Needing Prayer

my darling Veronica graduates with first class honours 🙂
my darling Veronica graduates with first class honours 🙂
Iftar dinner with the Mufti
Iftar dinner with the Mufti
Al Quds Day Iftar
Al Quds Day Iftar
Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange
Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange
night with dad (and Honey the bunny)
night with dad (and Honey the bunny)


Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, and I’d appreciate your prayers.

For any who don’t know, my family is having a rough time at the moment. Ange and I are not currently living together. Two weeks ago, Ange and my son, Soren, moved to an adjoining suburb. My youngest daughter, Fran, stayed with me. It’s been a tough time for all of us.

Situations like this are always difficult, and there are special difficulties involved when you’re pastoring a church. Suffice it to say that the future for me is uncertain. Even so, I am currently getting some wonderful support from the church, from my boxing club, our Binacrombi team, and especially from my children. Indeed, last week Imogen decided to move back in with me and Fran, and last night Veronica organised for all of the kids to join me for dinner. It was lovely.

I won’t say any more on this subject for now, and we’d appreciate not being bombarded with questions. Your prayers are what we need, and plenty of divine grace.

I know that people in these situations are often counselled to take immediate leave, rather than deal with the stress of work on top of personal struggles. My advice to others in these situations has generally been the opposite – to maintain your routine as far as possible.

I think of how the captains of the old sailing ships would respond when they were hit by a devastating storm. They would lash their arms to the wheel so that they could maintain a straight course through the storm. That’s the approach I’m trying to take myself at the moment. Accordingly, I’ve been continuing to plan ministry and mission activities a plenty.

Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange

We had our first meeting of “Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange” on Saturday. It was an Iftar dinner held in our church hall with about 35 people in attendance. I am hoping that it will prove to be the start of something big.

I believe that all attempts at social activism face an almost insurmountable problem. It’s basically impossible to achieve anything on your own, but once you form a coalition of people, powerful enough to make a difference, that group becomes subject to the same forces of corruption that affect all large groups.

The only solution, I believe, is to have our activism rooted in faith communities such as churches and mosques. These groups are not necessarily immune from corruption (particularly at the higher levels) but faith communities by definition maintain a doctrine and an idealism that binds people together and empowers their activism – especially at the grass-roots level. This is what gave birth to my vision for a Christian and Muslim coalition for justice and peace.

The imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange is an obvious point of common concern for both Christians and Muslims. The rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press are important to all of us, and the revelations that the US wants to indict Julian on are specifically related to the war on Iraq – a particularly sensitive issue in the Muslim community. I believe this is an area where we may be able to achieve something significant if we can pool our energies and work together.

If you’d like to join “Christians and Muslims supporting Julian Assange” let me know. Once we’ve helped to bring Julian back home to Oz we will redeploy as “Christians and Muslims supporting Gaza” or “Christians and Muslims against domestic violence”. Maybe we’ll even expand to become “Christians, Muslims and Jews for peace”. We are a work in progress. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of it and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

Manus – the movie

Julian was the focus of last Saturday’s meeting. This Saturday we’ll be focusing on Manus Island again with a screening of Angus McDonald’s 15-minute documentary, ‘Manus’.

Manus is made up almost entirely of footage from our trip to Manus Island in November, 2017 – the final days before the detainees were forcibly removed from their decommissioned detention centre. There were three of us on that trip – Jarrod McKenna (of “Love Makes a Way”), Olivia Rousset (our videographer) and me. Livy and I, along with Angus, the director, will be present for Saturday nights’ screening and will field questions afterwards.

Saturday, June 8th, from 7.30 pm
Trinity’s Community Centre
(2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)

And if you’d like to join Angus and Livy and me (and Fran) for dinner beforehand, just let me know.

Father Dave’s Last Stand

Having still received no response from the Combat Sports Authority after having my March 23rd fight cancelled at the last minute, I’m taking matters into my own hands and having a stoush with the same opponent in my own boxing ring.

This will not be an official boxing match. It’s unofficial and unregistered. It won’t even technically be boxing. It will just be two blokes jumping into the ring and doing what they do best. I’m told that under these circumstances the Combat Sports Authority (CSA) don’t have any jurisdiction over us.

There will be ZERO cover charge – that’s requisite to not having the CSA involved. We won’t even take up a collection. However, following the event in the ring there will be a sausage-sizzle fundraiser for Boxers for Peace in the adjacent church hall. Everyone is welcome to join us for that too, but there is no obligation or expectation.

The ring-events will simply showcase the talents of the ‘Boxers for Peace’ team. We leave for Syria the following day. Meet the team and hear about our work.

Saturday, June 22nd.
Doors open at 6 pm with main event on at 7 pm.
Trinity’s Community Centre
(2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)

Sermon Time

I don’t think this was the best sermon I’ve ever given but it was one of the toughest. It was delivered on the same morning Ange and I announced our new living situation.

The Gospel text for that week was John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Preaching the Gospel is always a challenge, but sometimes especially so.

A final favour

Before letting you go today, I have one final request. I need help with web design.

I need to upgrade two of my sites – www.binacrombi.com.au (our bush retreat site) and www.christiansandmuslims.com, which will soon become the launch site for my new book, “Christians and Muslims can be friends”.

I’m quite happy to pay someone to help me upgrade these sites but I can’t afford the prices I see some people charging. If you think you can help me yourself, or if you know someone who you think is capable and decently priced, please let me know.

