What’s really happening in Syria?

Training with the Syrian Olympic Boxing Team
Training with the Syrian Olympic Boxing Team
A big day at Lattakia stadium!
Lots of the kids who trained with us were living in UNICEF tents that ringed the stadium
Training with the young people of Tartous!
Singing and dancing is very much a part of the culture!
At the gym in Tartous - boys will be boys!
with one of the young disabled veterans of Tartous
The art school in Damascus is full of kids!
The kids insisted on giving us some of their artworks
Damascus swimming centre where 1000+ kids get lessons each week
Back with the kids of Yarmouk
Working the pads with the kids of Yarmouk
we did lots of media interviews
with Syrian Prime Minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi
back with my beloved Mufti - Dr Hassoun
the Mufti is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met

Hi Fighter,

I apologise for the increasing gaps in communication. In truth, I simply have more to do than I can handle. There will be an appeal for help in the latter half of this missive. If you want to avoid hearing me grovel just quit after the sermon. 😉

This is the first chance I’ve had to share with you some of the photographic highlights of our last trip to Syria in late July. What a beautiful time it was, and what beautiful people! Once again the experience was one of hospitality and grace (mixed in with plenty of boxing). I came back full of hope for for the country and its people, though the subsequent moves being made by the US, NATO and my own country (Australia) to escalate the violence do bring me to tears.

Sometimes I don’t know which is worse – the way the West imposes its agenda on Syria at the cost of the lives of millions of people, or that it does so under the banner of humanitarian aid! In truth, these are days of shame for all of us who are a part of the ungodly coalition intent on destroying Syria, and it could backfire horribly. Australia has always been the ‘lucky country’ but by God we are pushing our luck at the moment!

I am regularly being asked what is going to happen next with Syria. I am no prophet, of course, but for the sake of those who would like my take on the subject, the future of Syria seems to be being determined by foreign governments, each of whom have their own agenda. It is a complex situation but I offer the following pointers:

  • Qatar wants a change of government so that it can pipe gas through Syria into Europe. Their agenda is straightforward.
  • Saudi Arabia and Israel are more interested in weakening Iran which threatens to overtake both countries economically (nb. the threat is economic, not existential). Syria is Iran’s main ally in the region (the only other being Hezbollah in Lebanon) and so destroying Syria will significantly weaken Iran.
  • Turkey’s militancy is being driven less by Iran than by the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood (though Turkish President Erdogan seems to also have a personal issue with Syrian President Assad).
  • The US is trying to back its allies in the region (Israel, the Saudis, Turkey, etc.) and are also interested in weakening Iran. Mr Obama is also still dealing with the embarrassment resulting from the fact that he told President Assad to stand down four years ago and he still hasn’t done as he was told!

These are the chief factors that have led to the war of foreign aggression against Syria. Let’s be clear about this: It is not a civil war and I doubt if it ever was. Certainly there aren’t many Syrians left on the rebel side now. We spoke to a young man in Tartous last month who was in a wheelchair. He’d been shot through the spine while fighting at Dier Yasir. We asked him ‘who were you facing there?’ He said ‘Libyans, British and French’. We said ‘no Syrians?’ He laughed.

So, given the foreign interests of this coalition of violence, why hasn’t Syria as we know it been wiped off the map? Here are some of the balancing factors:

  • Iran doesn’t want to lose its main ally in the region and hence has been giving financial and military support to the Syrian government.
  • Russia gives support too as it wants to maintain its military presence in the region (though its naval base at Tartous).
  • The uprising against Saudi hegemony in Yemen is forcing the Saudis to fight a battle on two fronts.

And so the future of Syria seems to depend on the wheelings and dealings of these foreign players, and a number of factors could tip the balance either way.

On the one hand:

  1. Iran could strike a deal with the US such that it would withdraw support from Syria in exchange for the lifting of all sanctions. This now seems unlikely.
  2. Russia might abandon Syria in order to buy time for the looming conflict with NATO in the Ukraine. This looks less likely now than it did a month ago.
  3. Israel might attack Lebanon (as it has been threatening to do) which will lead to the recall of all Hezbollah forces from Syria, thus weakening the Syrian Army.

On the other hand:

  1. Yemen may continue to resist the murderous Saudi onslaught (which is almost not being reported on anywhere) and may prove to be the end of the house of Saud. If this happens ISIS will shrivel up and die very quickly without funding.
  2. If the US does lift economic sanctions on Iran, the Saudis (and even the Israelis) may decide to cut their losses and work for economic cooperation rather than for the subjugation of their Persian neighbours. If this happens, once again, ISIS will shrivel up and die overnight.

