enduring the Binacrombi billabong for 4.5 mins (nb. the freezer burn)
celebrating with the kids
'Mr Jones' Egberime still training the kids at our gym
with Sheikh Jehad Ishmael and the boys
a day away with my darling daughter, Imogen
my brother, Andy, turns 50! 🙂
the new Muhammadi Welfare Association development at Granville
with Denning and Syed Shoaib Naqvi
Veronica and I meet the 'Ice Man' - Wim Hof
with the team from Lock In TV
at the Syria vs. Australia World Cup qualifier
It’s Father Dave, and I must confess to feeling somewhat exhausted as I write to you today. It’s been an overwhelming month:
I’ve been trying to recover from my brain haemorrhage.
We’ve had much turmoil in the community (and perhaps in the church, most especially) over our government’s postal vote on same-sex marriage
Syria lost the World Cup qualifier match to Australia
One of my old friends has just taken his own life
Thankfully, not all of these struggles has ended badly. Indeed, as regards my recovery from the brain injury, my progress has been nothing short of miraculous. Last week I fronted up to the doctor’s office armed with the results of both and MRI and a CT scan. This was the same doctor who had told me a few weeks earlier that my boxing days were over. This time, after looking at the results and shaking his head, he ticked ‘fit to box’ on the appropriate form.
I give thanks to God for healing my brain so that I can fight again. I’ve been feeling rather lost over the last month, wondering how else I can raise money. As I often say, I can only do two things well – preach and fight – and I can’t see anyone handing over big dollars to hear me preach. Anyway, those concerns are behind me for the moment, though the painful thing is that both the fights I had scheduled were cancelled during my recovery period.
When the injury happened, I’d been in training for a big show-down with Dave Birchell. This naturally had to be called off. I had another fight though lined up with Mark Bouris in late November at a PCYC fundraiser event. Unfortunately, Mr Bouris was rematched. I did ask them to hold off on rematching him and to expect a miracle. For some reason the organisers followed common sense instead. And so, I find myself ‘fit to box’ but, once again, without an opponent. Even so, I’m sure the Lord has healed me for a reason, so something (or someone) will no doubt appear soon and make the way forwards clear.
As to the same-sex marriage debate this country has been enduring, I feel it has been a despicable process. I have seen so much pain caused by this postal vote! It has brought the worst out of a lot of people – reinforcing prejudices and eliciting violence and vilification from both sides. It truly was a gutless decision of our government to encourage this process.
As you may know, I was urged once again to publish my views on the subject of same-sex marriage. The result was an article that appeared on news.com.au that has generated no end of hate mail, phone calls, lost friendships, and enough social media banter to fill a decent-sized book. The process culminated for me when I received a call from a man claiming to have been sexually abused by a priest. He was so angry about my Archbishop’s support for the ‘no’ vote that he said he just needed to scream at someone. He knew I wasn’t to blame but apparently nobody else would take his call.
Another distressing dimension of this process for me has been the damage done to my relations with the Muslim community. I had two inter-faith events planned for this month where my Muslim friends withdrew due to the views expressed in my article. One woman even said that her Sheikh now refused to enter our church building! That hurt.
I’m know that doesn’t represent all my Muslim friends. Indeed, I’ve had others affirm their love and respect for me, even though we disagree on this issue.
Perhaps my sermon today reflects a bit too much of my hurt referred to above. Certainly, the text of Matthew 21:28-31 did tap right into the issues I was struggling with, though the connection may not be immediately obvious. It’s a parable Jesus tells about two brothers – one who is pious and obedient and the other who is rebellious and disobedient, or so they appear to be. First impressions can be deceiving, and maybe we need to be cautious in passing judgement on either of the brothers too quickly.
Back to the Bush
When the going gets tough, I get going, and my favourite place to go when I’m feeling under pressure is our bush camp – Binacrombi. Can you join me there this coming weekend?
I’m sorry for the short notice but this event has been a difficult one to organise. The camp was originally designed to be an interfaith project, bringing together Christian and Muslim kids in an integrated training environment. Unfortunately, as indicated above, many have pulled out, though some friends from the Australian Muslim Youth Association are now trying to see if they can get a new group involved! Either way, the camp will go ahead, but there is currently plenty of room for extra participants.
Just give me a call on 1800 620 706 if you’d like to join us. All the details are on the Facebook page as well as on the poster (which can be downloaded here).
That’s enough from me today. I’ve got plenty more I’d like to share but, in truth, I’d rather do it over a beer at Binacrombi. Of course, if our Muslim friends do join us, I’ll happily forgo the beer and substitute coffee. Either way, I’d love to have you with us if you can make it.
It will still be a great show, but my fight won’t be happening
Yes, it was going to be the fight of my life but, no, it’s not going to happen. To cut a long story short, I took a big hit last Friday and suffered a minor brain haemorrhage. Hopefully, it’s not the end of my fight career but it certainly is the end of this fight.
For those who want the long story …
I did some sparring with an old mate last Friday. I won’t mention his name, but I will say that he did hold a world title and that he is a little bigger and a little younger than me. I probably should have been wearing a head-gear.