That’s all for now. Keep us in your prayers, please, as I do you.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Not Happy

Making weight for the fight that never happened
Making weight for the fight that never happened
Making weight for the fight that never happened
my darling girl, Imogen, gets through to the finals of Miss World, Australia
my darling girl, Imogen, gets through to the finals of Miss World, Australia
my darling girl, Imogen, gets through to the finals of Miss World, Australia
the boys in black are back!


Hi Fighter,

It’s Dave, touching base again, and this week I’m not happy.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, and I know I have a lot to be thankful for – a healthy family, supportive friends, and a wonderful church community. Even so, when my fight was cancelled last Friday night just before I was due to go on, I felt deeply dejected.

For those who don’t know the story, my fight against Jason Mac Gura had been scheduled for about a month. All the paperwork had been completed, medicals done, blood tests, etc. All the I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed.

On Thursday, March 21st, I made weight, coming in at 75.7 kilos, meaning that I’d successfully lost four kilos in the six weeks of training leading up to the fight. I was in great shape! I turned up to the venue on the Friday night feeling confident and ready. Then the promoter told me that he’d just received an email from the Combat Sports Authority (CSA), saying that my fight had been prohibited from going ahead!

I saw the email myself. No explanation was given. The officials at the venue guessed that the prohibition might have been due to the age-gap between myself and my opponent, or it might have had something to do with the head injury I sustained a year ago (from which I was subsequently completely cleared). Either way, the on-site officials were guessing. It wasn’t their call. They and the promoter were apologetic. The responsibility lay solely with the board of the CSA, none of whom were at the event.

Around fifty people had turned up to support me on the night. Many of them had paid more than $200 per ticket. Most were not boxing fans but believed in me and in our work. Understandably, some wanted their money back. I didn’t have the money to refund them with. When you don’t’ fight, you don’t’ get paid. I’d been hoping to raise funds through the fight to fund our next mission to Syria. In the case of my opponent, the fight’s cancellation meant he couldn’t pay his rent!

What were they thinking – the bureaucrats who blocked my fight at the last minute? My guess is that it had something to do with the recent death of an Australian boxer. They were probably worried about the legal ramifications if I got hurt.

In truth, these people had far more reason to be worried about my opponent than about me, and they had medical professionals at the event anyway – there to deal with any problems that might arise. To cancel the event via email, after everybody had paid their money and taken their seats, seems like an act of irresponsible cowardice to me, and I’m not going to simply take this one on the chin (so to speak).

I wrote to the CSA, asking them politely for $20,000 compensation so that I could refund my friends the cost of their tickets, pay my opponent, and put something towards the next Boxers for Peace mission to Syria. They haven’t replied. My guess is that they won’t reply. The next step is to proceed against them legally and/or to get the media involved. I’m open to your advice and support in both of these areas. If you’re a legal person and you’re willing to help, or if you’d like to help me promote this issue in the media, let me know.

In truth, this is not just about me, and I am by no means the only person who has been disenfranchised by the CSA in recent times. Indeed, friends in the industry have been asking me for some time to get involved in order to save our sport.

The problem, as I see it, is that the persons now governing boxing are not boxing experts or necessarily even boxing fans! They are government officials who find themselves on the board of the Combat Sports Authority en route to bigger and better portfolios. I see little to suggest that these people care much about the sport or the people involved.

Perhaps I am being overly harsh? In truth, it’s hard to know what is really going on behind the closed doors of the CSA when they won’t talk to me. My only way forward is to keep agitating until I get some sort of response.

OK … I had been hoping to share a video with you today of my fight with Mac Gura. Obviously, I can’t do that now. Instead, you’ll find below a video of my last fight in Sydney – ‘Fighting’ Father Dave vs. ‘Wild’ Bill Kinbacher on November 17, 2018.

The video was recorded from the hat-cam of my cornerman (the mighty George Plellis) and has only just been made public. The hat-cam perspective means that you see exactly what George was looking at, and it brings you right up-close to the action.

Sermon Time

If you’re hoping for a bit of light relief at this point, I apologise. It’s Lent, and the theme of our Gospel reading last Sunday was ‘Repent or Die’! Proceed if you dare. The sermon video can be found below the fight video.


Time for another Warriors’ Weekend

If you’re feeling as worked up as I am, you may be glad to know that we have another Warriors’ Weekend scheduled for only a couple of weeks’ time. It’s another bush adventure from April 12 to 14 where we train like Trojans and pray like monks.

If you haven’t seen what we get up to, check out the one-minute video documentary that was done on our Warrior Weekend last year.  We run, box, immerse ourselves in freezing water, and have an all-round good time.

The cost for the weekend is $200 for the rich, $100 for the poor and free for the destitute. If you’re interested, let me know via a comment on this page and I’ll get all the details to you.  If you can afford the full cost, all the better. Funds from the fight might have helped subsidise the camp but … (let’s not go back there …)

Either way, no one has ever been turned away from one of our camps because they couldn’t afford it. If you’d like to come, just let me know. We’d love to have you join us.

That’s all for now. Keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Christians and Muslims can be friends


Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends
Christians and Muslims can be friends

Hi Fighter,

These are dark days. We’ve seen the most horrible face of bigotry on display, and so close to our own shores. I’m referring, of course, to the terrible massacre of our sisters and brothers at prayer in the Christchurch Mosque. Yes, the crime was committed in Christchurch, New Zealand, and that’s not exactly next door if you live in Sydney. Even so, the massacre was apparently carried out by an Australian, and the location seems to have been chosen both to maximise casualties and to let all of us in this part of the world know that it could have happened in our own backyards.

