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.

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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!

 

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – April 8th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave back with you and I must tell you that I’ve had a very full and exciting week,  climaxing in the fourth birthday of my youngest daughter, Francesca, last Saturday! :-)

Francesca with Imogen on her 4th birthday! (click for full size)

Francesca turns four! (click for full-size)

Having been blessed with four children, I’ve been through the whole turning 4 experience a few times now, and yet the wondrous joy of it all still confronts me afresh.

I remember when Veronica was that age and how she told me one night that she thought she’d grown up enough and was quite happy to stop where she was. I thought it was a great idea too at the time.

For better for for worse though it never works like that. Time like an ever-rolling stream presses forward and there’s no going back. Even so, every time a new child joins us we get the opportunity to relive the wonders of childhood all over again through them! :-)

Zerocostwebsite.net

It’s not nearly as exciting, but we did give birth to a new website this week too!

Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback and suggestions regarding the homepage video for the site. In accordance with your advice, we’re sticking with the smaller video option. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about , just visit the site: www.zerocostwebsite.net.

The idea behind the site (in case you can’t guess) is that we build a website for you at zero cost. Naturally you have to pay for a domain name and for a hosting package, but the nuts and bolts construction of the site will be done by us at no charge.

My vision is that this process will eventually result in a lot more people joining our online community at www.fighting-fathers.com. That’s the hope.  Even so, you are welcome to take up the offer whether you intend to join our online community or not. Take note though that this offer is for personal sites only and naturally we will not build hate sites, porn sites, etc. Got it? Great! Go and claim your free site!

We do also have a system in place for building business sites with no up-front cost but you’ll need to contact me directly if you want to find out more about that.

Heading to Syria!

The other big news for me is that the Syria trip is back on!

I can’t share the exact dates or details at this stage but I will say that it’s all scheduled to take place within the next month!

The proposed program involves spending time with the ‘Mussalaha’ (‘reconciliation’) teams on the ground in Damascus and elsewhere in Syria. We’ll also be visiting Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps and meeting with church and community leaders both in Damascus and in Beirut.

Fighting Father Denning is planning on coming with me and will document the visit on video.  We’ll be keeping you up to date through this missive and other email contact as we go (depending on Internet access of course).

I’m delighted to add that the visiting delegation is going to be led by Maread Maguire (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her reconciliation work in Northern Ireland). She’s a personal hero of mine and a woman I have always wanted to meet. :-)

I give thanks to God that we’ve been invited to be a part of this exciting mission and I ask you to support us with your prayers – both for our safety and that we might make a meaningful contribution to the cause of peace for the suffering people of Syria.

The Amazing Boot Camp Video!

There’s no sermon video for you this week (as I didn’t preach last Sunday) but I’ve got something far more exciting for you – Denning’s 3-minute documentary video of our first ‘Fighting Fathers’ Warrior Weekend’.

The only thing that concerns me with this video is that Denning has used a musical backing track that we don’t have copyright to. If anyone knows how we can pay someone the appropriate copyright fee (if we need to) I’d be grateful for the advice. Either way, enjoy the video and I hope it inspires you to join us for the next camp!

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If you can’t view this video, click here.

I will NOT fight for Queen and Country

In conclusion today, let me point you to another inspiring video – this one of a short speech given to the ‘Oxford Union’ by Ben Griffin – a former SAS soldier and now a spokesman for ‘Veterans for Peace’. His topic is I will not fight for Queen and Country!

The video is on the Fighting Fathers’ Member Site but you don’t need to be a member to access this one. Even so, while you’re there, why not sign up and keep the work of the Fighting Fathers going. It’s only $10/month.

I’ll see you next week.

Until then, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

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

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 28th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, back with you again on a wet and balmy January evening in Sydney.

As is the pattern in Australia, the weather shifts between passionate extremes – going from hot and dusty to a flood situation in a matter of hours!