He caught me with a big hook to the side of my head while I was on the ropes. Everything went black for a moment, but only for a moment. I stayed on my feet, finished the round, and I think I did two more rounds after that. I felt OK. Indeed, I felt pretty pleased with myself, figuring that if I could handle a shot like that I could handle anything my upcoming opponent was going to throw at me. I drove myself safely home, but have no memory of what I did after that until I woke the next day.
None of this is too unusual. I’ve been out on my feet before (though not for a long time) and I’m not the first person to suffer a bit of memory loss. Even so, I didn’t feel quite right, and that showed itself when I tried to get back into the ring the following day. I couldn’t perform. I was in pain in my head and I just wasn’t functioning properly. I figured I was just having a bad day and thought I’d try again the next day. The next day I was worse. Within 30 seconds I was on the ground. I stopped and took counsel from a wise mate (Anton) who recognised that I’d been concussed. The next day I booked myself in for a scan.
When I did the scan, I expected to head straight home afterwards but the doctors made me wait. I was eventually called into the back room where they sat me down and told me that I had a haemorrhage and needed to get to hospital immediately. I said I wasn’t going anywhere until after I’d got my little girl home from school. They agreed, saying that since I’d taken the hit four days earlier, I was probably going to be fine anyway.
The medics at the hospital were great. I’m very privileged to live in a country where teams of experts gather around to help you when you’re down. I don’t take any of that for granted. In the end, the doctors agreed to discharge me that evening, providing that I monitor myself carefully, get more scans, and report back to them.
I’m hoping that this is only a temporary set-back. When a skier breaks her leg that doesn’t mean she’s never going to ski again. You get over the injury and you head back to the slopes. Hopefully, it will work for me like that too. Indeed, I’ve already got another fight lined up for November, and I hope I’ll be good for that. Even so, if this is the end of my fight career, I’ll come to terms with that too.
One thing is very clear to me – that I owe a big debt of gratitude to those who supported me in preparing for this fight, and most of all I want to thank the guy who was going to be my opponent – Dave Birchell.
I know Dave only took the fight because he wanted to help me raise money for Syria. He was the first person I called when I got the scan results. I was a bit teary when I called him, and I think he got a bit teary too. He thanked me for getting the scan, saying “If you hadn’t done this and something had happened to you in the ring, I never could have lived with myself”. Thanks brother. You’re a top bloke and a great mate.
There is, in fact, a long list of people I need to thank, including my trainers, the boys at the gym, my family, church, close friends, and the promoter of the August 25 event, John. Instead of going off at me for losing him money, his response, when I told him that I was out because the scan had discovered a haemorrhage was “Praise God”.
As I say, I hope that this is not the end of my fight career. In truth, I think I still have my best fights left in me. Even so, I suspect all fighters think that, and if my time has indeed come, I will come to terms with that. It will be difficult though, as the fighting is so deeply tied in with our social justice work, with the inter-faith work, with Syria, …
Keep me in your prayers please. Pray for a full recovery, and pray that if my boxing days are over that God will show me other ways to raise funds and raise awareness. In truth, I can’t imagine a life without boxing. Part of me had always hoped that I’d depart this world from the ring. Even so, this experience has made it very clear to me that even if it’s great to die doing what you love, it’s not good for the people you care about.
Father Michael with the Patriarch and Father Alexi
with the team at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate
we joined Damascan church leaders for a wonderful dinner in the old city
with Issa - boxing coach of the Syrian Olympic team
Christians and Muslims meet at the Orthodox Patriarchate
in the footsteps of St Paul - Father and son at the home of St Ananias
a humbling meeting with Dr Faisal Mekdad - Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria
in St Thecla's church in Maaloula
Maaloula - one of Syria's most ancient Christian villages
Soren does his first media interview
with Father Toufic in St George's Maaloula
Firstly, let me thank all of you who made our New Year’s trip to Syria possible – supporting us financially and with prayer. Secondly, let me apolgise for the time it has taken to feed back to you about the trip.
I’ll address my time issues later in this missive, but let me say first that I think the trip was highly constructive and that we achieved most of our aims, if not all of them.
We didn’t get to Aleppo, and we didn’t get the media focus on the Syrian people that we had been looking for. Even so, we did deliver some tangible aid and, most importantly, we did work out a way of getting ongoing aid where it’s most needed.
This, in my opinion, is the biggest problem facing Syria at the moment. The victory on the battlefield is all but complete. Even so, life is not returning to normal. So many homes have been destroyed and so many people are in need, and the country is simply out of resources! The Syrian people need help in order to rebuild, yet instead of sending them aid, we impose sanctions, making it impossible for them to rebuild!
There is a demonic paradox at the heart of Western foreign policy towards Syria:
We bomb their country and destroy their homes
Through sanctions, we then stop them from rebuilding
We then complain like hell if they try to leave their country to join us!
US Senator, Chris Murphy, summed up the situation rather succinctly in a Twitter Tweet recently: “We bomb your country, creating a humanitarian nightmare, then lock you inside. That’s a horror movie, not a foreign policy.”