I dropped in on our friends at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Earlwood shortly after the terrible shooting. It’s the first time I can remember where the front door was locked and I that needed to be identified via the video-intercom before being invited in. Those I spoke to were understandably shaken. Who knows what the ramifications of this terrible crime will be?

We need to pray for those who are grieving and for those now struggling with fear. For me personally, this also motivates me to get my “Christians and Muslims can be friends” book published. The pictures you see above are some of those featured in the book. The book is currently in the review stage. I’m listening to the comments of proof-readers and making final updates. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of that review team.

The only positive I can see in this tragedy is that it does present all of us who are long-term residents of my country with an opportunity to get alongside our friends in the Islamic community and various immigrant communities, as this violence seems to have been targeted against all non-white immigrants, and not only against Muslims in particular. Let’s at least take this opportunity to show our sisters and brothers of all races and creeds that maniacs like this shooter do not represent the rest of us – indeed, that we are better than this.

Pray with me that somehow our God will work through this terrible tragedy to build a more compassionate community with greater openness, understanding and unity.

Sermon Time

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Lent – traditionally, a day of somber reflection, and one that always features the Gospel story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, as recorded this year in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4.

We tend to see this narrative as Jesus modelling for us how we should deal with temptation. This is almost certainly NOT what the Gospel writer is offering us here. The temptations Jesus deals with are very specific to Jesus and His mission, though that is not to say that they are not relevant to us. Indeed, that may make them more relevant!

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Father Dave vs Jason Mac Gura

The other big thing for me at the moment is my fight next Friday. Things like this shooting put my little projects in perspective. Even so, this is a big event for me.

My opponent is much younger and much more experienced. If you can join me at Club Punchbowl for the fight, I could do with your support. In truth, I do need to sell a few more tickets. The only funds I get from the fight are the commissions I get on the tickets I sell, and I need to sell thirty tickets just to cover my opponent’s purse. If I can’t sell that many tickets, I’ll be paying for the privilege of fighting. Not good.

Having said that, I’m confident that I will sell enough tickets, and I’m confident that I’ll not only cover my opponent’s purse but will raise some decent funds that I can put towards our next Boxers for Peace mission to Syria.  If you’d like to be a part of the show, regular tickets are $60 and ringside table seats (with food and alcoholic drinks provided) are $220 each. If you can’t give me the cash in person, you can order your tickets here I will mail them to you.

Ticket type

Forgive me for concluding today on a commercial note. Profiting from my fight is certainly not my life’s priority. Indeed, surviving the fight is a far greater priority. Even so, for me all these things are connected – the battle in the ring and the battle for a more open and human community. We each need to fight the good fight as best we are able, and there’s a lot more than money at stake.

If you can’t make it to Club Punchbowl next Friday, keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Back into the Ring

Father Dave vs Jayson Mac Gura (March 22nd @ Club Punchbowl)

Hi Fighter,

It’s Dave, checking in from Binacrombi. I’m down here just for the one night, touching base with the team here and making a new friend. I’ve included a pic of my new best mate below. If you haven’t made it to Binacrombi yet, this guy is another good reason to come. He seems to be establishing himself as part of the community here.

Jack - Binacrombi's resident wombat

It’s curious. My vision for Binacrombi is to eventually establish a prayerful community here, so I’ve been waiting for the Lord to send me some wanna-be monks. Is God trying to tell me something by sending a wombat? (click the pic if you want to take a better look at him).

Anyway … the other exciting news is that I have another boxing match lined up for March 22nd – only three Fridays away. I’m fighting a guy named Jayson Mac Gura. He’s had 26 professional fights and is young enough to be my son. Even so, I’m reasonably confident of pulling off another win. It’s at Club Punchbowl, and should be a great night!

The idea with the fight is to fund a trip to Syria between Easter and Ramadan (April 21 and May 5, respectively). Neither the exact dates nor the team are confirmed at this stage, so if you’d like to join me, now is the time to let me know. It will be another Boxers for Peace mission, with the primary goal being to broadcast the voices of ordinary Syrian people around the world. I’ll also be hoping to establish a sister-church relationship between our parish and the Melkite community in Maaloula.

If you can’t join me on the ground in Syria, I hope you’ll support us in prayer and help me with the financing of the mission. If you’re subscribing to the Fighting Father’s member site, you’re already financially supporting this work. If you want to go one step further, just buy a ticket for the fight as I get a commission on the tickets. You can order tickets right here!

Ticket type

Sermon Time

“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:27)

I appreciate that exhortations to ‘turn the other cheek’ seem rather out f place when I’m also asking you to support me in a boxing match! Even so, boxers are not the only people that have trouble coming to terms with these words from Jesus. If you missed hearing me struggling with this text last Sunday, you can click the link below.

That’s it from me for today. Keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Ready to Rumble (again)

My darling Veronica turns 29
My darling Veronica turns 29
Fran is going strong
Another 'Fight Nights' experience with Imogen
a great choir performance in the church
a great choir performance in the church
The Fight with 'Wild' Bill Kinbacher
The Fight with 'Wild' Bill Kinbacher
The Fight with 'Wild' Bill Kinbacher
The Fight with 'Wild' Bill Kinbacher
catching up with Father Bob


Hi Fighter,

For any of you who didn’t hear, my fight with Billy Kinbacher was a great success. Indeed, it was exhilarating to be back in the ring, and I was lucky enough to emerge in one piece and with a win. My opponent was an absolute gentleman and it was a privilege to fight him.

