Dangerous Days

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

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Hi Fighter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Time – encountering the Ethiopian Eunuch

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

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

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


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

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

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

Dulwich Hill signs the Charter of Compassion

Dulwich Hill signs the Charter of Compassion

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

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

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

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

Yours in the Good Fight,

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

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Fighting for the Men of Manus

G’day Fighter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Good Fight,

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

 

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Father Dave’s Missive – January 6th, 2014

Hi Fighter,

It’s New Year’s Day as I start this missive and, as is inevitably the case this time of year, I’m reflecting on both the year that’s past and the year ahead.

2013 was a big year for me personally, for my family, for our church and for the Order of the Fighting Fathers.

Personally, I was able to travel to Bali, Malaysia, Lebanon, Iran and Syria, and I had the privilege of meeting two heroes of mine for the first time – Mairead Maguire and George Galloway. I also caught up with some wonderful old friends such as Mother Agnes Mariam and Dr Chandra Muzaffar, and was able to share in their creative work!

On the church front the year was somewhat dominated by the fire that burnt down our hall complex. We lost our Youth Centre and boxing gym and a whole lot of history that night, and the boy responsible still hasn’t been arrested! Even so, it was wonderful to see the whole community come together to support us, and both the Youth Centre and the gym are now up and running again on premises owned by our dear sisters and brothers of the local Salvation Army Corps.

On the family front, each of the children had their own particular struggles but each ended the year in good health and spirits (thanks be to God) and Ange started teaching full-time for the first time.

We shared a wonderful Christmas together. I know that Christmas is such a difficult time for so many people and I do not take for granted the privilege of being in a stable domestic and financial situation. I share with you the following Christmas pics in the hope that your Christmas was also an enjoyable (or at least a bearable) one.


Christmas Angels!
Our Christmas Concert
Our Christmas Angels steal the show 🙂
Our Christmas Pageant
Even the most professional performers need a support team
Carols on the Rectory Lawn is a great success!
Imogen and I lead the Christmas Day service


(note that you can hover your cursor to pause a slide and click to move to the next one)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the year ahead and I’ve set myself five goals for 2014.

I am a great believer in settings goals and sharing them with friends. I find that people achieve their goals a lot more often when they are shared. Perhaps it’s because the embarrassment factor kicks in? We hate the idea of failing to achieve a target that’s been made public? Even so, I’m told that more people achieve their goals even when they write them on a piece of paper and put the paper in a drawer – telling no one!

I’m making my goals public and am going to do my best to achieve each of them. This list is not exhaustive and contains nothing about rebuilding the Youth Center (which may not be completed until 2015). The list is nonetheless ambitious:

  1. Found a monastic Order
  2. Win a world boxing title
  3. Help end the war in Syria
  4. Help establish a state of Palestine
  5. Help each of my kids get through their years at school.

The last goal may well prove the hardest. At least it doesn’t require much explanation. I’ll give you a bit more detail on the other goals.

The Monastic Order

I have a real vision for developing Binacrombi as a place of prayer and reflection.

As you probably realise, Binacrombi is set up as a remote centre for extreme sports – primarily trail-bike riding and fight training – both of which may seem completely incompatible with a contemplative lifestyle. In my view though extreme action and focused contemplation are two sides of the same coin! We already have the boxing ring, wrestling cage, 530 acres of untamed bush, and a whole lot more there to cover the sporting side. What we need now is a chapel!

To cut a long story short, I’ve been talking to a certain Bishop over the last couple of months and it seems that he may have an old chapel that can be lifted from its current location and replanted at Binacrombi.

Of course there’s much to be done between now and our first monastic chant, and I’ll probably need to raise some cash in order to fund the replanting. Even so, I’m hopeful that we’ll have pews on the ground before the year is out and I’ve already got someone designing special monastic habits for me (habits that are light enough to train in).

What I’m looking for from you right now is a commitment to pray with me – not just in your bedroom but on location at Binacrombi. Would you be interested in taking off a few days or a week or even a month to come and pray with us in the bush? If enough of us start spending extended time in prayer out there the rest will follow naturally.

Boxing

Like most old pugs I’m feeling I’ve got one more good fight left in me. I’m sure there must be some obscure world title for 50-something year-olds that I can compete for! If not in this country then surely in the USA?

My first step will be to trim down about 10kgs and get back into fighting shape. I’ve given myself to the end of February to achieve this.

