It’s Father Dave, back with you again on a wet and balmy January evening in Sydney.
As is the pattern in Australia, the weather shifts between passionate extremes – going from hot and dusty to a flood situation in a matter of hours!
Every January is like this – floods in the north of the country and bush-fires in the south. We in the middle tend to be blessedly spared most of the calamities. Indeed, the only negative impact the weather has had on me today is that it blocked me from doing my Monday half-marathon, which is a shame as I had about half a dozen lads from the church and Fight Club who were going to join me tonight. Never mind. There’s always next week!
Mind you, next week I head off to Syria too. I think I will be taking my running shoes with me, but I might leave the boxing gloves behind.
Getting Ready for Syria
I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everybody who has sent words of encouragement for the Syria trip. In truth, I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the show of support!
I’m afraid I need to be a little vague at this stage about my precise itinerary. There are understandable security concerns for our peace delegation, but I do intend to keep you up-to-date every step of the way if I can, most probably through this blog if I can get consistent Internet access.
One exciting piece of news that I can tell you is that it appears that Fighting Father Denning (my noble assistant) may well be coming with me!
Denning’s hope is that he’ll be able to film everything we do there and put together a documentary of the event. I think this would be fantastic, and could be invaluable to us in our efforts to spread the words about the ‘Mussalaha‘ (reconciliation) program when we return.
As for the many of you who have expressed grave fears for our safety, let me assure you that our delegation will apparently be accompanied by an armed escort everywhere we go – by government troops when we are in government-controlled areas and by rebel security forces when we are in rebel-held areas.
In all seriousness, I think the obvious protection we have on this mission is that it not in the interest of either side of the Syrian conflict to have us hurt. Both the government and the rebels are working hard on their public image, and it won’t look good for either side to be responsible for the deaths of a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a group of prominent bishops and other clergy!
Indeed, the only persons who could stand to benefit from our peace delegation having an accident would be power-brokers in my own country or in those of our ‘allies’ outside of Syria who benefit from having the country in turmoil. Keep that in mind, and if anything does happen and you hear that ‘the regime’ is to blame, don’t believe it!
Anyway, I’m not going to think further on that tonight as I have something far more weighty on my mind!
Geale vs. Mundine!
In truth, I don’t know if anyone outside of Australia (apart from truly fanatical boxing fans) would even know who these two characters are, but I can tell you that in this country Geale and Mundine are household names, though that’s not to say that most people would want both men in their households (and almost certainly NOT both at the same time)!
They are fighting this coming Wednesday night in Sydney. I will be in attendance, and I may be in a position to give you a free ticket. I’ll give you the details on how you can get that ticket before we end this missive, but first I want to talk about the fight!
There’s been a fair bit of antipathy shown in the lead-up to this fight, and a lot of that is just showmanship, but it has left a lot of people hating Anthony Mundine, and I get the feeling that a lot of the people who are buying tickets to the fight are doing so in order to see Anthony Mundine get his comeuppance!
Let me say straight up that I make no apologies for being a Mundine fan and supporter. He’s been a great supporter of our Youth Centre, has boxed with me on a number of occasions now to help us raise funds, and has never been anything but a gentleman in the respect he has shown me. Even so, I understand why he puts so many people off.
Anthony has been outspoken on a number of matters where I think he would have been well-advised to keep his opinions to himself, starting with his 9-11 comments given back in October 2001 (for which the US has never forgiven him) but by no means ending there. Indeed, at some points he seems to only open his mouth to change feet!
The lead-up to this latest fight has been a case in point. Anthony has said some things for which he later publicly apologised (such as comments about his opponent’s family) but the things he hasn’t apologised for were just as damaging.
He questioned Daniel Geale’s Indigenous heritage, and suggested that he should not wear an Aboriginal flag on his shorts! He even made the brash statement that “I thought they wiped all the Aborigines from Tasmania out”, and so managed to offend not just Geale (who is a Tasmanian) but the entire Indigenous community across our most southern state!
My feeling is that it really all comes down to Anthony trying to model himself on Muhammad Ali just a little too closely!
I appreciate that Anthony is fast like Ali was fast, and he has tried to emulate Ali’s graceful style as a boxer. He converted to Islam just as Ali did, and he’s tried to speak out on issues of faith and justice just as Ali did. The big difference though was that Ali had the charisma and the quick wit to pull it off, and Anthony just doesn’t have those qualities to the same degree!
Who can forget the way Ali tried to insinuate that George Foreman wasn’t really black, but that he might have some Dutch heritage. He did this in Zaire – in a country that had formerly been under Dutch colonial rule! It was a terrible thing to say, but he said it with that boyish twinkle in his eye, and you knew he wasn’t really serious, and you could not but think of him as a loveable rogue!
When Anthony questioned Geale’s ethnic heritage, he was trying to emulate the master. Indeed, he apparently even used the words ‘Old Tom’ at one point, which was the derogatory term Ali applied to Frazier in the lead-up to the ‘Thriller in Manilla’. The problem Mundine has is that he doesn’t have the twinkle in his eye, and so instead of coming across as a loveable rogue, he just comes across as a rogue!
OK. I wont’ say any more about the fight or the fighters today but I do want to tell you about the free tickets. Surprisingly perhaps, they’ve come to me courtesy of Mr Geale!
I’m being sent the tickets on Tuesday, and they’re earmarked for kids across this community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to go. Having said that, there may be some tickets left over and if there is, I’d love to have you join me.
The problem is that I won’t know how many tickets I have left over (if any) until Wednesday morning (ie. the day of the fight). So you’ll need to ring me or email me first thing on Wednesday to find out. If you do email me, make sure you include a phone number where we can reach you as I’ll need to work out how to get your ticket to you.
Faith and Fighting
I know that some people really struggle to understand how a committed peace-activist like myself can simultaneously love sports pugilism! In truth, it’s not an uncommon combination!
I will never forget my time out the front of Ashkelon Prison in April 2004. I was part of a peace protest made up mainly of Jewish students. We were standing outside the prison in which my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu, had been detained for 18 years. We were waiting for his release and calling for an end to nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
There were thousands of us there, and at least 90% of those people were NOT friends of Morde’s. On the contrary, they were baying for his blood! There were soldiers with machine-guns everywhere. There were police cars and armored vehicles. Slogans were being chanted. Abuse was being shouted. The noise of the helicopters flying overhead was sometimes deafening! And what do you think I was talking about with my two buddies on the front line of that protest?
Who was going to win the fight between Anthony Mundine and Danny Green?
I’ll never forget those intense moments, and I’ll never forget that both of my Jewish mates that day were wrong about the fight! They both picked Green, just as most punters now are picking Geale. Personally, I’m not so sure, but I do think that it will be a larger-than-life event!
Jesus and Family Values!
I can’t offer you Sunday’s sermon today (as I’m afraid it wasn’t recorded this week) so I’m going to share with you one I did a couple of weeks ago that is almost guaranteed to annoy you!
It’s the sermon I gave on the first Sunday after Christmas, on the ‘Feast of the Holy Family’. My passage from Luke chapter 2 concerns the boyhood of Jesus, and it seems like the perfect occasion to get hold of our children and drill them on how to be more Christ-like!
But the truth is that the boyhood of Jesus offers us a rather shocking pattern for anyone to emulate! Do we really want our children to disappear for days at a time, only to show up in a Cathedral somewhere!
And this is just the thin edge of the wedge! All the glimpses we get of Jesus’ earthly family suggest that there was a lot of tension and turmoil there!
(and if you can’t view the sermon, click here)
That’s plenty from me today, fighter.
Please keep me in your prayers as I do you.
Your brother in the Good Fight,
P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!