As you know, fighting for me is never just about fighting, and many good things have already emerged from this bout. One of them was a message of congratulations I received immediately after the fight from a fellow professional boxer, Ezatullah Kakar,  who contacted me from Papau New Guinea where he has been a guest of the Australian government for some years.

Ezatullah is an asylum-seeker from Pakistan who had made the unfortunate mistake of thinking that Australia might be a sanctuary for him. Our government’s response is to keep people like Ezatullah in indefinite detention – using their suffering as a deterrent to others who make the mistake of taking our national anthem seriously.

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share

It would be far more honest if our government would delete those lines from our national anthem, or perhaps replace “boundless plains” with “endless pain” or something more appropriate. As you will remember, I travelled to Manus Island last year. I met with many of the men in detention there and I promised them that I would continue to work for their freedom. That message from Ezatullah has given me another opportunity to do just that.

Ezatullah is fighting for the Oceanic Light-Middleweight Title in Port Moresby next week against the local champion, John Korake. He asked me to support him, so I asked him to get me a spot on the undercard so that I could fight alongside him. The result is that I am now scheduled to fight Luke Baro – a local pug who is 16 years my junior, a kilo or two heavier, and has 72 fights behind him. I know what you’re thinking – “take it easy on him, Dave!” Don’t worry. I promise I’ll be nice. 😉

Father Dave vs. Luke Baro
Father Dave vs. Luke Baro

Of course, the focus of my return to PNG is the main event, and assuming that I recover adequately from my bout, I’ll be a part of Ezatullah’s corner team. Either way, I intend to interview him extensively before the fight and try to get his message out to the world. Ezatullah says he will be fighting for all the men of Manus, and for the men, women and children of Nauru.

My plan is to publish everything through the Father Dave Facebook page, at least initially. You don’t need to be a member of Facebook to access the page, and I’ve found that Facebook pages are an excellent platform for live video. Once we’ve streamed via Facebook, we’ll archive the footage as quickly as possible on YouTube. Either way, you should be able to access all the action as it happens or shortly thereafter.

Of course, all this assumes that the technology will work flawlessly, and I’m not taking that for granted. My experience with PNG thus far has been that most of these things work most of the time there. Even so, it’s in God’s good hands, and I trust that it will all come together somehow.

As to the financing of this one, I am deeply grateful for the support I’ve already received from our church community. I’m also being supported by everyone who contributes monthly support through membership of our Fighting Fathers’ online community (www.fighting-fathers.com).

Over the coming months, I’m hoping to get new members signing up at www.fighting-fathers.com.We’ve been working hard on getting the new site fully functional and are grateful for all feedback. I figure that if I can get twenty good souls subscribing at the $100/month level (or better) that we’ll be able to keep this sort of work going indefinitely without the need for special fundraisers. Indeed, maybe I’ll even be able to stop fighting?

Keep us in your prayers, please. There is much to pray for (as always), but pray especially for Ezatullah, and that our efforts will achieve something for the men of Manus and for the men, women and children of Nauru.

Sermon Time

November 11th this year was a historic day – 100 years since the end of the first World War – and it fell on a Sunday. I felt I could not avoid the subject of war in my sermon, however controversial my views might be, and the Gospel reading – the story of the Widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44) – seemed highly appropriate.

If you know the story, Jesus praises a widow who puts her small coin into the Temple treasury, even though it is everything she has to live on. The story is haunting, for we cannot but join Jesus in admiring the sacrificial generosity of the woman and yet, at the same time, we know that the cause for which she sacrificed herself was of highly ambiguous value. Indeed, in the same passage, Jesus rips into the very same temple institution for its corruption – the institution that took this woman’s money.

The parallels here with our history of warfare seemed all too obvious to me. We cannot but admire the self-sacrificial courage of those individuals who serve in our defense forces. At the same time though, we have to question the institutions and governments that send our people to war.

As I said, I knew I would be controversial. Even so, I think this is the only sermon I have ever given at Holy Trinity where one of our beloved parishioners stood up and confronted me verbally during the sermon. Perhaps you would have too?

(for the written version of this sermon, click here)

I’ll try be in contact with you again before Christmas, fighter. if you’re going to be in the Dulwich Hill area though over the next two weeks, do make plans to join us in our Yuletide festivities.

  • Christmas Eve: Carols on the rectory lawn from 7 pn
  • Christmas Day Eucharist at 9.15 am
  • lunch afterwards with our family if you’re on your own 🙂

And if you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas, consider signing up to our members site at www.fighting-fathers.com. That would indeed make me merry 🙂

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Dangerous Days

Fran turns 8 and gets a trampoline
Soren turns 16 and enjoys dinner with the family 🙂
I travel to Mashad in Iran to speak at the New Horizons conference
Catching up with Miko Peled in Mashad
At the Imam Reza Mosque with Rabbi Weiss
I have an awesome boxing experience in Mashad
Visiting the spinal injury unit at the hospital for Iran-Iraq war vets
Visiting an orphanage for Hazara kids whose dads have been killed in Syria
Visiting churches in Urmia (in North-West Iran)
A weekend retreat of prayer and fasting at Binacrombi
The awesome foursome attend the Premier's Iftar dinner
And we get to meet the Premier 🙂
Catching up with my Malaysian mate, Adrian, on his first visit to Oz
Organising a church bush-dance to support the 'House of Welcome'
Protesting six years of arbitrary detention for Julian (and meeting John Pilger)

.
Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, after another prolonged period of silence. So many things have happened since I last communicated with you. Most obviously, I spent a week in Iran, and that was an intense and wonderful experience.