We must urge our governments to show some humanity and drop these vicious sanctions. Until this happens though, we must find ways around the sanctions to get resources where they are most needed. Is there a back-door into Syria for humanitarian aid and medicines? The answer is YES, and that back door is the church!
Our delegation was deeply impressed by the aid work being done by the church in Syria, and no work was more impressive than that of ‘Gopa Derd’ – the aid arm of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.
The Greek Orthodox Church is by far the largest Christian communion in Syria, and they have aid work going on across the country, including major food-distribution and education centres in Aleppo and other critical areas. Gopa Derd does not discriminate in terms of who benefits from their aid. No preference is given to Greek Orthodox Christians or other Christians over Muslims or anybody else. It is a truly Christ-like work!
Most importantly, Father Alexis Chehadeh, the head of Gopa Derd, has a German passport, allowing him to travel in and out of Syria with ease. This means that money can be sent to Alexis’ German account and he can physically carry that money back into Syria to channel it where it’s most needed. Thus we get around the sanctions!
If you’d like to know more about Gopa Derd, this 20-minute video is worth watching in its entirety. If you’d like to contribute to their work, contact me. I can give you the bank account details you need. Personally, I’m trying to coordinate a broad fundraising effort from churches in Sydney to support the work of Gopa Derd. At the same time, I (and my fellow delegates to Syria) are doing our best to lobby our government to end the inhumane sanctions.
Our interview on Syrian TV
In keeping with the Syria focus of this post, the video I’m featuring today is of the delightful Vanig Gonjian interviewing our delegation on Syrian TV. I note that neither my son, Soren, nor Troy Hester – both of whom were essential members of our team – were included in the interview. Even so, it was a great opportunity for Mother Carol, Father Michael, Maher and myself, to further extend the hand of friendship to Syria, not only on behalf of our greater team, but on behalf of all Australian people.
In closing, let me apologise again for the time it’s taken to get this update to you. The truth is that I am not on top of things and that I frankly need more help if I’m going to keep all the balls in the air. I balance a variety of responsibilities:
I’m also trying to finish a book on “Christians and Muslims can be friends”. On top of that, there’s my commitment to Syria and all that is involved in that, as well as my other social justice and community commitments.
I sincerely believe in the work I’m doing but I need more help if I’m going to get on top of things. So far as I can see, I have three options:
I find an apprentice who is willing to do long hours for next to nothing
I broaden my support base so that I can afford to pay people to help.
I get a boxing match that will pay big dividends and so solve all my problems in one hit (pun intended)!
My search for that big fight is no joke. I haven’t fought for more than a year now and have just had another fight cancelled on me (my 3rd cancellation in a row). I’m fit and ready to rumble if any of you can help me find an opponent.
While I wait for that, I’m open to all suggestions about broadening my support base. As things stand, about 20 of your guys subscribe to www.fighting-fathers.com for $10/month and one of you contributes $100/month. I am deeply grateful to you guys, and if it wasn’t for your support we would have crumbled long ago. Even so, I need a lot more active subscribers if Fighting Fathers Ministries is to move forward, and I’m not sure if that’s even plausible.
So … if you have any ideas, please share them with me. Alternatively, if you’re feeling called to be that overworked and underpaid apprentice, let me know. In truth, I’m wanting to hear from you. All my contact details (including my mobile number) are in the ‘contact’ section of www.fatherdave.org (non-mobile version). Call me, visit me or email me with your wisdom.
with our friends from the Australian Federal Police!
Ange's birthday dinner
Veronica and Soren
Protesting Australia's military action in Syria
with comedian Rob Shehadie, supporting Palestine
with the girls from #Spread Hummus not Hate
with the girls from #Spread Hummus not hate
Imogen at #FightNights at Movie World
Father Dave here with a very belated newsletter.
I do apologise for the long lapses in communication. There was a time when I managed to keep in touch with my friends and supporters almost every week. Nowadays I struggle to find time each month, and probably wouldn’t manage it now, except that I’m in synod this week and find myself with time on my hands between sessions!
For those who don’t know what a synod is, it’s the Annual General Meeting of the church – not of our local church community in Dulwich Hill but of the whole Sydney Anglican Diocese, which includes us along with 382 other church communities!
I will say a little more about synod towards the end of this post but I have a lot of things I want to share today, and lots of events I want to invite you to, so I’ll list them all here first and you can choose where you want to go first:
Please redouble your prayers for Syria. The situation there is very volatile at present, and let me challenge you too to question everything you hear in the media.
Whatever else you’ve heard about Syria lately, you’ve almost certainly been told that:
The Syrian government and the Russians are committing atrocities in Aleppo.
The violence in Syria will never end unless there is a humanitarian intervention from the US and NATO.
I’d suggest to you that both of these seeming truisms are completely false.
The problem, as I see it, is that the Syrian Arab Army (and their Russian, Iranian and Lebanese comrades) are on the verge of winning the war against DAESH/ISIS, Al Nusra, etc. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the recent ceasefire (during which period the rebels in Aleppo re-armed) that battle might be over already, and once Aleppo is back in Syrian hands, the war is basically finished.