As I said, it’s a complex picture, and the above analysis also leaves two vital factors out of the equation:

  • The extraordinary resilience of the Syrian people
  • The mysterious workings of Almighty God

Personally I am full of hope, as my faith is in God and in the Syrian people. Having said that, I won’t be surprised if God’s will is accomplished through the human agency of Iran, Russia, Hassan Nasrallah, and the people of Yemen.

Forgive me if I’ve bored you with the above analysis but I find that a lot of people are confused as to what is really going on and I thought it would be good to put it on paper.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to explore these matters with me further (and you’re in Sydney) I’ll be speaking at three different Syria forums over the next week:

  1. Sunday 13th – No Australian War on Syria Rally – from 11am at Sydney Town Hall. I’ll be addressing the rally at around 12.30
  2. Thursday 17th – The Geopolitics of the Syrian Crisis – 6.30pm at Sydney Uni. I’ll speak alongside Dr Tim Anderson and others who were on our recent trip.
  3. Friday 18th – Updates from the Axis of Resistance – 6.30pm at Coronation Hall, Arncliffe. This will be our team debrief with our supporters.

If you’re able to attend any of these events, the links above will take you to their respective Facebook Events Pages where you can get more info. And if you can’t make it, just keep track of what’s being published on my Syria blog: www.prayersforsyria.com

Sermon Time

From violence to sex – this missive has everything! 😉

Yes, my featured sermon for this missive is on the Song of Songs – certainly the most raunchy piece of literature in the entire Bible and also one of the most controversial.

The book is controversial for two reasons:

  1. It is entirely about sex and romance
  2. It doesn’t mention God at all!

What is this book doing in the Bible? That’s a question that a lot of believers have asked over the last few thousand years. Even so, some of us believe that this little book may have a lot to teach us about love and life and even about God!

(for the written version of this sermon, click here, and for the audio-only, here)

I warned you earlier that this post would include an appeal for help. Here it is:

…. HELP! 🙁

The problem is that I have more work than I am able to handle at the moment, including five speaking engagements in the next seven days, and beyond that I can see a giant tidal wave coming towards me associated with the completion of our new Youth and Community Centre and the 100-year anniversary of our church building!

Highlights include:

  • October 4-6: I fight for the Australian Masters (ie. old bastards) Boxing Title
  • October 16: Book-launch of A Church for our Times’ celebrating our 100-years!
  • October 23-25: A big Warrior Weekend of fight-training and prayer at Binacrombi
  • October 29: ‘Friends of Sabeel, Australia’ Annual General Meeting
  • Mid-November: work should be completed on our new hall complex
  • late-November: re-starting Trinity’s Youth Drop-in Centre
  • November 22: Jubilate Singers (our community choir) fundraiser concert
  • November 29: Fight-Night fundraiser in the new hall
  • December 5: Anniversary dinner to mark my 25th year in Dulwich Hill
  • December 6: special Centenary service followed by the official hall opening
  • December 25: Christmas

You are invited to all of the above events, including the Friends of Sabeel, Australia AGM (which is a Christian group focused on Palestinian human rights). Moreover, you are invited to help me survive this cavalcade of events, especially the re-starting of the Youth Drop-in Centre and the Fight-night fundraiser.

The good news is that we are offering a paid part-time position for a new youth worker. Just email me if you want the details. The not-so-good news is that I’m going to need voluntary helpers too, at least for the short term. And I don’t just need volunteer youth workers, but also web assistants, events coordinators, and just about anybody who thinks they can help me balance this intimidating schedule!

Email me if you’re interested in the paid position or a voluntary position, or a voluntary position that might turn into a paid position. Either way, I’m keen to hear from you.

Till next time, may the Lord bless you and strengthen you for the work for which you have been called.

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.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

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

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

My not-quite-weekly Missive – November 5th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

Forgive my prolonged silence. I’m afraid I’ve just had my head down lately, struggling with balancing my commitments to the church, the youth centre, the fight club, the campsite, my websites and my family.

Celebrating some birthdays at our Youth Centre

Celebrating birthdays at our Youth Centre

Things are plenty busy at the moment as we get into the lead-up to Christmas. Even so, I’m gulping down a glass of Toohey’s New at the moment and feeling relaxed. I should add that beer is not normally my drink of choice, and neither is Toohey’s New my normal beer of choice, but this beer has a story behind it that makes it taste rather good. Allow me to share the story with you … :-)

A few days ago I received a surprise visit from Trevor – a local mentally-disabled man who roams the streets of Dulwich Hill day and night and is a warm and welcoming personality. I see Trevor almost every day but he doesn’t normally visit the rectory specifically, and neither does he normally have a friend with him.

“Father Dave”, Trevor shouted in his always-too-loud voice. “This is Hadi and he needs to talk to you. He’s just got out of prison and he’s got a few problems. He needs to talk to a priest.”  Trevor then turned and left me with Hadi – a short man of around 30 with a thin moustache. He eyed me silently while taking a drag on his cigarette.