I must confess that I wasn’t really looking forward to that trip at all. I’d been invited to speak at a conference about Palestine, and I thought it was important to have a Christian speaker at the event. Even so, I didn’t expect to enjoy myself, but thought that it would be a light schedule and that the week away would give me time to finish work on my book. I was wrong on all counts!

I did enjoy myself! That was in part due to the number of old friends I caught up with over the week. Miko Peled was there – a man for whom I have an enormous love and respect. Paul Larudee was there, Alison Weir, and others known world-wide for their Palestinian activism. Some of the world’s most famous whistle-blowers were there too – people like Peter Van Buren and Dr Phil Giraldi! Indeed, the only ones missing were Assange, Snowden, and my old mate, Morde Vanunu. It was all a wonderful surprise, though my biggest surprise (predictably) happened in the boxing ring!

In the lead up to the conference I had written to the organisers and said that I was available to box if that could help the cause. I received what I thought was a rather curt response, along the lines that they had fifty other delegates to worry about and that this was not a priority. I gave it no further thought. Even so, when I turned up at the hotel in Mashad, not having slept for two days and completely worn out, I was told “Your boxing match is tomorrow.” I asked, “Is this a serious fight?” The response was, “we don’t know. It’s been organised by the Ministry of Sport”

The result was the most unique boxing experience I’ve ever had (and that’s really saying something)! Indeed, I expect that it will be the only fight I ever have where my opponent meets me at centre ring with a bouquet of flowers! The aftermath of the fight was even more colourful, with the dozen or so boxing officials lining up to give me a long-stemmed rose each and a kiss on each cheek!

In addition to the fight, the other surprise I received on arrival in Mashad was the news that there was a film crew there to make a documentary about me! This led me away from the conference for a significant block of time, but meant I was able to visit places I would never otherwise have seen, such as the spinal-injury unit of a hospital for Iran-Iraq war veterans, and an orphanage for Hazara refugees whose dads had recently died, fighting in Syria.

As the conference drew to a close and I thought I was finally going to get some rest, someone dropped some papers in front of me on the dinner-table (as they did on the table of every delegate). It was an itinerary for the following day, which in my case meant being in the lobby at 6 am for a flight across the country, followed by a three-hour drive. I was going to Urmia, in the north-west of Iran, near the borders of both Turkey and Azerbaijan. I was initially horrified. Suffice it to say though that my 24 hours in Urmia, addressing students at the University and visiting one of the largest churches in the city, was one of the highlights of my trip!

And so I returned to Sydney, exhausted, but with a feeling of deep gratitude towards my friends in Iran, along with a renewed passion to continue the fight for the beleaguered people of Palestine.

Palestine had been the focus of the conference and of my talks, and, along with the other delegates, I had watched the brutal murder of so many unarmed protesters in Gaza while our conference took place. At one level it seemed almost sacrilegious to be making fine speeches while these people were bleeding. At the same time though, it reminded me that the only weapon we can bring to this fight is the truth, and I have to believe that the truth will ultimately set the Palestinian people free. If you’d like to hear my contribution on the errors of Christian Zionism, you’ll find it here.

Of course, there has been plenty to keep me busy at home too – prayer and boxing-training weekends at Binacrombi, multiple wonderful Iftar dinners during Ramadan, and protests to mark six years of arbitrary detention for our brother, Julian Assange. It’s all been very painful and very stressful and yet all very wonderful at the same time. We live in dangerous days, and yet there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Sermon Time – encountering the Ethiopian Eunuch

The English-speaking church has become very focused on issues of gender and sexuality in recent days. Some would say that we’ve always been obsessed with sex. Certainly in Australia the recent debates over same-sex marriage have brought discussions about sexuality to the top of the church’s agenda.

In the context of this debate, it surprises me that Bible-centred Christians make so little reference to that strangely gender-non-specific character who appears in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts – the Ethiopian eunuch.

The Eunuch is a key character in the story of the early church because his conversion marks the point at which we moved beyond being an all-white, all Jewish homogeneous community! This guy is not only not-white and not-Jewish but his sexual issues should have excluded him from the temple community altogether. Even so, he was enthusiastically embraced by the church. Click below to hear my thoughts, or click here if you’d like the written version.


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I feel as if I’ve already crammed enough into 2018 and yet there is so much that lies ahead. Indeed, two really significant things are happening here in the next week. You are invited to both.

The first is an inter-faith event happening next Friday – June 29th – where Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill is hosting Sheikh Dr Nour Kabbani as he travels across Australia on his Caravan of Peace.

Sheikh Kabbani will be signing the Charter of Compassion with us, along with other representative faith and community leaders in Dulwich Hill. If you’ve never read the charter, you’ll find a copy of it here. For details of the event, click the poster below.

Dulwich Hill signs the Charter of Compassion

Dulwich Hill signs the Charter of Compassion

The other wonderful event happens the following day – June 30th – where we’ll be holding a bush-dance to raise money for the House of Welcome – a place where asylum-seekers and refugees find welcome, shelter and empowerment, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, nationality or religion.

You can find out more about this wonderful event (and book tickets) here.

I’ll leave you in peace now and hope to see you next week. Hopefully, I’ll be contacting you again shortly after that with details of another Boxers for Peace tour of Syria. We are just waiting for a final confirmation of the dates.

Much to do, much to pray for, much to celebrate.