My reading of all the rhetoric coming in about the atrocities of the Syrian Army and the Russians is that it’s an attempt to slow things down, at least until Hillary Clinton takes the reins in the US, so that the violence might then be escalated.
I appreciate that this will sound outrageous to those who get all their news from ABC and CNN, but let me offer you two pieces of alternative media:
This video of my friend, Vanessa Beeley, interviewed by the Ron Paul Institute
And if you’d like to hear what I’ve personally been saying about Syria lately, there’s a video of a short speech that I gave at a recent ‘Hands Off Syria’ rally below.
Praying with me in Syria
While I can’t divulge any details at this stage, I may have an opportunity in the near future to head back to Damascus to pray for peace with Syrian religious leaders. I’m looking for church leaders who will join me – the more high-profile the better.
My main aim, as always, is to allow the Syrians to tell their story. If we can put together a high-profile religious team, we’ll be able to take a strong media team with us, and if we have the media with us, we can open up the real Syria to the people back home.
If you’d like to join me, let me know. All my contact details are on www.fatherdave.org (the non-mobile version).
Supporting Refugees and Asylum-seekers
I appreciate that not everybody is able to travel to Syria, and it may be that you can do far more for Syria and for Syrian refugees from where you are. One very simple thing you can do to highlight the plight faced by refugees and asylum-seekers in Australia is to help promote the ‘Skye Boat Song’ by my friend, Ruth McCall!
Ruth is a musician, and she has gone to enormous trouble to put together this video/song as a protest against the treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. Sydney musicians and choirs got together to say ‘no more’ to the cruelty off offshore detention and seek to promote an honourable response to the current worldwide refugee crisis. You can contact Ruth via her website: www.ruthmccall.com.
Australian-Indonesian Boxing Club
As a part of our greater effort to build bridges between people of different races and religions, I am proud to announce the foundation of the Australian-Indonesian Boxing Club!
We’ll be having an official launch ceremony for the club at Holy Trinity’s Australia-Indonesia Friendship Afternoon on October 23rd, and you are invited!
Download the flyer here, print it, copy it, share it around, pin it to the fridge, etc.
We expect to have the Indonesian Consular General with us for the occasion, along with a good assortment of community leaders. Most exciting of all, not only the Indonesian Consulate, but also Lina and her team from “Spread Hummus not Hate” will be providing us with a sumptuous afternoon tea to enjoy!
When: October 23rd, 2016, 2 pm
Where: Trinity’s Community Centre, 2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill
The Friendship Afternoon officially finishes at 4 pm and Fight Club starts at 4.30 so bring your gloves and complete the day’s celebrations with a few rounds in the ring!
Following the foundation of our new club, the obvious next step is to head to Binacrombi – our training camp in the middle of the Australian bush – for another Warrior Weekend, so we’ll be attempting to train like Trojans and pray like monks over the first weekends of both November and December.
These bush training-camps are guaranteed to build your physical and spiritual fitness. They will also hopefully give you a chance to make some of our new Indonesian friends!
The flyer for this one is here. Download it, fill it out and give it back to me. And if you’re not clear as to exactly what you’re signing up for, watch the video.
An invitation to join the Binacrombi management team
And while we’re on the subject of Binacrombi Bush Camp, here’s a question from left-field: would you like to be a part of the management team?
We’ve been developing Binacrombi for fourteen years now and we’re on track, I believe, to build our bush-camp into Australia’s greatest ever retreat-space for young people. We’re now at the stage where we need to upgrade our management team, and train up a new group of people to help manage the site on weekends. Are you interested?
Perhaps you’ve often thought of yourself as a bush-camp manager?
You love dirt-bike riding
You know how to operate generators and pumps
You can work with people
You may be just the person we’re looking for! Here’s the deal:
You get $300 for your efforts when your turn comes
It’s not a huge pay-out, but we’re not looking for people who are in it for the cash.
We are the Fighting Fathers. Our mission is to offer an alternative culture to our young people, based on values of courage, integrity, self-discipline and teamwork. We don’t run at a profit but we do need funds to keep our programs going and this is how we make it work.
Interested? Let me know. All my contact details, as mentioned already, are on www.fatherdave.org (the non-mobile version of the site). We’ll be training people between now and the end of the year.
Video Break II (Sermon Time)
The lies and the violence of the great powers can be so overwhelming! That’s why we constantly need to be reminded of the love of God for all of His fragile and broken children. Few of Jesus’ teachings bring home that love more powerfully than his well-known parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)
And so Jesus told them a joke …
(and if this video isn’t displaying properly, you can view it here)
Synod has been a tense time for me personally this year as one of the main subjects under discussion is the church’s stand on same-sex marriage.
I published an article supporting same-sex marriage some four years ago (see here) though I appreciated, even back then, that my views were not shared by many in my Diocese. This disappoints me, but of more immediate concern to me is the way this issue has affected my friend and colleague at Holy Trinity – the Rev Dr Keith Mascord.