“Are you OK, brother?” I asked.

“I’m a bit confused, Father”.

“Confused?” I questioned, using my best counselling voice.

“Like maybe I should go f**k some c**t up?”, he replied.

I tried to maintain my professional counsellor expression and nodded while my brain screamed “that is so NOT what I expected you to say!”

Indeed, it wasn’t just what he said that threw me, but the fact that he said it with such quiet detachment, as if he’d said “like maybe I should go get a haircut?”

Hadi explained himself further: “Like maybe I should roll some c**t”.

I continued to nod and said, “that sounds like a really bad idea”.

Hadi agreed. “It’s just when I get on the piss I go a bit crazy” he said.

It was at this point that I noticed that there were some bottles of beer at his feet. They were unopened but had clearly been separated from a six-pack, the rest of which I assumed had been consumed.

Drawing on my years of counselling experience, I responded with “then you’d better stay off the piss!”

Hadi nodded pensively.

I said “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to open the church up and I want you to go in and say some prayers and have a bit of a think about things and I’ll come back as soon as I’ve finished what I was working on and if you want to talk some more we can.”

Hadi was agreeable to this and I left him in the church alone.

I went back home and debriefed with Ange who suggested that I close the back door. “I don’t really want someone whose looking to f**k some c**t up wandering into the house if that’s OK?” I closed the back door.

I returned to the church building about 15 minutes later and Hadi had gone. I was sorry. Then I noticed he had left the unopened bottles of beer in my driveway!

As I say, Toohey’s New is not my favourite beer, and beer is not my favourite drink, but it tastes just right tonight! 

Sermon Time

Thinking of Hadi and me in the church together did remind me of a joke that Jesus told about two unlikely characters that bump into each other in the synagogue. It’s found in Luke chapter 18 but I don’t want to say more about it here as it will spoil the joke if you haven’t heard it before. Serendipitously I got to preach on the same passage last Sunday!

It may not be the funniest joke Jesus ever told but it is one of the most confronting!

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you can’t view this video above, you can hear the audio version here or get the video with the full text of the sermon here.

Syria Update

I can’t let a missive go by without making comment on what’s happening in my beloved Syria!

The latest news, in case you haven’t heard, is that Israel has attacked Syria again – a naval attack this time on a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia.

Of course (as with the four previous attacks) Israel neither confirmed nor denied that they were responsible, but this time the Obama administration made Israel’s culpability public! This led to …. take a guess:

  1. Israel apologising for attacking another sovereign nation without provocation?
  2. The Israeli government desperately trying to justify itself to the international public?

No. Neither of the above, but rather:

3. Israel expressing outrage and indignation at the US for exposing them! (read more)

I guess you can’t blame Netanyahu. High profile criminals never expect to be held accountable for their crimes nowadays. It’s those who expose them who are hunted down and made to pay – Morde Vanunu, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Ed Snowden …

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, our dear Mother Agnes has begun her tour of the USA and Canada. On Sunday she spoke at the church of my dear friend Father Labib in San Francisco. How I wish I could have been there!

Mother’s full agenda can be found on the Syria Solidarity Movement website. If she’s coming to a town near you I’d encourage you to do your utmost to hear her. And please give both her and Sister Carmel a Syrian kiss on both cheeks from me when you see them.:-)

And whether or not you get to meet Mother in person, do please take a look at this wonderful pictorial that was put together of her recent initiative in Moaddamiya – a rebel-held city that has been under siege for many months.

Mother Agnes crossed the battle-lines, carrying only a white flag, and helped free 5,400 civilians and transport them to safety. You’ll find the story, the pics, and a video of Mother and Sister Carmel sharing olives with rebel soldiers and civilians in Moaddamiya here.

Mother Agnes in Moaddamiya

Mother Agnes in Moaddamiya

What’s On?

As I foreshadowed, there’s plenty happening in our part of the world at the moment. Even so, I am only going to mention one important event at this stage. It’s one that I am hoping you’ll get involved with –  the December 2013 Warriors’ Weekend Boot Camp!

We’ll be heading down to Binacrombi December 6 to 8. When I say ‘we’ I mean me, some of our Youth Centre kids, a squad from our Fight Club, a contingent from neighbouring fight clubs and youth refuges and … YOU! (well, I hope you’re coming).

It promises to be another spectacular experience, led by some of Australia’s greatest boxers – all with an aim of helping you find your engine!

A video says a thousand words, so If you missed the video clip that Denning put together on our last camp, click here (though note that it won’t play on a mobile phone).