Every January is like this – floods in the north of the country and bush-fires in the south. We in the middle tend to be blessedly spared most of the calamities. Indeed, the only negative impact the weather has had on me today is that it blocked me from doing my Monday half-marathon, which is a shame as I had about half a dozen lads from the church and Fight Club who were going to join me tonight. Never mind. There’s always next week!

Mind you, next week I head off to Syria too. I think I will be taking my running shoes with me, but I might leave the boxing gloves behind.

Getting Ready for Syria

I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to everybody who has sent words of encouragement for the Syria trip. In truth, I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the show of support!

I’m afraid I need to be a little vague at this stage about my precise itinerary. There are understandable security concerns for our peace delegation, but I do intend to keep you up-to-date every step of the way if I can, most probably through this blog if I can get consistent Internet access.

One exciting piece of news that I can tell you is that it appears that Fighting Father Denning (my noble assistant) may well be coming with me!

Denning’s hope is that he’ll be able to film everything we do there and put together a documentary of the event. I think this would be fantastic, and could be invaluable to us in our efforts to spread the words about the ‘Mussalaha‘ (reconciliation) program when we return.

As for the many of you who have expressed grave fears for our safety, let me assure you that our delegation will apparently be accompanied by an armed escort everywhere we go – by government troops when we are in government-controlled areas and by rebel security forces when we are in rebel-held areas.

In all seriousness, I think the obvious protection we have on this mission is that it not in the interest of either side of the Syrian conflict to have us hurt. Both the government and the rebels are working hard on their public image, and it won’t look good for either side to be responsible for the deaths of a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a group of prominent bishops and other clergy!

Indeed, the only persons who could stand to benefit from our peace delegation having an accident would be power-brokers in my own country or in those of our ‘allies’ outside of Syria who benefit from having the country in turmoil. Keep that in mind, and if anything does happen and you hear that ‘the regime’ is to blame, don’t believe it!

Anyway, I’m not going to think further on that tonight as I have something far more weighty on my mind!

Geale vs. Mundine!

In truth, I don’t know if anyone outside of Australia (apart from truly fanatical boxing fans) would even know who these two characters are, but I can tell you that in this country Geale and Mundine are household names, though that’s not to say that most people would want both men in their households (and almost certainly NOT both at the same time)!

They are fighting this coming Wednesday night in Sydney. I will be in attendance, and I may be in a position to give you a free ticket. I’ll give you the details on how you can get that ticket before we end this missive, but first I want to talk about the fight!

There’s been a fair bit of antipathy shown in the lead-up to this fight, and a lot of that is just showmanship, but it has left a lot of people hating Anthony Mundine, and I get the feeling that a lot of the people who are buying tickets to the fight are doing so in order to see Anthony Mundine get his comeuppance!

Anthony 'the Man' Mundine, sparring with me at our box-a-thon, April 1st, 2012

Anthony ‘the Man’ Mundine, sparring with me at our box-a-thon, April 1st, 2012

Let me say straight up that I make no apologies for being a Mundine fan and supporter. He’s been a great supporter of our Youth Centre, has boxed with me on a number of occasions now to help us raise funds, and has never been anything but a gentleman in the respect he has shown me. Even so, I understand why he puts so many people off.

Anthony has been outspoken on a number of matters where I think he would have been well-advised to keep his opinions to himself, starting with his 9-11 comments given back in October 2001 (for which the US has never forgiven him) but by no means ending there. Indeed, at some points he seems to only open his mouth to change feet!

The lead-up to this latest fight has been a case in point. Anthony has said some things for which he later publicly apologised (such as comments about his opponent’s family) but the things he hasn’t apologised for were just as damaging.

He questioned Daniel Geale’s Indigenous heritage, and suggested that he should not wear an Aboriginal flag on his shorts! He even made the brash statement that “I thought they wiped all the Aborigines from Tasmania out”, and so managed to offend not just Geale (who is a Tasmanian) but the entire Indigenous community across our most southern state!