Keith recently published his second book – Faith without Fear – in which he raises lots of questions about our traditional understanding of the faith, including issues of sexuality. Keith is also a supporter of same-sex marriage. In his case though, his views seem to have cost him his license to minister as a priest in the Diocese (which you can read more about here)! This has been a cause of great upset for both Keith personally and for our parish.
There was much said in synod about Keith and about same-sex marriage. I kept quiet for the most part but decided that something had to be said in opposition to a motion put forward that was designed to mobilise the church in opposition to same-sex marriage. I was the only person to speak against the motion. I forgot most of what I meant to say but an audio of that I did say is below.
The motion was passed, of course, despite my plea, though I did hear at least two or three other persons say ‘no’. I guess I expected that. What I didn’t expect, and what I personally found much harder to deal with, regarded a proposed amendment to the motion, put forward by my friend Rev. Michael Palmer.
Mike’s amendment, proposed after my brief speech, condemned the “vilification, bigotry or other expressions of hate or fear” directed towards “Christians holding or considering divergent views on same-sex relationships” (eg. me). This proposed amendment was defeated, meaning, one might think, that Anglican Christians in Sydney are at liberty to vilify me (and Keith and other dissenters) as much as they please! I’m sure that wasn’t the intention behind the rejection of the motion, but it did leave me feeling very alienated from the synod as a whole.
Please put in a prayer for Keith, for our Diocese, and for me, but most especially for the GLBTI+ community of Sydney who, I suspect, will interpret synod’s decisions as just another slap in the face from the church. These people have already been subject to a significant history of ecclesiastical abuse.
I do pray for the day when all forms of abuse and discrimination will end, and when the church everywhere will turn to their gay and lesbian sisters and brothers with love and respect, seeking forgiveness for past wrongs. I fear though that that day may yet be a long time coming.
We’ve been back for a a couple of weeks now, in fact, and I apologise for not publishing much about our journey until now. In truth, I’m still trying to process it all.
It was a magnificent trip. We saw some amazing things and met many amazing people. As has always been my experience in Syria, we were greatly blessed by the generosity and grace of the Syrian people. They took us into their hearts and homes, showing us great love and hospitality.
We trained with the Syrian Olympic boxing team in Damascus
We celebrated the liberation of Palmyra by boxing in its ancient amphitheatre
We taught our sport to hundreds of young orphans in Homs
We travelled into remote villages in Latakia to touch gloves with the locals.
That is a very superficial summary, of course, but I’m going to resist the temptation to say too much more about our experiences here as I want to focus on inviting you to the exhibition that we have organised.
The Peace in Palmyra exhibition
The Peace in Palmyra exhibition opens this coming Sunday – June 19th – at 3pm, and will run for the entirety of Refugee Week (June 19 to 25). It will be held in our church’s new Community Centre in Dulwich Hill (2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill).
The exhibition will include photographs, video and live art (ie. boxing) that chronicle our 2016 Boxers for Peace mission to Syria, with a special focus on our time in Palmyra – the site of so many famous ancient ruins – overtaken by DAESH (ISIS) in 2015 but retaken by the Syrian Arab Army on Easter Sunday (March 27) 2016.
PALMYRA AS A SIGN OF HOPE IN REFUGEE WEEK
If we really want to solve the global refugee crisis, we have to tackle the problem at its source. We need to create conditions on the ground where people no longer have to flee from war and famine but can live in safety, and those who had been forced to leave can return to their homes.
In Syria, more than half of the country’s population has been displaced since the outbreak of violence five years ago. Millions have fled overseas, but millions more have fled into other parts of Syria. This exodus of Syrians from their homes had seemed irreversible, and yet in recent months, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been able to return home as their cities have been liberated!
The retaking of Palmyra was especially significant in this regard, not because of the magnitude of the refugee exodus from the city but on account of the place Palmyra holds in the hearts of all Syrians. As one Syrian army officer said “when my son died defending Homs, I didn’t cry. When my men were beheaded by DAESH, I didn’t cry, but when they took Palmyra, I cried.”
Palmyra, with its rich history and spiritual beauty, is the beating heart of Syria. The liberation of Palmyra was not only a major defeat for DAESH (their first major defeat since their inception) but a victory for all Syrian people, and for all of humanity! Homelessness and destitution do not have to be the final word! Liberation happens! Refugees can return home!
You can download a poster with the details of the exhibition here.
We took a lot of video footage during this last trip to Syria and you can see all the stuff we’ve published so far on www.father-dave.org/syria
What I’ve published below is a wonderful short compilation put together by boxer, artist, and much-loved team-member, Luke Cornish (ELK). It speaks for itself.
Let me close by thanking once again everybody who supported us on this mission trip. Quite literally, we could not have done it without you. It is only because of your generosity and support that we are able to make any of these initiatives work.
Mind you, I know that a number of you guys tried to send us a donation through Paypal and most of those contributions were rejected! Unfortunately, Paypal has automatic filters that are tripped when anyone mentions the word Syria.