I’ll be putting together a dedicated site and flyers and other promotional material for the camp over the coming weeks but why wait? Reserve your place now! An email and a deposit of $10 will do it! Total price for the weekend will be $110 (GST inclusive) and that covers accommodation, food and training, though not transport (though we can certainly organise your transport if necessary. :-)

German women's welterweight champion (Nadine) spars with Dulwich Hill's own Sol Egberime at our last Boot Camp

German women’s welterweight champion (Nadine) spars with Dulwich Hill’s own Sol Egberime at our last Boot Camp

OK. It’s time to wrap up another missive, but not before I share with you some family pics that I’ve taken since our last communication.

Most of these pics were from the wonderful two-day Halloween holiday that Imogen and I took last week – venturing up to Movie World on the Gold Coast for their annual ‘Fright Night’ extravaganza. I’ve also included a wonderful pic of dear Francesca wearing her scary Halloween mask! She made it herself!

Imogen at Sea World
Halloween Fight Night at Movie World - Imogen meets a zombie
I finally find somewhere where I can take a proper break
Fright Night at Movie World - Imogen and I are embraced by the Joker!
Francesca with her scary Halloween mask
Two beautiful redheads
Imogen and I take some time off and visit Movie World
Imogen and I meet one of our great role models - Mrs Puff -at Sea World

That’s enough from me for today.

Until next time we meet, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – August 28th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

Are we on the eve of Armageddon?

Love Syria

It’s Father Dave, and I confess that as I write to you today I’m feeling sick in my stomach.

It’s not something that I ate or drank (though I have had a second glass of red tonight to steel my nerves). It’s Syria, and it’s what I’m seeing on the news!

I’ve been watching and listening to European leaders and US and Israeli officials all talking about how urgent it is that we start bombing Bashar Al-Assad into submission, and all this before the UN inspectors have produced a single finding!

I remember having the same sick and sinking feeling on the eve of the Iraq invasion. I remember thinking then, “No. Surely they won’t do it. They’re not that stupid. They know there are no ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It’s all just saber rattling!” And now … 1,000,000 dead Iraqi’s later … history seems to be repeating itself!

Here’s how the scenario plays out in my mind:

  1. The US and NATO attack Syrian government forces on the pretext of the chemical weapon attacks.
  2. The government falls and the country crumbles into uncontrollable sectarian violence with jihadists gaining control of major areas (as in Iraq)
  3. Lebanon’s infrastructure cannot withstand the further influx of refugees (already almost 50% of the size of its citizenry) and so it falls into anarchy as well
  4. Iran is now left without allies (which I believe is one of the main aims of the game) and so Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities, confident that Iran will not retaliate.
  5. Iran declares war on Israel and the regional war against the Shi’a goes into overdrive.
  6. Shi’a majorities in Bahrain and Iraq and elsewhere rise up and turn the entire Middle East into a cauldron of bloody violence.
  7. Israel eventually becomes the focus of the wrath of all its neighbours.
  8. The reverberations are felt throughout the world. Terrorist acts take place in every major city. There is widespread religious and ethnic violence, reprisals, etc.
  9. It all climaxes with some massive nuclear detonations.
  10. Everyone looks back and realises that there never were any chemical weapons attacks carried out by the Syrian government.

You might think this is all very fanciful, but I have military friends in the US that were put on ‘Class 1 Alert’ on the weekend, indicating possible immediate deployment to Syria! Meanwhile, my sources in Damascus are expecting the bombing to start on Tuesday!

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

with Mairead Maguire - my hero!

with Mairead Maguire – my hero!

Amidst all the beating of war-drums, I was greatly encouraged to hear the lone voice of my friend (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Mairead Maguire, calling upon her Foreign Minister to stop agitating for war! Says Mairead:

“Arming rebels and authorizing military action by USA/NATO forces will not solve the problem facing Syria, but indeed could lead to the death of thousands of Syrians, the breaking-up of Syria, and it falling under the control of violent fundamentalist jihadist forces. It will mean the further fleeing of Syrians into surrounding countries which will themselves  become destabilised. The entire Middle East will become unstable and violence will spiral out of control.”

You can read Mairead’s complete press release here.

And while Mairead Fights the Good Fight in Britain, my dear friend Ghinwa (who you met last week) is just fighting to stay alive in Damascus!

Ghinwa visting the Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus

Ghinwa visiting the Ummayyad Mosque (Damascus)

Ghinwa and her family are on the move, looking for somewhere safe to shelter. They have lost many friends and family members. As an Alawite, Ghinwa knows she is a target to Jabhat Al-Nusra and the armies of foreign mercenaries that besiege her city.

We haven’t been able to secure a time yet when Ghinwa can join us for a conference call and it will have to wait until she finds somewhere safe to stay. In the meantime, let me share with you our latest text exchanges:

 Ghinwa: I was supposed to contact with you on Sunday but I was caught in Damascus because of clashes on the way back home. I was lucky on Monday to avoid mortar shells. Anyhow, we are all OK. Trying to find a safe place to move on to in Damascus …

Dave: You are in my constant prayers, my friend – you and your dear sister. I hope we can speak again soon. … Just let me know if you want to do that phone conference.