Yours in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Recovery Time

Dave & Dimitri - setting the record straight
fighting for the men of Manus
it was a great team effort
my multi-award-winning girl!
with David Frossard of ‘The Fragrance Foundation’.
back to the bush 🙂
introducing Stephen Sizer to the bush and to Fighting Father Terry
taking Stephen running around the bay
Three amigos back together again
with Imogen, doing our Good Friday chores
Imogen appears in a Women's Weekly cookbook!
Happy Easter!

Hi Fighter,

I’m finally resurfacing after a few very intense weeks. Specifically, over the last four weeks I’ve:

  1. Boxed my old nemesis, Dimitry Patsouris
  2. Helped raise some funds for the men of Manus Island
  3. Overseen the Australian tour of human-rights activist, Rev. Stephen Sizer
  4. Celebrated Easter

All of the above have been worthwhile and exciting but they’ve left me a little exhausted. Indeed, towards the end of this post I’ll be making an appeal for more help. If you want to avoid hearing me beg, stop reading a few paragraphs short of the end. 😉

In terms of the fight/fundraiser, it was quite a surreal event. It was a great team effort and we did raise a significant amount for the detainees on Manus Island and Nauru. Even so, they were the weirdest rounds of boxing I’ve ever experienced.

After it was all over, it took me some time to work out why the boxing felt so odd. Then I realised – I’m used to performing in front of hard-core boxing fans, many of whom are drunk. This time we had a crowd of church people and humanitarians, all of whom were very quiet and respectful. Gone were the screams of “rip his head off”, and similar words of encouragement. Instead, a deathly silence descended upon the ring when Dimitri and I started our stoush! I wasn’t sure how to respond! We’re going to have to give this some serious thought before we do it again (though do it again, we will). 🙂

I’m posting the video that Denning made of the fight below. I’d appreciate it if you’d share it around, either by directing your friends to this page or by directly sharing the YouTube link. The aim is two-fold: firstly, I’m hoping that the video will help generate more funds for Gifts for Manus and Nauru. The men on Manus Island, and the men, women and children of Nauru most surely need more support. Secondly though, I’m hoping that the video might catch the eye of a few boxing promoters.

I expect that this will be my last year as a professional fighter, so I want to give it my best shot. As you’ll see in the video, I’m in great shape at the moment. Even so, I’m already Australia’s oldest pro fighter of all time and I don’t expect that I’ll be able to keep going forever. I’d really like to do some significant fundraising with my fists while I still can. I’ll accept any reasonable offer.

So, if you want to challenge me or if you want to organise a challenge for me, I’m ready. I’m pursuing one possibility at the moment for a fight in Eastern Ghouta (in Syria) but that may be a few months away. I’m ready to rumble now. You just need a good cause and some cash to make it happen. Contact me.

The other key event that I’ve been involved in lately is the tour of Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer around Australia. Stephen, like me, is an Anglican Priest. Also like me, he has a passion for building bridges between faith communities, and for seeing a just peace prevail in Israel/Palestine. Unlike me, he’s written several books on these subjects and has completed a doctoral thesis on the history of Christian Zionism!

I first met Stephen in Iran in 2014, and we’ve been talking about having him come to Australia ever since. This year it finally happened, and it was worth the wait. The only downside was that we only covered the east coast of Australia (Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne) though he had invitations to both Adelaide and Perth.

If you missed hearing Stephen while he was in Oz, all is not lost. There’s plenty of video evidence of his visit:

Stephen’s main focus was the way certain elements in the church have contributed to the oppression of the Palestinian people through the propagation of Christian Zionism. If you don’t know anything about Christian Zionism, the above links are a good starting point. If you’re all too familiar with this aberration on the Gospel as it’s taken over your town, you might consider inviting Stephen to come and pay you a visit. You’ll find him through his web pages – www.stephensizer.com and www.peacemakers.ngo.

Sermon time

It’s always a challenge, coming up with a new sermon for Easter Sunday. Along with Christmas, it’s a day where you don’t have a lot of choice about the Bible readings or the theme. This Easter I really struggled to come up with a fresh angle on the text. I had plenty of thoughts about our community though and what we were going through, so I just started writing about us. Strangely, the message of Easter hope just seemed to rise right out of my reflections on the community!

This is a dangerous way to write a sermon, and I don’t recommend it to budding preachers. Even so, I had more than one person say to me afterwards that it’s the best sermon they’ve ever heard me give! That’s why I thought I’d share it today. 

Retreat time

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16)

Having been racing around for the last month, I’m heading into the wilderness for a few days. I’d like you to join me.

Dates: April 20th to 22nd
Aim: To find a lonely space where we can pray and reflect
Location: Binacrombi bush retreat (where mobile phones do not work)

You are probably familiar with my ‘Warrior Weekends’ programme, where we head out to Binacrombi for a weekend of intense physical training. My idea this time is to attempt something altogether different – a weekend of prayer and fasting.

My proposal is that we follow the Benedictine pattern of meeting five times for prayer on the Saturday – at 6 am, 9 am, noon, 3 pm and 6 pm. Further, I suggest we keep eating to a minimum until after our final prayer session of the day, after which we have a huge BBQ feast.

If that sounds too intense, be assured that you don’t have to fast, and you don’t have to pray either. You can spend the weekend swimming in the billabong, walking and looking at the stars if you prefer. I’d still like to have you with me.

The cost for the weekend is $200 for the rich, $100 for the poor and free for the destitute, and you decide which category you fall into. Let me know if you’re interested.

Help!

And before I let you go, let me make my plea for help. I really do need a few more Fighting Fathers to help me share the load. If I could pay for a strong team of assistants, I would. At the moment that’s not an option, so I’m accepting all volunteers and those who need minimal remuneration.

