to Syria and back

at Yarmouk, doing what we do best 😉
with Kaouthar Bachraoui and Maria Saadeh at the Dama Rose in Damascus
there's no shortage of pretty girls at Damascus University!
at the home of Ananias - Straight Street, Damascus
with Maria Saadeh at the Umayyad Mosque
at the ancient Christian villiage of Maaloula
with the Bishop of Saydnaya in Maaloula
honoring the martyrs of Maaloula
I was glad when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (Psalm 122)
honoring the martyrs of Saydnaya
a performance by Saydnaya's Youth Fellowship
remembering the genocide of 1915 with the Armenian bishop
Armenian Christians fighting with the Syrian Arab Army
Dinner at the Mufti's place 🙂
interviewing the Grand Mufti of Syria
with the Mufti and friends 🙂

Hi Fighter,

I’ve been to Syria, I’ve come back, and at the moment I’m sick in bed. I guess I’ve been pushing myself a bit too hard, but I’m now on long-service leave and will hopefully get a bit of a break.

People have been asking me how I would sum up our Syria experience in a word, and the truth is that there is no one word that can do our time there justice.

What I must say is that my heart is still there, and that I felt awful leaving – as if I was walking out on a friend who might die at any moment!

When I returned to Australia everyone was stressing about Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran – about whether they were about to be executed. I appreciate that it was a horrible situation. Even so, I was walking away from a whole country full of people who were living with the same stress – ‘Are we about to be executed, and if so, when?’

Syria is at a very volatile point and, I hate to say it, but I think the future of all those people is being decided upon now in negotiations between the US and Iran. In truth, Syria is only surviving because of support from Iran. If the USA though makes Syria a bargaining chip to be sacrificed in exchange for the lifting of sanctions then a great many of those good people may be dead by the time I return.

Having said that, the indications at the moment are that Iran is not going to give up on Syria, and neither are her other two allies – Russia and Hezbollah. Nonetheless, things are at boiling point right now, with ISIS embedded in Yarmouk in the south and Palmyra in the north! Anything could happen over the next few weeks and months.

In terms of our Fighting Fathers’ visit, I have written-up some of our experiences in detail on www.prayersforsyria.com and www.christiansandmuslims.com.

Specifically, I’d encourage you to look at the following three articles:

The title of this last article is a quote from my interview with the Grand Mufti of Syria – Dr Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun – which I’ve embedded below. Indeed, it was such a great privilege for me to get half an hour, one-on-one, with the great man!

I won’t say more about that experience here except that he said three words to me in English before we parted. He said “pray for me.”  I said, “I do every day”, and indeed I do, for I know the takfiri will have no mercy on him if they get hold of him.

Dr Hassoun considers himself the Mufti not only of the Sunni but of the Shia and the Christians too! That’s the sort of talk that enrages religious fundamentalists!

I am hoping to be back in Syria in the next couple of months – this time with a larger team of boxers.  I’m also working on lining up a title fight for myself against one of Syria’s great veteran boxers.  My goal is to hold the fight either on the outskirts of Yarmouk or at another key Syrian city – perhaps Palmyra – and use the fight to draw attention to what’s really going on there.  It’s an ambitious ploy and I’d appreciate your prayers.

In the meantime there are plenty of other things happening, and a few that I’m keen to pass on to you here:

  • In case you didn’t hear, the United Nations Human Rights Committee finally replied to our official complaint regarding the Australian government’s treatment of my dear friend Sheikh Mansour Leghaei. Indeed, they upheld our complaint and instructed the Australian government to re-examine his case and to compensate him for damages! If you don’t know the full story, it’s on savethesheikh.com.
  • Another dear brother who has received even harsher treatment from his government – Mordechai Vanunu – just got married! The picture below was taken at the Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem! I look forward to meeting Morde’s Norwegian wife, Kristine, in person as soon as they are allowed to leave Israel and travel to Australia. I trust they’ll find Mansour here when they get here!
  • And some more good news concerning a very talented sister – Ruth McCall – who will be having her own musical works performed by ‘Echology’The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir! There’s a performances at our church, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, on Sunday May 31st.  Full details can be found on the poster here.
Morde & Kristine are married!

Morde & Kristine!

That’s enough from me, especially as I’m still coughing and spluttering.

As I say, I’m on long-service leave at the moment and will be for the next three weeks. I’ll be spending the weekends down at Binacrombi, developing our youth camping program. You’d be welcome to join me on any of these weekends, especially this weekend when I think I’ll need all the help I can get. 🙁

I’ll be in contact again soon. 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.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 at  www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

 

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Getting ready for Syria

about 80 people joined us for our Syria fundraiser
the food was fantastic
Bianca and Jemma put on a great display
Danny refereed a few friendly rounds between me and Nader
Some of Australia's greatest boxing personalities were with us
keeping them under control was a problem 😉
Fran loses a baby tooth! 🙂
we shared our training weekend at Binacrombi with a band of hardened bikies (all under 10 years old)
I pushed the limits of my fitness
Mungo managed it all far more easily
I did some great rounds with Kaveh
Mungo put in some tough rounds with Mahmoud
I had a great team to work my corner on Saturday night
A TKO in the 1st minute of the 1st round
a big thanks to the team

Hi Fighter,

This is Father Dave with another far-too-infrequent update for you.