Ghinwa: I wanted to do that but every day something new happens. I was unable to leave home in the past two days, and until now … there are clashes in the area around the place I live in. There are military operations now around Damascus, heavy clashes around us, I have information that there are around 4,000 Al-Nusra fighters in Muadamia. This morning those fighters used chemical weapons against the Syrian Army…

After the massacres against Alawites that killed some 350-400 people (we have the names of 256 persons of them) two massacres took place – one against Christians in Wadi-Alnasara area. 20 Christian people were killed there in what Islamist fighters called the Islamist battle to control Wadi Al-Nasara, meaning “Christans’ Vallley”, and a massacre against Kurds that killed more than 200 Kurds.

… I don’t know what to say!

Dave: God bless you, my sister. It tears at my heart to hear these things. Out here we are being told of various accusations against the government for the use of chemical weapons. I have no idea whether there is any truth to these but certainly things are terrible.

Ghinwa: Yes, I know these stories, but I know the accusations to the government are not true. When I checked videos on the Internet, telling the story that the government used chemicals against people in Ghota, I noticed those videos were uploaded to YouTube before the time the alleged massacre took place…

We see the same people in three different videos. Each video claims that those were killed in a different place. The only difference is that they changed the places of the bodies and arranged the scene in a different way. They put once that those people were killed in Kafr – batna, and the other video tells those where killed in Irbeen area.

I’ll check the videos and send them by email if you wish, Father.

Dave: I will publish what you send me, sister, and try to get the word out. My only concern is whether it’s putting you at any greater risk by having your name and face associated with this information.

Ghinwa: I am already on their death lists. Belonging to Alawites is a justification to kill me. It is something I was born with, not something I chose. So no problems of putting my name and pictures there.

Ghinwa with our delegation in Damascus

Ghinwa with our delegation in Damascus

In case you think Ghinwa’s claims about the videos are outrageous, I note that Veterans News Now are reporting that Al Jazeera and Reuters published news of the latest Syrian massacre one day before it happened (see here)!

Faith without Love = Fundamentalism

As we all know, the looming war on Syria is not just a political issue. It’s also a faith issue.

In the New Testament “Letter to the Hebrews” (chapter 11) the author eulogises over all the wonderful things that people have accomplished throughout history through their faith. When I read this though the first thing that occurred to me was that Al Qaeda and Jabhat Al-Nusra also claim to be ‘faith organisations’ , though it seems to be a very different sort of faith to anything I’m familiar with.

How do we distinguish between good faith and bad faith? As a child I once believed that anybody who espoused the Christian faith must be a person of good faith whereas all members of other faiths are the bad guys. Then I studied the history of the church and realised (to use Desmond Tutu’s phrase) that “God is not a Christian”.

I believe the New Testament itself gives us a straightforward way of distinguishing between the faith that kills and the faith that gives life, and I it’s something that I think all Christian people need to take to heart.

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you can’t view this video, click here

Vote Wikileaks!

Let me conclude this week’s missive with a shameless plug to all my fellow Australians: vote Wikileaks at the coming elections!

As George Galloway said when he was with us, if Australia votes in Julian Assange as a Senator we’ll be sending a message around the globe saying that Australia does not accept the ways that governments lie to their people and engage in murderous wars without the consent of the voting public!

And while the Wikileaks Party may not be the most polished and professional outfit in comparison to the more established party machines, one great thing Wikileaks does have is a solid policy on Syria (click here)!

with John Shipton (Julian Assange's dad) after church

with John Shipton (Julian Assange’s dad) after church (click to enlarge)

Let me conclude this missive with the same question with which I started:

Are we on the eve of Armageddon?

I think we could be. In my mathematical reckoning FSA+USA=WWIII

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear what some of the leaders of the churches in Syria and around the world believe:

“if there is an armed intervention, that would mean, I believe, a world war” 
Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, President of Caritas Syria

The West thinks that with the Sunnis in government democracy will replace the dictatorship, but this is a great illusion: regime change by force, without giving security to the secular parties of inspiration, will trigger a conflict worse than in Iraq.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch, Youssef III Younan

“the situation in the Middle East is becoming more and more critical as each day passes… there is a plan to destroy the Arab world for political and economic interests.”
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Rai

Once again, as was the case in Iraq, the United States is acting as an international executioner … Once again thousands of lives will be sacrificed on the altar of an imaginary democracy; among them there are, first of all, Christians, about whose fate no one cares.”
Metropolitan Hilarion, Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate.