Syria

There’s talk of a major peace mission to Syria happening over the Easter period this year involving church leaders from around the world. I’m hoping to be a part of it.

Moreover, I have a more specific project in mind that I’ve shared with you before – teaching boxing to kids in refugee camps in Syria and along the Syrian border. This might seem far-fetched but I have a feeling that a number of high-profile boxers would jump at the chance to get involved if I can set something in motion. I’ve put it to prayer.

Palestine

As you may know, this year has been declared “Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” by the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am hoping and praying that this will be a decisive year for all Palestinians.

My hope is that we can again make a small contribution through our boxing. You will remember that we had members of the Palestinian Olympic team visit our Fight Club last November and we started planning then to sponsor a Palestinian team to tour Australia and possibly the UK as well. Who knows where this might take us? I am trusting that it will all contribute to the greater quest for justice and peace.

Those are my public goals for 2014. What are yours? I’d encourage you to make yours public too, even if only be sharing them in the comment section below.

Sermon Time

I’ve been preaching rather incessantly over this Christmas period so I’ve got no shortage of sermon material to share. I’m offering you today the one I did on the Sunday before Christmas where the Gospel text focused on the person of Joseph, Mary’s husband, who is without doubt the least dynamic person in the entire Christmas narrative.

We know very little about Joseph and he seems to contribute very little to the Gospel story. He is a minor character in a great drama, which makes him a lot like us.

[imaioVideo v=1]

(If you can’t view this video, click here)

Before I let you go today, fighter, I’d ask you to share a prayer with me for our dear brother Mordechai Vanunu – Israel’s nuclear whistle-blower.

If you don’t know the story you can Google him. If you don’t know my connection to Morde, it’s simple. He stumbled into our church one Friday night back in 1986. We became good friends. Then he was kidnapped by the Mossad!

This year marks 27 years since Morde’s abduction. 27 years was notably the same length of time Nelson Mandela spent in custody.

  • The first 11 of those years Morde spent in solitary confinement!
  • The next 6 years were spent in a regular prison
  • Over the remaining 10 years Morde has been constantly harassed by Israeli authorities, has been refused the right to leave the country, and was re-imprisoned for a month for the crime of speaking to foreigners!

On Christmas Day just past Morde once again appeared in court, pleading for the right to leave Israel and live a free life. As usual his appeal was refused.

My friend Eileen Flemming has put together a petition to put an end to Morde’s endless punishment. Will you sign it please?  It’s a small gesture, I know, but apart from prayer and petitions I’m not sure what else we can do for this dear brother at the moment.

Morde Vaunu and me in 2004

With Morde after his release in April 2004

One last thing please …

By way of an annual appeal can I encourage any of you who want to support the work of the Fighting Fathers to do so by taking out a membership at www.fighting-fathers.com?

It will only cost you $10/month and you get plenty for your money. As well as a great library of eBooks and software in the members’ area you get the privilege of being part of the greatest online community on the planet! You’ll also get to help me cover the monthly cost of maintaining our online infrastructure (which seems to get heavier by the year).

Please do consider joining the team but be assured that, either way, 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. Forgive this act of pure self-indulgence below but I added a slideshow retrospective of personal highlights of 2013. It was an amazing year!

I turn 51
February 17 - Imogen is confirmed
Meeting John Shipton (Julian Assange's dad) and joining the Wikileaks Party
March - We hold our first Binacrombi Boot Camp!
April - Francesca turns 4
Soren Lee turns 11
April 21 - the Youth Centre is on fire!
May - Welcome to Damascus!
Meeting Mairead Maguire!
Overwhelmed by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Dr Hassoun
Meeting up with dear Mansour again in Tehran
June - Guest speaker at the Muslim Youth Conference!
July - Mother Agnes at Holy Trinity!
Meeting up with Kevin 07 in Canberra!
Meeting up again with Dr Chandra Muzaffar in Kuala Lumper
George Galloway comes over for coffee!
September - Imogen turns 16
August - we reopen the Gym and Youth Centre in the Salvation Army hall!
October - Imogen and I go to 'Fight Night' at Movie World
Francesca makes her own scary Halloween mask
November - the Palestinian Olympic team joins us at Fight Club
December - the great Youth Centre bush camp!
The great Bali wedding!
Christmas Angels

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About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four