I’m afraid the last three weekends have been a roller-coaster ride for me and I am somewhat exhausted:

  • Week 1: we had our fundraiser dinner – raising more than $6,000 towards sending our boxing team to Syria.
  • Week 2: we took another dozen kids on a Warriors’ Weekend at Binacrombi Bush Camp, in the heart of the Australian bush
  • Week 3: I fought for the NSW super-middleweight title (old bastard’s division), winning by TKO in the first minute of the first round.

With regards to the fundraiser dinner, there are so many people I need to thank:

And thank you to all 80 people who showed up on the night – members of Holy Trinity Church, the Salvation Army Dulwich Hill corps, our Fight Club, and all you subscribers who made the effort to join us. It was a wonderful night, and thanks to you we almost have the funds we need to make the Boxers for Peace 2015 Mission to Syria a reality!

Sermon Time!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

If you had a solid Christian upbringing like I did, this verse is very familiar to you. I don’t think modern translations still use the word ‘whosoever’ but what I typed above is the translation that has been in my head since I was a child. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know these words. They were taught to me at an early age as a one-verse distillation of the Gospel message!

What has really struck me more recently is that this familiar verse is not at all familiar to many people I live and work with. Moreover, I’ve found that the concepts contained in this verse are rather difficult to explain to those who haven’t had a Christian upbringing. Indeed, I’ve realised on further reflection that the concepts contained in John 3:16 are not self-explanatory by any means but rather mysterious!

So I’m not sure if my goal in this sermon is to explain John 3:16 to the uninitiated or to confuse those who feel comfortably familiar with it. Hopefully there’s something in it for both groups.

As I said above, I’m a little exhausted by the antics of the last three weeks, and now we’re in the middle of Holy Week, shortly after which we are taking off for Syria, so there’s no time to rest, especially as we still need a bit more help before we can go.

We almost have all the funds we need for the Boxers for Peace mission. We need roughly another thousand to cover everything. It would be great if you could help me reach the goal and I’d like to offer you something of value in exchange for your support.

Tom Toby - auctioneer extraordinaire!

Tom Toby – auctioneer extraordinaire!

The picture above is of our good friend Tom Toby auctioning off a signed poster of the Boxers for Peace Syria 2015 team. It’s in A3 size and is signed by each of the team members. I have two more of these signed posters and am ready to pass them on in exchange for a decent contribution towards our peace mission.

If you haven’t seen the actual image, which was the work of master-photographer John Clutterbuck, you can see it here.

My thought is to simply ask for contributions via my buy me a drink page (click here). You’ll find that you can make donations of any amount there, with a suggested starting point of $5. Whoever makes the two largest contributions will get the posters.

So make sure you include your address with your donation. I’ll post to anywhere in the world. If you live locally and can pick your poster up I’ll frame it for you. Otherwise it will come rolled up in a water-resistant tube from the post office.

Join us this Easter!

And if you’re free to join us for worship this Easter, Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill would love to have you. Services on both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are at our usual time of 9.15am. If you don’t know how to find us, there’s a map on the Holy Trinity website.

And if I don’t see you this weekend, do have a happy and holy Easter. 🙂

I’ll do my best to be in contact again before we depart on the big trip.

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.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 at  www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

I need your help

we begin our fundraising campaign for our new Youth and Community Centre
Fighting Father Danny maintains control in the ring!
Jessie and Aaron stoush it out in the Binacrombi ring
We dedicate the Binacrombi Chapel - Shiloh (a place of peace)
Our Abbot - Fighting Father Terry - delivers the inaugural Binacrombi chapel homily
Fighting Father Mungo keeps the troops entertained
The stumbling, bumbling monks of Binacrombi
Three Amigos
Fran and I visit the Sydney Tower
I love having daughters!
Don has his hands full (at the Australia Day celebrations)

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave. It’s been too long since I’ve communicated with you. 🙁

It’s not that I’ve been having a holiday (I wish). On the contrary, I’ve been struggling with a workload that threatens to overwhelm me at times, and I’ve got two major projects on the boil at the moment, and I’m looking for help with both of them.

Warrior Weekends

The first is the Warrior Weekends bush camp project. We had a fantastic camp in January (as you can see by the pics displayed above) and I’m mad keen to run a few more of these weekends this side of winter.