Will you pray with me, fighter, as I pray with so many sisters and brothers across the world that this threat to unleash all hell on the people of Syria will come to nothing?

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.zerocostwebsite.net
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

 

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – February 4th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave back with you again – coming to the end of an action-packed day (that culminated in a painfully long run) and savoring an action-packed week that included the long-awaited second stoush between Daniel Geale and Anthony Mundine.

Geale v. Mundine

If you were with me last week you’ll remember that I had a tickets to give away, courtesy of Mr Geale and the PCYC. I gave away 20. I could have easily given away many times that number. It was an event that caught the imagination of countless people around this country, most of whom were mad keen to see Anthony Mundine lose, mainly on account of all the ‘trash-talk’ he came out with in the lead-up to the fight.

at Geale-Mundine II

with some of the guys at Geale-Mundine II

And lose he did! I won’t bore you with my analysis of the fight. Suffice it to say that I scored it with a five-point margin in favor of Mr Geale.

Unfortunately Anthony didn’t accept the loss with much grace. I think a large part of the problem there might have been his corner, who were apparently telling him that he was ahead throughout the fight!

I’ve seen this before with elite athletes. They end up with lots of fans but very few friends. Fans are great at telling you what you want to hear. Friends tell you what you need to hear. You need friends when you’re fighting for your life, not fans.

I’m hoping that Anthony will have a George-Foreman-like epiphany sometime soon. He is still a man who has much to offer and who could contribute a great deal – to our Indigenous community in particular – but he’ll need to conquer a few demons first.

Off to Syria!

Denning and I are off to Syria at the end of this week to lend our support to the Mussalaha (reconciliation) initiative.

I can’t tell you the exact date and time of our departure. We’ve been asked to keep the details vague for security reasons. Even so, suffice it to say that I hope to be sending you my next missive from Damascus.

Mind you, the organisers of the mission have warned us that there will be restrictions on ‘technical equipment’ that we can take with us into Syria. I’m hoping that there won’t be a problem with me taking my laptop.

Even so, if you don’t hear from me next week, don’t immediately assume that I’ve had an unscheduled meeting with a drone. Most likely it means that I can’t get to my laptop or that I can’t get an Internet connection.

Having said that, the latest developments in Syria do concern me deeply.

In case you missed it, two days ago Israel bombed a convoy and a research facility inside of Syria. It was the first blatant act of aggression against Syria by a foreign nation since their civil unrest started two years ago!

Personally, I think it is no coincidence that the attack came one day after Tehran issued a statement saying that they would interpret any Israeli attack upon Syria as an attack upon Iran itself! The Israeli’s obviously knew this but they attacked anyway!

Why is Israel risking starting World War III? Are they trying to provoke an attack from Iran? Is this how they intend to drag the US into armed conflict with Tehran?

The explanation might be much simpler. A few days ago the United Nations issue a report that found Israel guilty of war crimes against the Palestinians (read more here). Perhaps this military action was only intended to shift the world’s attention away from what’s going on in Gaza and the West Bank!

You can keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Israel and Palestine (and Syria) on my blog – http://israelandpalestine.org. I publish a couple of articles there each day.

What is this thing called Love?

Yesterday’s sermon was a variation on my usual wedding sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 – St Paul’s Ode to Love.

Love is patient
Love is kind
Love is not jealous or boastful or rude.

You know the passage. It is a beautiful one, and yet if St Paul is saying that love never gets jealous, he must be talking about something entirely different from what we normally mean by the word!

Here’s my take:

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you can’t access the video, click here.

OK Fighter. It’s past my bedtime and I have to make an early start so I’ll close off here.

I hope to be speaking to you from Syria by this time next week.

Say a prayer for Denning and myself.

your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – November 19th, 2012

Hi Fighter!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than a week since the latest assault by the IDF on Gaza. There has been so much death and destruction in the last few days! I’m afraid that it’s going to be difficult for me to talk about much else in my missive this week.

The Assault on Gaza

I appreciate that I will have already alienated a lot of my readers by speaking of the ‘assault on Gaza’ when the official narrative says that it is not an assault but a war. I’m sorry. I can’t use that language.

I appreciate that there are casualties on both sides of this conflict, and indeed I grieve for the Israeli dead as I do for the Palestinian dead, but a war suggests that there are two armies involved in this conflict. There are not two armies. There is one army. It is a highly-trained and well-equipped army. Fighting this army are disparate groups of home-grown militia-men.

If you think I’m being outrageous, let me quote from the great Noam Chomsky:

Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army … and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.

When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing. You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. (see Chomsky’s full statement here).

Chomsky’s last point is important too. Defending yourself is not always an act of self-defense! If a thug attacks an old woman in the street and she fends him off with her umbrella, the thug might indeed have to defend himself against the blows of the umbrella, but this would not make his assault an act of self-defense.