My feeling is that it really all comes down to Anthony trying to model himself on Muhammad Ali just a little too closely!

I appreciate that Anthony is fast like Ali was fast, and he has tried to emulate Ali’s graceful style as a boxer. He converted to Islam just as Ali did, and he’s tried to speak out on issues of faith and justice just as Ali did. The big difference though was that Ali had the charisma and the quick wit to pull it off, and Anthony just doesn’t have those qualities to the same degree!

Who can forget the way Ali tried to insinuate that George Foreman wasn’t really black, but that he might have some Dutch heritage. He did this in Zaire – in a country that had formerly been under Dutch colonial rule! It was a terrible thing to say, but he said it with that boyish twinkle in his eye, and you knew he wasn’t really serious, and you could not but think of him as a loveable rogue!

When Anthony questioned Geale’s ethnic heritage, he was trying to emulate the master. Indeed, he apparently even used the words ‘Old Tom’ at one point, which was the derogatory term Ali applied to Frazier in the lead-up to the ‘Thriller in Manilla’. The problem Mundine has is that he doesn’t have the twinkle in his eye, and so instead of coming across as a loveable rogue, he just comes across as a rogue!

OK. I wont’ say any more about the fight or the fighters today but I do want to tell you about the free tickets. Surprisingly perhaps, they’ve come to me courtesy of Mr Geale!

I’m being sent the tickets on Tuesday, and they’re earmarked for kids across this community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to go. Having said that, there may be some tickets left over and if there is, I’d love to have you join me.

The problem is that I won’t know how many tickets I have left over (if any) until Wednesday morning (ie. the day of the fight). So you’ll need to ring me or email me first thing on Wednesday to find out. If you do email me, make sure you include a phone number where we can reach you as I’ll need to work out how to get your ticket to you.

Faith and Fighting

I know that some people really struggle to understand how a committed peace-activist like myself can simultaneously love sports pugilism! In truth, it’s not an uncommon combination!

I will never forget my time out the front of Ashkelon Prison in April 2004. I was part of a peace protest made up mainly of Jewish students. We were standing outside the prison in which my dear friend, Mordechai Vanunu, had been detained for 18 years. We were waiting for his release and calling for an end to nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

There were thousands of us there, and at least 90% of those people were NOT friends of Morde’s. On the contrary, they were baying for his blood! There were soldiers with machine-guns everywhere. There were police cars and armored vehicles. Slogans were being chanted. Abuse was being shouted. The noise of the helicopters flying overhead was sometimes deafening! And what do you think I was talking about with my two buddies on the front line of that protest?

Who was going to win the fight between Anthony Mundine and Danny Green?

I’ll never forget those intense moments, and I’ll never forget that both of my Jewish mates that day were wrong about the fight! They both picked Green, just as most punters now are picking Geale. Personally, I’m not so sure, but I do think that it will be a larger-than-life event!

Jesus and Family Values!

I can’t offer you Sunday’s sermon today (as I’m afraid it wasn’t recorded this week) so I’m going to share with you one I did a couple of weeks ago that is almost guaranteed to annoy you!

It’s the sermon I gave on the first Sunday after Christmas, on the ‘Feast of the Holy Family’. My passage from Luke chapter 2 concerns the boyhood of Jesus, and it seems like the perfect occasion to get hold of our children and drill them on how to be more Christ-like!

But the truth is that the boyhood of Jesus offers us a rather shocking pattern for anyone to emulate! Do we really want our children to disappear for days at a time, only to show up in a Cathedral somewhere!

And this is just the thin edge of the wedge! All the glimpses we get of Jesus’ earthly family suggest that there was a lot of tension and turmoil there!

You’ve been warned!

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(and if you can’t view the sermon, click here)

That’s plenty from me today, fighter.

Please keep me in your prayers as I do you.

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!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four