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

 

Please follow and like us:

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

.
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.

.
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

Please follow and like us:

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four