At the moment, I’m in particular need of a webmaster – someone who can help me oversee my websites and keep them running smoothly. Coding ability in HTML and PHP would be a big advantage but is not essential.

If I find the right person, they can help me restart the member site at www.fighting-fathers.com and this in turn could generate some income that could then help renumerate the webmaster. Even so, you have to be willing to start out working for peanuts. If that sounds attractive, contact me. If that’s not you, say a prayer for me.

Till next we meet, I remain …

your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Fighting for the Men of Manus

G’day Fighter,

If you’ve been wondering why I’ve published so few blog posts lately, I’ve been flat out putting together two big events, both of which I want to invite you too now.

The Fighting for the Men of Manus fundraiser is overdue. The men of Manus Island have been treated so shamefully by this country, and every day we sit on our hands and allow the abuse to continue adds to our shame.

A large part of what we hope to accomplish on Sunday is to raise awareness. We will have representatives of the major asylum-seeker and refugee-support agencies with us. These people will speak to us about their work and tell us how we can support them as they support the men on Manus, and the men, women and children on Nauru. We’ll also be streaming some of the video interviews we did with the men of Manus when I was in the detention centre with them last November.

We also intend to raise money – lots of it. Hopefully our costs on the day will be covered by sponsors, allowing us to forward 100% of what is collected to Gifts for Manus and Nauru, who supply detainees with emergency food, water, and other vital supplies, including phone credit!

Some may think that phone credit is hardly a necessity but, for the men of Manus, it is their lifeline to the outside world. Not only has it allowed them to make their situation known, but it has also put them back in contact with their families.

I met one man there who had been targeted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and so had left his pregnant wife with her father while he searched for a safer home. He reached Australia, hoping this might be the beginning of a new life for his family. Instead it was the beginning of an indefinite prison term on a remote island. His son is four years old now and they have never met. They connect through Skype.

Of course, I can’t mention this event without talking about my stoush with my old nemesis – Dimitri ‘the Dominator’ Patsouris!

I first met this man inside the ring 22 years ago, when he was known as Jimmy ‘the Devil’ Pat. It was my debut as a professional boxer, and it was certainly the roughest stoush I had ever had at that stage. You can see the last round here.

In truth, I was lucky to get away with a draw, and I was in no mood for a rematch at the time. Now though, 22 years later …

I must make clear though that this is NOT an official boxing match. There are lots of reasons for that, the most obvious of which is that it will cost us at least $1,000 to have the event formally sanctioned, and I really don’t want any of the proceeds going to anybody apart from our friends on Manus and Nauru!

So, officially, this is a friendly four-round sparring session between two old pugs – no referee, no judges, and no decision (except for the decision you guys make). I don’t even have a ringside doctor organised (though if you are a doctor and you’d like to come, I’d by happy to give you a ringside seat).

I don’t expect anything to go wrong or for anyone to get seriously hurt, but given that Dimitri and I both went on to win state and national titles after our initial clash, we’ve both got a point to make. 😉

Sunday, March 11th, beginning at 12 noon (main event scheduled for 1pm)
Holy Trinity Community Centre, 2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill

And for those who can’t make it, the event will be live-streamed through Facebook Live. You’ll be able to watch the whole thing from your computer or mobile phone through the church’s Facebook page, and we will have a donate link on the page. We expect to start streaming at around 12.30

And if you’d like to download the poster for the event and help share the love, you’ll find it here.

Sermon Time

My sermon today is on Jesus’ clearing of the temple as recorded in John 2:14-16. It’s perhaps the only time in the Gospels that we see Jesus really angry!

I confess that I don’t feel very comfortable with the angry Jesus. I prefer gentle Jesus, meek and mild. The Jesus who wields a whip and screams at people is not the Jesus I talk about to my children before saying nightly prayers. At the same time though, is a Jesus who doesn’t get angry about what’s happening on Manus Island a Jesus worth praying to at all?

With all that’s going on, on Manus, in Syria, and in so many places around our word, we need to rediscover the hostility of Jesus towards all forms of corruption and exploitation.

(for the written version of this sermon, click here)

The second invitation I want to offer you today regards the Australian tour of Reverend Doctor Stephen Sizer.

Stephen is an Anglican cleric from London and a long-time friend of mine. More importantly, he’s an outstanding human-rights activist who shares my passion for reconciliation with the Muslim world.

Stephen is most well known for his support for Palestinian people suffering under the Israeli occupation. More specifically, he’s a renowned opponent of Christian Zionism, which tends to condone all actions taken by the government of Israel, believing this to be a Biblical mandate!

Whether you know a little or a lot about Israel/Palestine, Stephen is definitely working hearing. He’ll be speaking in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne this month, and I’d encourage you to make the effort to hear him if you can. If you’re in Sydney, put aside Sunday, March 18th.

  • 9.15 am – preaching at Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill
    (Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)
  • 2.00 pm – a pubic seminar on “Israel, the Church and the Bible”
    (2 Herbert Street, Dulwich Hill)
  • 5.30 pm – Balmain Uniting Church “Voices from Palestine and Israel”
    344 Darling Street, Balmain

If you want the rest of Stephen’s itinerary, just contact me, and if you’d like to download the poster for the Sydney visit, click here.