This is understandable. What is less understandable is why it took them more than a month to work out that we are not supporting terrorism but are Boxers for Peace (and this despite my repeated calls and emails), and why they cancelled donations rather than put them on hold until they worked us out!
If you did get your donation rejected or if you’d still like to support the work, let me encourage you either to:
With regards to the shop, I’m pleased to announce that there is a whole new batch of Fighting Fathers monastic smocks have recently been delivered. They are a unique style – modelled on traditional Benedictine design but short enough to allow full leg movement, allowing the wearer to both run and train as well as pray!
The Fighting Fathers’ Monastic Smock on display in Palmyra
I hope you can make it to the exhibition, fighter, where I’ll be very happy to talk your ear off about the Syria trip. For those who can’t make it, I’ll be publishing more photos and videos and stories to www.prayersforsyria.com.
That’s enough for today. Keep me in your prayers as I do you.
with Kaouthar Bachraoui and Maria Saadeh at the Dama Rose in Damascus
there's no shortage of pretty girls at Damascus University!
at the home of Ananias - Straight Street, Damascus
with Maria Saadeh at the Umayyad Mosque
at the ancient Christian villiage of Maaloula
with the Bishop of Saydnaya in Maaloula
honoring the martyrs of Maaloula
I was glad when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (Psalm 122)
honoring the martyrs of Saydnaya
a performance by Saydnaya's Youth Fellowship
remembering the genocide of 1915 with the Armenian bishop
Armenian Christians fighting with the Syrian Arab Army
Dinner at the Mufti's place 🙂
interviewing the Grand Mufti of Syria
with the Mufti and friends 🙂
I’ve been to Syria, I’ve come back, and at the moment I’m sick in bed. I guess I’ve been pushing myself a bit too hard, but I’m now on long-service leave and will hopefully get a bit of a break.
People have been asking me how I would sum up our Syria experience in a word, and the truth is that there is no one word that can do our time there justice.
What I must say is that my heart is still there, and that I felt awful leaving – as if I was walking out on a friend who might die at any moment!
When I returned to Australia everyone was stressing about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran – about whether they were about to be executed. I appreciate that it was a horrible situation. Even so, I was walking away from a whole country full of people who were living with the same stress – ‘Are we about to be executed, and if so, when?’
Syria is at a very volatile point and, I hate to say it, but I think the future of all those people is being decided upon now in negotiations between the US and Iran. In truth, Syria is only surviving because of support from Iran. If the USA though makes Syria a bargaining chip to be sacrificed in exchange for the lifting of sanctions then a great many of those good people may be dead by the time I return.
Having said that, the indications at the moment are that Iran is not going to give up on Syria, and neither are her other two allies – Russia and Hezbollah. Nonetheless, things are at boiling point right now, with ISIS embedded in Yarmouk in the south and Palmyra in the north! Anything could happen over the next few weeks and months.
The title of this last article is a quote from my interview with the Grand Mufti of Syria – Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun – which I’ve embedded below. Indeed, it was such a great privilege for me to get half an hour, one-on-one, with the great man!
I won’t say more about that experience here except that he said three words to me in English before we parted. He said “pray for me.” I said, “I do every day”, and indeed I do, for I know the takfiri will have no mercy on him if they get hold of him.
Dr Hassoun considers himself the Mufti not only of the Sunni but of the Shia and the Christians too! That’s the sort of talk that enrages religious fundamentalists!
I am hoping to be back in Syria in the next couple of months – this time with a larger team of boxers. I’m also working on lining up a title fight for myself against one of Syria’s great veteran boxers. My goal is to hold the fight either on the outskirts of Yarmouk or at another key Syrian city – perhaps Palmyra – and use the fight to draw attention to what’s really going on there. It’s an ambitious ploy and I’d appreciate your prayers.
In the meantime there are plenty of other things happening, and a few that I’m keen to pass on to you here:
In case you didn’t hear, the United Nations Human Rights Committee finally replied to our official complaint regarding the Australian government’s treatment of my dear friend Sheikh Mansour Leghaei. Indeed, they upheld our complaint and instructed the Australian government to re-examine his case and to compensate him for damages! If you don’t know the full story, it’s on savethesheikh.com.
Another dear brother who has received even harsher treatment from his government – Mordechai Vanunu – just got married! The picture below was taken at the Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem! I look forward to meeting Morde’s Norwegian wife, Kristine, in person as soon as they are allowed to leave Israel and travel to Australia. I trust they’ll find Mansour here when they get here!
And some more good news concerning a very talented sister – Ruth McCall – who will be having her own musical works performed by ‘Echology’ – The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir! There’s a performances at our church, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, on Sunday May 31st. Full details can be found on the poster here.
Morde & Kristine!
That’s enough from me, especially as I’m still coughing and spluttering.
As I say, I’m on long-service leave at the moment and will be for the next three weeks. I’ll be spending the weekends down at Binacrombi, developing our youth camping program. You’d be welcome to join me on any of these weekends, especially this weekend when I think I’ll need all the help I can get. 🙁
I’ll be in contact again soon. Until then I remain …
The inimitable Hanadi Assoud of Hands Off Syria who helped pull it all together.
