while his team of Burmese Karen State volunteers provided medical relief to civilians fleeing ISIS tyranny. Think of it, former refugees of one war torn country in Asia now strong enough to save lives in the Middle East.

In Syria right now with his family – yeah that’s right he often takes his wife and three children with him – they are assisting refugees with food, medical supplies and most significantly caring for the needs of the widowed and the orphaned. The reign of ISIS has been held together by brutal executions of anyone not pledging complete support to their religion of terror. Dave, his team, and his family combat this evil by spreading as much love in the region as possible. This is what I find so intimidating about Dave, he truly lives out a Christian life – in the most dangerous places in the world – on behalf of the most desperate of God’s children. Rather than worrying about what measures he should take to protect his family from whatever perceived dangers may exist all around us, Dave takes the fight to the enemy, he places the well being of his wife and children in God’s hands, and soldiers on and for Christ. It is his faith that keeps him going “…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Surrounded daily by overwhelming displays of cruelty and suffering it is hard to understand how the men and women of Free Burma Rangers continue the fight. Their battle however is not against the soldiers of ISIS or Myanmar but rather the “powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil.” Into battle they go under the motto that we should “love one another. Unite and work for freedom, justice and peace. Forgive and don’t hate each other. Pray with faith, act with courage, and never surrender.” Yes, there is hope for us all.

For more information on Dave and the Free Burma Rangers, or to donate to their noble cause, got to the website HERE.


Philip Remington Dunn is a practicing criminal defense attorney, social justice advocate, and author of the critically acclaimed book: When Darkness Reigns.