That’s more than enough from me today. Keep me in your prayers, as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com

 

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

The men of Manus Island

Welcome to Manus Island
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
The men of Manus
Our church in solidarity with the men of Manus
Our boxing club in solidarity with the men of Manus

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Hi Fighter,

A lot has happened since my last post. Most notably, I’ve been to Manus Island, and have visited the asylum-seekers being detained there by the Australian government.

You may have already seen the TV coverage we received on Lateline or watched he video on the Getup website. I’ve debriefed our experience in a sermon (featured below), and I refer you to that for the details of our trip. What I’d like to do first though is to talk a little about why we went to Manus and what has resulted from it.

I confess that I knew very little about the goings-on on Manus Island until very recently. I knew the Australian government was shipping asylum-seekers there for processing (as with the island of Nauru), and I had heard talk of abuse and violence and even death! Even so, it seemed impossible to find out exactly what was going on as the Australian government seemed to have placed a media blackout over the entire area!

This is what initially concerned me – that I couldn’t get answers to my questions. What was going on there? What was the Australian government doing to these men? How was the church responding to these allegations of violence and abuse – both the church in this country and the church on Manus Island?

I started ringing around and asking church people what they knew. Nobody seemed to know anything, so I put out a Twitter tweet to some of my more notorious clergy friends – Father Bob Maguire, Father Rod Bower, and Pastor Jarrod McKenna – and asked them whether we should try to charter a plane and get out there to see what was going on. The result was that within a week, Pastor Jarrod and I were boarding a plane for Papua New Guinea, hoping to successfully make our way from Port Moresby to Manus Island, and from Manus to the detention centre.

In truth, we would never have boarded that plane if it weren’t for the good people of Getup! Those guys sponsored and organised our trip, and they stuck with us every second of the way – even communicating with us via text messages as we floated around in a dingy in the middle of the night, desperately trying to find the right beach to land on while avoiding the local navy (who were based on the adjoining beach)!

It was a massive effort from a wonderful team of people – some based in Oz and others on the ground in Manus – and I am deeply grateful to them all. I only pray that we were able to achieve something on Manus that will contribute to the long-term good of these detained men.

What we discovered in that decommissioned detention centre was quite remarkable and (for me) quite unexpected. I had expected to find men suffering, and I did find that, but I found something else there too. I found community! The detainees we met on Manus Island were a close knit community – a band of brothers who had learnt to live and work together and to depend on each other.

The men had a clear leadership system with strong democratic accountability (demonstrated through regular camp-wide meetings). They had a centralised healthcare system, with all the men pooling medications that were then distributed as needed. The mentally ill were being looked after on a rostered basis (with different men walking them around the compound). The engineers used their skills to build wells and to maintain the electrical supply (where possible). In short, they had developed a highly functional society, which explained why they were refusing to be broken up and shifted to new facilities. Why would they abandon their brothers, who they knew they could trust, for promises made by the Australian government, who they knew they couldn’t trust?

Within a couple of days of our visit these men were forcibly moved, and bussed to new facilities that weren’t ready for them. The result was that hundreds ended up sleeping by the roadside, with their clothing and provisions having been left behind. Since then things have only got worse. At time of writing, many of the men have apparently been without fresh water for two days. Others are suffering from various medical conditions. And what has the Australian government done about this? Last week they blocked Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from sending doctors into Manus to attend to the sick! This week they voted ‘no’ to an offer from the New Zealand government to give two hundred of these men immediate refuge!

These developments frankly leave me dumbfounded! I thought us Aussies were supposed to be the good guys. I thought it was only evil regimes run by unscrupulous dictators that deliberately tortured and killed people. I was wrong.

So, what did our team achieve by going to Manus Island?

I believe we were able to bring some spiritual and emotional comfort to the men – letting them know that they are not alone, and that not everybody in our country is against them! I hope we have also helped to bring something of the truth of their situation back to the Australian people.  As I say, there seemed to be something of a media blackout on the entire situation, and how could we know how to respond if we didn’t know what was going on? Now that we know, what do we do? Well … somehow, we have to find a way of bringing human values back into the Australian political process.

It is not uniformly bad news in that regard. The decision to refuse New Zealand’s offer to give refuge to some of these men was only lost by one vote, and I think that’s probably pretty indicative of where things stand. Indeed, I received an encouraging mention in Anthony Albanese MP’s speech in support of New Zealand’s proposal (which you can watch here or read here), and that did remind me that our Parliament is not completely made up of thugs.

I’m personally convinced that the majority of Australian people – politicians included – do believe in giving a fair go to those who come to our shores seeking protection. The problem is that we are a (largely) silent majority, and it’s time we spoke out!

It’s time that the church spoke out too. I appreciate that some church leaders on Manus feel they need to keep quiet. That’s because they are busy sneaking food and medicine to the men, and don’t want to draw attention to what they are doing. There’s no such excuse for the church in this country. We should be unequivocal in our concern for welfare of the men, and in our condemnation of our government for abandoning them.

Sermon Time

It seemed serendipitous to me that the Gospel reading scheduled for the Sunday after my return from Manus was Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus depicts the final judgement, and shares those memorable words:

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink … I was in prison, and you came to visit me. … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:35-36,40)

Having just visited Jesus in prison, how could I not take this opportunity to talk about it. If you’d prefer the written version of this address, you’ll find it here.

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Let me close today with the usual seasonal invitation:

  • If you’re free on Christmas Eve, join us for carols on our front lawn (7 pm).
  • We’d love to have you join us for church on Christmas Day (9.15 am)
  • And if you don’t have anyone to enjoy Christmas lunch with, we have room at our table (from midday)

I’ll be back again soon with a more formal Christmas greeting. Until then, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four