Don’t misunderstand me: I do not approve of the fact that the people of Gaza are firing rockets into Israel. I pray to God that they will show restraint and recognise the futility of retaliating in this way. Further, I am not anti-Israel and do not want to see the country wiped off the map or anything of the sort. But that is not what this latest outbreak of violence is about. What it’s about, I believe, is politics. Specifically, I believe it’s about the Israeli Prime Minister ensuring his victory at the polls in the forthcoming Israeli elections.

Am I being overly cynical? Read Uri Avnery’s analysis (former member of the Israeli parliament).

While you’re at it, you might appreciate a few other choice articles and videos that depart from the official narrative:

I include this last link as a reminder that this violence is not about race or religion. The problem is not the Jews or the Muslims or the Christians or the Arabs or the Palestinians or any particular racial or religious group. The problem is (as always) politics, greed, and the lust for power!

Pray for Peace!

And don’t simply Pray for Peace. Pray for Peace with Justice – the only kind of peace that can last.

And don’t simply Pray. Protest!

There is a wonderfully long list of protest rallies that are taking place around the world listed on the Facebook page of the Palestine Action Group of Sydney.

There’s a Sydney rally listed there for this coming Saturday. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

Heading to the USA

Thanks be to God, I am now booked to fly to the USA next week to support by dear brother and Holy Trinity parishioner, Solomon Egberime, in his fight against Paul Spadafora on December 1st.

The fight has evidently been generating a lot of interest. I did a quick Google search on ‘Egberime v Spadafora’ and got more than 22,000 results, including this press release from Roy Jones Jr.!

Egberime v Spadafora

I have had the privilege of being in Sol’s corner for each of his fights since 2008, but this is certainly the most significant one to date. I know I carry the hopes and prayers of our parish and suburb and country with me as I go to support our Nigerian-Australian brother.

Of course, I am also hoping to catch up with as many of my American friends and supporters as possible while I am in the US. My itinerary has not been finalised but my current plans are to:

  • Leave Sydney on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 27th
  • Arrive in Los Angeles about six hours before I left (go figure) !
  • Fly to Washington D.C. the same evening (November 27)
  • Drive from Washington to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 28
  • Drive from Gettysburg to the fight venue in Chester, West Virginia on November 30
  • Drive to the monastery in Princeville, Illinois on December 3rd
  • Fly out from Chicago airport on December 5th (landing in Sydney December 7th)

As I say, none of this has been finalised as yet, though the flights (and the fight) are fixed. Certainly I’ll be looking for someone to share lunch with in LA on November 27, though I suppose I can make a day-trip to Hollywood if I don’t get a better offer!

My itinerary from Washington D.C. to Chicago is flexible, apart from the fight. I do hope to take some time to re-visit some of my favourite US Civil War battlefields, but I won’t let that take priority over meeting up with new members of the Order of the Fighting Fathers should there be opportunity.

Congratulations and Thanks

Let me say a big thank you to everyone who turned out to support the team from Holy Trinity Gym last Friday night at our charity boxing night.

  • Fighting Father Caine put in a strong performance to win his bout quite decisively.
  • Kath Biggs also put in a brilliant performance but lost a narrow points decision.
  • I likewise lost my bout in a points decision to Fighting Father Rod.

Mine was a bit of a surprise. I thought I’d done enough to win but the judges thought otherwise. This was sort of fitting though as in my last fight against Rod I thought he’d won but the judges scored it my way!

As I always say, you can’t control the judges decision. All you can control is how much effort you put in, and I can assure you that both Rod and Caine and Kath and I all put in 100%. Congratulations to everyone who had the courage to step in the ring on that night!

Holy Trinity Gym
(click on the pic to see it full-size)

And while I’m congratulating people, let me extend my congratulations to my dear brothers and sisters of the Passionist Order who celebrated 125 years of ministry in our area on the weekend.

Ange and I had the privilege of attending a fantastic celebratory Mass at St Brigid’s church in Marrickville. I know that our Catholic brothers and sisters in this country are facing some serious challenges at the moment, but this just made the celebration all the more wonderful to me. In the midst of adversity we celebrated the goodness of God and all the good things that the Passionist Fathers have brought to our region and our country.

God’s blessing to all our Passionist sisters and brothers, and a special congratulations to Father John (pictured on my left) for staging Saturday’s celebration.

125 years of the Passionist Fathers in Marrickville
(click on the pic to see it full-size)

And before I let you go I must apologise to you if you’ve been trying to catch the live video-cast of our service here at Holy Trinity.

We have been trying to stream our worship services to you each week but unfortunately the church.tv server has crashed and it’s taking them some time to put their network back together!