In truth, I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to hang on to our wonderful bush-property, but while we’ve got it I want to make the most of it, and I do believe that our distinctive format where we spend a day training like Trojans and praying like monks is a formula that invigorates body, mind and spirit in a way that is quite unique!

On our January weekend we had Muslims as well as Christians, young as well as the not-so-young, people of various backgrounds and ethnicities, and the intense training-praying format pulled us all together in a powerful way!

Two weekend warriors pause to tie Fran's shoes

Two weekend warriors pause to tie Fran’s shoes

We did four intense training sessions on the Saturday, framed by five prayer-sessions. Not everybody joined in the prayers, and not everybody joined in all the training sessions, but by the time we got to the end of the day I think we all had a tremendous sense that we had accomplished something significant together, and this led us into a wonderful evening of sharing and reflection, followed by a beautiful Sunday morning of prayer and relaxation where we dedicated our bush-chapel.

In short, I can’t wait to do it all again, and I can’t wait to see more lives changed and refreshed by the experience. I’m thinking that we hit it again on the weekend of March 21-22. Are you with me? 🙂

Peace Mission to Syria

The other major work that is consuming me right now is a planned Boxers for Peace mission to Syria that’s scheduled for this coming April.

As you know, I’ve been a part of two peace missions to Syria now (in 2013 and 2014) and on our last trip I took boxing champion, Solomon Egberime, with me to feel out the possibility of a ‘friendship games’ in boxing between Australia and Syria (see the video). This current mission is the outcome of the negotiations that began then.

Our Boxers for Peace project is a strictly religious and sporting mission. Our intention is to work closely with the religious leadership of Syria and with the Syrian Olympic Committee. The goal of this mission is threefold:

  1. To bring some joy to people who are struggling (especially young Syrian people) through sport.
  2. To build ongoing ties of friendship between our two countries through the medium of boxing.
  3. To help give the Australian public a broader appreciation of the real situation of the Syrian people.

This last goal will be accomplished through media coverage that we’ll receive. We hope to have at least one film crew with us and one documentary film-maker.

The biggest hurdle for the mission at the moment is that we’ll need to raise the funds to send the whole team to Syria. The costs will amount to around AUD $2,500 per player. I’m hoping to take a team of six.

The names of the players haven’t been made public yet, and neither have the exact dates or details of the trip. This is partly for security reasons and partly because we haven’t worked it all out yet! One thing I have worked out though is that I’m going to hold a fundraiser dinner in a few weeks’ time – on Sunday March 8. Can you make it?

Date: Sunday March 8th, 7pm start
Venue: Salvation Army Hall, Dulwich Street, Dulwich Hill
Tickets: $55/person

The evening will include:

  • Exhibition boxing bouts featuring members of the Australian team (and at least one very well-known boxing identity)
  • Some (brief) speeches from local religious leaders – Priests and Sheikhs (including myself)
  • Screening of some documentary video material that we’ve put together from our previous peace missions to Syria

That’s as much as I can give you right now but I would really appreciate your help in making this work. I’ll need:

  • People to help run the night (set-up, clean-up, wash-up, etc.)
  • People to donate items that can be auctioned off
  • People to buy tickets

If you want to order a ticket from me online you can Paypal me the $50 and I will mail the tickets to you.

I do believe that we can really make a difference with this Boxers for Peace Mission. I think of the role that boxing played in Apartheid South Africa in bringing together people of different colour, and I think of the role boxing played in Northern Ireland in helping quell the violence there. Perhaps we can help bring Syria to the point where the only fighting going on will be in a boxing ring? When that day comes: Mission Accomplished! (but we might have to put in quite a few rounds before we reach that stage)

boxing in the streets of Homs

boxing for peace in the streets of Homs (2014)

Sermon Time

I’ve got an unusually uncontroversial sermon for you today!

Rather than try to interpret global issues or give commentary on the latest terrorist attack, I’ve devoted all my preaching energy this week to untangling the first chapter of the Gospel According to St Mark and, more specifically, to unpacking the implications of a particular incident the highlights the power of the words of Jesus.

I think we often see the words and the works of Jesus as being very distinct. Jesus’ miracles can heal our bodies but His teachings are there only to improve our minds. The Gospel depiction of Jesus though is not so clear cut! The words of Jesus have healing as well as didactic power, while the miraculous actions of Jesus also have something to teach us!

To say this isn’t controversial isn’t to say that it isn’t important, for the relation between word and worktheory and praxis – is something that many of us struggle to get right. Some sections of the church are so focused on maintaining doctrinal purity that they seem to have no energy left to support the poor and needy, whereas others abandon the traditional teachings of the church in order to pursue social justice. I believe Jesus models another alternative!


Before leaving you today I must tell you that I did have a third major project that I had been working on until very recently, and that was the scheduled visit of my friend Rev. Stephen Sizer to Australia.

