Peace in Palmyra

Hi Fighter,

We are back from Syria.

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.


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.
  • If you’re coming, please register on the exhibition’s Facebook event page.

Video time

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

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:

  1. Take out a $10/month subscription to Fighting Fathers Ministries through our member site (
  2. Buy an item from the Fighting Fathers’ online shop (

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

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

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

Your brother in the Good Fight,


About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Reaching Yarmouk!

300 metres from the front line
the School Principal

It was quite surreal – enjoying the sunshine as we stood on the doorstep of Yarmouk – an area that the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, recently described as Syria’s “deepest circle of hell”!  Admittedly, we were on the right side of the dividing line between the ISIS-controlled section of Yarmouk and the greater area controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Even so, we were “within sniper range”, or so we were warned.

I didn’t take the sniper warning too seriously until one of our guides pointed to a mosque that was only about 300 metres away. “They certainly have snipers in that minaret” he said. He spoke calmly, as tour-guides do when pointing out landmarks. And he wasn’t running for cover either, and neither were the children who were milling about with us at the end of the street. Presumably the takfiri had more important targets to occupy themselves with.

We went into a school, the entrance of which was only a few metres from where we were standing. It was a ‘safe place’ – a compound where the army had relocated families who had fled the ISIS advance. The complex was dotted with mothers with young children and elderly men. Nonetheless, it was evidently still functioning as a school too.

We didn’t speak to the leadership team initially but instead went out into the courtyard and got our boxing gear out. Within moments we had a team of children around us. At first they were reluctant to try on the gloves, but after the first brave recruit had given it a go, there was a predicable clamor of ‘me next’ that lasted until we had worked our way through the entire group.

I assume ‘me next’ was what they were saying anyway. I must learn some Arabic! I’m certain it wasn’t anything nasty. The kids were lovely. They were kids, though some of them must have already seen more than a lifetime’s quota of violence.

It was a fantastic experience – making it to Yarmouk, playing with the kids, laughing and taking photos with the SAA boys. It was exactly what we’d traveled half way around the world to do!

Of course we hadn’t just come to teach boxing. We’d come to see for ourselves the truth behind the media narrative. Various media sources were depicting the people of Yarmouk as the meat in the sandwich – hammered by ISIS on the one hand and pounded by the Syrian Arab Army on the other!  From my friends in Syria though I’d been receiving a difference story – that the Syrian Arab Army was doing all it could to relocate people stuck in Yarmouk to safe places outside the firing zone. Of course we couldn’t see the whole of what was going on, but from our end of Yarmouk it was obvious at the Syrian Army was doing all it could to help these kids.

“We lack pillows” the School Principal said to me afterwards, as we debriefed in his office. “We have food and blankets now but no pillows”.

I don’t think he really expected me to bring a quantity of pillows with me on my next visit. Even so, he was focused on his job and ready to accept help from any source.

In truth, the greatest help we can give these people is not to send our troops into their country. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not the sort of help they want from us.

Welcome to Yarmouk!
Boxing with the kids of Yarmouk (1)
Boxing with the kids of Yarmouk (2)
(click the thumbnails above to watch the videos)

That’s the update for now, fellow fighters. Thank you for your support in helping us get to Yarmouk.

I hope you can see the significance of this visit. Bringing some joy to these kids and leaving them with gloves and pads (courtesy of our friends at SMAI) was of great value but there is something of much greater significance I hope we can achieve for these children though this visit – namely, help discredit the media narrative that threatens to unleash further violence upon them!

Whatever you think of the Syrian government, it was crystal clear to me from our day in Yarmouk that these people do NOT want our foreign military intervention. That will only lead to more death and suffering.

I’ll be back to you soon. Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. Support the work of the Fighting Fathers by joining our online community at It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four