This Sunday coming Dr Keith Mascord is giving the first of a two-part sermon series on homosexuality, and I’m sure that many of you would have been keen to join us for the video-cast. Be assured that if church.tv can’t manage the live broadcast we will be recording the sermon anyway and will post it to YouTube as soon as possible.

Unfortunately my Sunday sermon from yesterday was recorded by neither video nor audio device, though you can read the written version here if you’re keen.

My text from the Gospel of Mark is about war and destruction in Israel, so you won’t be surprised to find more than one reference to Gaza in the sermon. In truth, it’s been difficult for me to think about much else of late. My heart bleeds for all who are caught up in the bloodshed.

That’s enough for this week.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
dave@fatherdave.org
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

Please follow and like us:

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – August 20th, 2012

Hi Fighter,

I hope your week has started well. I must confess that I’m in recovery mode at the moment, having dealt with a lot of stress over the last seven days.

I won’t try to burden you with all my woes, but I will share one of my struggles with you, and I’m open to your feedback as to whether I handled it properly.


Al Quds Day

Last Friday was Al Quds Day– a day commemorated each year, mainly by Muslim people, to remember oppressed around the world, and particularly the oppressed people of Palestine.

That was my understanding of Al Quds up to last Thursday, at any rate, when my perceptions were strenuously challenged.

Some months ago I was invited to attend the Al Quds rally in Sydney and to say a few words in support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. I readily accepted the offer as I feel that there is no group of people in the world today who have suffered so brutally as have the Palestinians people in this generation. Indeed, I take every opportunity I can to express my concern for their suffering and my prayers for an end to the 45-year-long Occupation of their land.

Then last Thursday, the day before the scheduled rally, I found myself being bombarded on Twitter with regards to an article that had been published in The Australian that day – an article that labelled Al Quds a hate day, and mentioned me by name as one of the ‘extremists’ who would be echoing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei’s call for the destruction of the State of Israel!

Needless to say, I contacted the organisers and started doing more research into the purpose of the rally and the meaning of Al Quds.

The guy who had recruited me for the rally directed me to the Al-Quds website. Unfortunately it turned out to be entirely in Arabic – a language in which I am completely illiterate. I did though find some English information about Al Quds and I did indeed confirm that it was started by Ayatollah Khomenei back in 1979. I also read the Ayatollah’s Al Quds speech, and it was indeed an angry response to the crimes of violence that he saw Israel perpetrating at the time.

Of course Khomenei’s speech needed to be taken in the context of 1979, and I knew the organisers of this rally well enough to know that they are not anti-Semitic people by any stretch of the imagination, and were solely concerned to see justice done for Palestine. Even so, it still wasn’t clear to me whether or not Al Quds day was itself essentially anti-Israel, and I knew that I couldn’t speak of my concern for the suffering of my Palestinian sisters and brothers if that compromised my love for my Jewish sisters and brothers.

My Archdeacon told me not to participate (as one would expect a good Archdeacon to do). Even so, I didn’t want to withdraw my support, and I was convinced that The Australian article was a piece of spin designed to intimidate people like myself and prevent us from participating.

I felt I needed more time to work things through, yet I didn’t have any more time, so I chose not to participate, as I just had too many questions. Even so, I felt sick in my stomach.

I remembered the words of Jesus:

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, … I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’(Matthew 25:35-36)

Jesus comes to us all the time in the guise of our suffering brothers and sisters. Was I turning my back on the oppressed people of Palestine, and so closing the door in Jesus’ face?!


Reasons to be Cheerful

That’s enough on that subject.

As is always the case, things are never so bleak such that we can’t find things to celebrate, and I’ve also had plenty to celebrate over the last week too (nb. click the pics to go full size):

Put on the Armour of God
  • We had a wonderful baptism on Sunday morning – welcoming two new young soldiers to the cause of Christ. Join me with your prayers for young Rhiannon and Alexandra. 
  • I got to preach on one of my favourite passages – Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 6 to ‘Put on the Armour of God’ (which you can hear here or read here). As you can see from the pic, I like to wear my ‘armour’when I preach on this passage. 
  • We have some fantastic new fighters developing through our Fight Club. The mother and daughter combination pictured above are two particularly promising prospects!


An Invitation

And speaking of great fighters, it seems that Lovemore is going to be fighting again very soon – Friday, September 7th, in fact! This fight will be in Melbourne.

We’ll be booking another two tables at this bout for supporters, and we would love it if you could join us, ^fname^.

If you can make it to Melbourne to join us, hit me back. You can have the ticket at cost price. I’ll give you all the details you need when I hear from you.

OK. That’s enough from me for today. I’ll look forward to catching you next week if not before.

In the meantime, remember that if you want to support our work, just join us at the Fighting Fathers’ Member site. Your $10/month subscription keeps us online.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

Dave
www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

Please follow and like us:

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four