And thank you to all 80 people who showed up on the night – members of Holy Trinity Church, the Salvation Army Dulwich Hill corps, our Fight Club, and all you subscribers who made the effort to join us. It was a wonderful night, and thanks to you we almost have the funds we need to make the Boxers for Peace 2015 Mission to Syria a reality!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
If you had a solid Christian upbringing like I did, this verse is very familiar to you. I don’t think modern translations still use the word ‘whosoever’ but what I typed above is the translation that has been in my head since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know these words. They were taught to me at an early age as a one-verse distillation of the Gospel message!
What has really struck me more recently is that this familiar verse is not at all familiar to many people I live and work with. Moreover, I’ve found that the concepts contained in this verse are rather difficult to explain to those who haven’t had a Christian upbringing. Indeed, I’ve realised on further reflection that the concepts contained in John 3:16 are not self-explanatory by any means but rather mysterious!
So I’m not sure if my goal in this sermon is to explain John 3:16 to the uninitiated or to confuse those who feel comfortably familiar with it. Hopefully there’s something in it for both groups.
As I said above, I’m a little exhausted by the antics of the last three weeks, and now we’re in the middle of Holy Week, shortly after which we are taking off for Syria, so there’s no time to rest, especially as we still need a bit more help before we can go.
We almost have all the funds we need for the Boxers for Peacemission. We need roughly another thousand to cover everything. It would be great if you could help me reach the goal and I’d like to offer you something of value in exchange for your support.
Tom Toby – auctioneer extraordinaire!
The picture above is of our good friend Tom Toby auctioning off a signed poster of the Boxers for PeaceSyria 2015 team. It’s in A3 size and is signed by each of the team members. I have two more of these signed posters and am ready to pass them on in exchange for a decent contribution towards our peace mission.
If you haven’t seen the actual image, which was the work of master-photographer John Clutterbuck, you can see it here.
My thought is to simply ask for contributions via my ‘buy me a drink‘ page (click here). You’ll find that you can make donations of any amount there, with a suggested starting point of $5. Whoever makes the two largest contributions will get the posters.
So make sure you include your address with your donation. I’ll post to anywhere in the world. If you live locally and can pick your poster up I’ll frame it for you. Otherwise it will come rolled up in a water-resistant tube from the post office.
Join us this Easter!
And if you’re free to join us for worship this Easter, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill would love to have you. Services on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at our usual time of 9.15am. If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on the Holy Trinity website.
And if I don’t see you this weekend, do have a happy and holy Easter. 🙂
I’ll do my best to be in contact again before we depart on the big trip.
we begin our fundraising campaign for our new Youth and Community Centre
Fighting Father Danny maintains control in the ring!
Jessie and Aaron stoush it out in the Binacrombi ring
We dedicate the Binacrombi Chapel - Shiloh (a place of peace)
Our Abbot - Fighting Father Terry - delivers the inaugural Binacrombi chapel homily
Fighting Father Mungo keeps the troops entertained
The stumbling, bumbling monks of Binacrombi
Fran and I visit the Sydney Tower
I love having daughters!
Don has his hands full (at the Australia Day celebrations)
It’s Father Dave. It’s been too long since I’ve communicated with you. 🙁
It’s not that I’ve been having a holiday (I wish). On the contrary, I’ve been struggling with a workload that threatens to overwhelm me at times, and I’ve got two major projects on the boil at the moment, and I’m looking for help with both of them.
The first is the Warrior Weekends bush camp project. We had a fantastic camp in January (as you can see by the pics displayed above) and I’m mad keen to run a few more of these weekends this side of winter.
In truth, I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to hang on to our wonderful bush-property, but while we’ve got it I want to make the most of it, and I do believe that our distinctive format where we spend a day training like Trojans and praying like monks is a formula that invigorates body, mind and spirit in a way that is quite unique!
On our January weekend we had Muslims as well as Christians, young as well as the not-so-young, people of various backgrounds and ethnicities, and the intense training-praying format pulled us all together in a powerful way!
Two weekend warriors pause to tie Fran’s shoes
We did four intense training sessions on the Saturday, framed by five prayer-sessions. Not everybody joined in the prayers, and not everybody joined in all the training sessions, but by the time we got to the end of the day I think we all had a tremendous sense that we had accomplished something significant together, and this led us into a wonderful evening of sharing and reflection, followed by a beautiful Sunday morning of prayer and relaxation where we dedicated our bush-chapel.
In short, I can’t wait to do it all again, and I can’t wait to see more lives changed and refreshed by the experience. I’m thinking that we hit it again on the weekend of March 21-22. Are you with me? 🙂
Peace Mission to Syria
The other major work that is consuming me right now is a planned ‘Boxers for Peace’ mission to Syria that’s scheduled for this coming April.
As you know, I’ve been a part of two peace missions to Syria now (in 2013 and 2014) and on our last trip I took boxing champion, Solomon Egberime, with me to feel out the possibility of a ‘friendship games’ in boxing between Australia and Syria (see the video). This current mission is the outcome of the negotiations that began then.
Our Boxers for Peace project is a strictly religious and sporting mission. Our intention is to work closely with the religious leadership of Syria and with the Syrian Olympic Committee. The goal of this mission is threefold:
To bring some joy to people who are struggling (especially young Syrian people) through sport.
To build ongoing ties of friendship between our two countries through the medium of boxing.
To help give the Australian public a broader appreciation of the real situation of the Syrian people.
This last goal will be accomplished through media coverage that we’ll receive. We hope to have at least one film crew with us and one documentary film-maker.
The biggest hurdle for the mission at the moment is that we’ll need to raise the funds to send the whole team to Syria. The costs will amount to around AUD $2,500 per player. I’m hoping to take a team of six.
The names of the players haven’t been made public yet, and neither have the exact dates or details of the trip. This is partly for security reasons and partly because we haven’t worked it all out yet! One thing I have worked out though is that I’m going to hold a fundraiser dinner in a few weeks’ time – on Sunday March 8. Can you make it?
Date: Sunday March 8th, 7pm start Venue: Salvation Army Hall, Dulwich Street, Dulwich Hill Tickets: $55/person
The evening will include:
Exhibition boxing bouts featuring members of the Australian team (and at least one very well-known boxing identity)
Some (brief) speeches from local religious leaders – Priests and Sheikhs (including myself)
Screening of some documentary video material that we’ve put together from our previous peace missions to Syria
That’s as much as I can give you right now but I would really appreciate your help in making this work. I’ll need:
People to help run the night (set-up, clean-up, wash-up, etc.)
If you want to order a ticket from me online you can Paypal me the $50 and I will mail the tickets to you.
I do believe that we can really make a difference with this Boxers for Peace Mission. I think of the role that boxing played in Apartheid South Africa in bringing together people of different colour, and I think of the role boxing played in Northern Ireland in helping quell the violence there. Perhaps we can help bring Syria to the point where the only fighting going on will be in a boxing ring? When that day comes: Mission Accomplished! (but we might have to put in quite a few rounds before we reach that stage)
boxing for peace in the streets of Homs (2014)
I’ve got an unusually uncontroversial sermon for you today!
Rather than try to interpret global issues or give commentary on the latest terrorist attack, I’ve devoted all my preaching energy this week to untangling the first chapter of the Gospel According to St Mark and, more specifically, to unpacking the implications of a particular incident the highlights the power of the words of Jesus.
I think we often see the words and the works of Jesus as being very distinct. Jesus’ miracles can heal our bodies but His teachings are there only to improve our minds. The Gospel depiction of Jesus though is not so clear cut! The words of Jesus have healing as well as didactic power, while the miraculous actions of Jesus also have something to teach us!
To say this isn’t controversial isn’t to say that it isn’t important, for the relation between word and work – theory and praxis – is something that many of us struggle to get right. Some sections of the church are so focused on maintaining doctrinal purity that they seem to have no energy left to support the poor and needy, whereas others abandon the traditional teachings of the church in order to pursue social justice. I believe Jesus models another alternative!
Before leaving you today I must tell you that I did have a third major project that I had been working on until very recently, and that was the scheduled visit of my friend Rev. Stephen Sizer to Australia.
It was all supposed to take place next month but it all fell apart at the last minute when Stephen was targeted (entirely unfairly, in my view) for his work in advocating for Palestinian human-rights!
I know Stephen well enough to know that he hasn’t got an anti-Semitic bone in his body, and if you look at the details of the accusations levelled against him it is hard to believe that they could lead anybody to that sort of conclusion! Even so, he has now been formally silenced by his bishop and cannot speak or write about anything remotely political – not at home in London nor anywhere else in the world, including Australia! (though how he intends to manage this while continuing to preach the Gospel remains to be seen).
Stephen Sizer and I meet up in Tehran!
I find it hard to understand how something like this can happen while world leaders in Paris are marching to defend the right to free speech! It seems that the level of freedom judged appropriate for speech depends entirely on who is being spoken about! Western politicians and Church leaders don’t seem to mind if you are mocking the prophet of Islam or caricaturing countries like Iran and Syria, but if you call into question the policies of the state of Israel you are on far more shaky ground!
Put in a prayer for Stephen please, and put in a prayer for me too as I don’t think this bodes well for any of us who speak our minds on issues of justice and peace!
And I can’t close off today without telling you that next Tuesday is my birthday. I turn 53! That sounds to me like an appropriate age to capture a world boxing title. Let’s see if I can’t do it before hitting 54. 🙂
Actually, that also suggests to me a fourth way you can contribute to our Syria mission. Buy me a drink for my birthday (click here)!
I will drink to your health if you do, but I’m sure you won’t mind if I toast you using my existing stock and put all donated drink-money into the Fighting Fathers kitty! 🙂
I’ll be in contact with you again very soon to give you further details of our fundraiser and of the next prospective Warriors’ Weekend.