It was all supposed to take place next month but it all fell apart at the last minute when Stephen was targeted (entirely unfairly, in my view) for his work in advocating for Palestinian human-rights!

You can read all about it in the British tabloids. Stephen has been accused of everything from incompetence to anti-Semitism!

I know Stephen well enough to know that he hasn’t got an anti-Semitic bone in his body, and if you look at the details of the accusations levelled against him it is hard to believe that they could lead anybody to that sort of conclusion! Even so, he has now been formally silenced by his bishop and cannot speak or write about anything remotely political – not at home in London nor anywhere else in the world, including Australia!  (though how he intends to manage this while continuing to preach the Gospel remains to be seen).

Stephen Sizer and I meet up in Tehran!

Stephen Sizer and I meet up in Tehran!

I find it hard to understand how something like this can happen while world leaders in Paris are marching to defend the right to free speech! It seems that the level of freedom judged appropriate for speech depends entirely on who is being spoken about! Western politicians and Church leaders don’t seem to mind if you are mocking the prophet of Islam or caricaturing countries like Iran and Syria, but if you call into question the policies of the state of Israel you are on far more shaky ground!

Put in a prayer for Stephen please, and put in a prayer for me too as I don’t think this bodes well for any of us who speak our minds on issues of justice and peace!

And I can’t close off today without telling you that next Tuesday is my birthday. I turn 53! That sounds to me like an appropriate age to capture a world boxing title. Let’s see if I can’t do it before hitting 54. 🙂

Actually, that also suggests to me a fourth way you can contribute to our Syria mission. Buy me a drink for my birthday (click here)!

I will drink to your health if you do, but I’m sure you won’t mind if I toast you using my existing stock and put all donated drink-money into the Fighting Fathers kitty! 🙂

I’ll be in contact with you again very soon to give you further details of our fundraiser and of the next prospective Warriors’ Weekend.

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.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 at  www.fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month and the first month is free.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Christians and Muslims united for peace!

Back at Luna Park!
Celebrating Ange's birthday!
Another great gathering of faith communities at Holy Trinity!
with members of the Romero Community of Adelaide
with Nader Hamdan at the Arrahman Mosque
a great night at Masjid Arrahman
a great night at the Imam Husain Centre

G’day Fighter,

I am writing to you today primarily to ask for your help in sharing my ‘STOP THE WAR’ video appeal with the rest of the world. I’ve also though had a couple of dramatic weeks since we last communicated and I must share some of the highlights with you too.

I mentioned in my last post that we’d planned two inter-faith events for late September. There ended up being three events, and they all went brilliantly!

  • September 28 at Holy Trinity Church, where we watched ‘Forbidden Pilgrimage’ together – a documentary made by a Palestinian Muslim about problems facing Palestinian Christians.
  • September 27 at the Arrahman Mosque in Kingsgrove where I spoke alongside Sheikh Jehad Ismail on the topic of “Unity in Diversity”.

This last event was particularly memorable for me as I hadn’t met the community of Masjid Arrahman before and they were wonderfully hospitable, even baking me a cake in honour of my wedding anniversary!

The team from Arrahman Mosque also put together a video on the night, and it’s a beautiful 4-minute tribute to our time together. I was tempted to embed that video in this post alongside my ‘STOP THE WAR’ appeal but instead I’ve given it a page of its own on ChristiansandMuslims.com. If you have 4 minutes please visit the page and enjoy this wonderful glimpse of people from different cultures and faiths breaking bread together in harmony.

Father Dave’s STOP THE WAR video appeal

OK, here it is! I spent about three weeks writing the script for this video and I truly pray that it will achieve some good.

My appeal is about the length of one of my sermons (17 minutes) and I appreciate that it therefore takes some commitment to hear it through. Even so, I hope you will do me the favour of listening to it in its entirely and then passing it on to anybody who you think might benefit from it.

I’m directing my appeal primarily to others in the Christian community who have little understanding of what’s going on in Iraq and Syria at the moment beyond that Al Baghdadi’s ‘Islamic State’ is an evil group of fundamentalists who are killing people without reason and therefore need to be stopped with force.

My purpose is in no way to defend ‘Islamic State’, but I do think that it is essential that we understand what is driving these people, and I do believe that a proper examination of the facts will show that there are better ways of responding to this crisis than sending over American and Australian troops! Indeed, there are excellent reasons for assuming that our involvement will make things much worse, at home and overseas!

I’ll leave you to judge whether I am correct in my analysis, and I’d very much appreciate your feedback in the comments section below. I must say though that the feedback I’ve received thus far has been very positive, especially from my Muslim friends. Indeed, two gracious souls paid me the highest of compliments, saying that they had never before heard a non-Muslim articulate so well what Muslims are feeling!

If this video appeal does help other non-Muslims to better understand how Muslims today are feeling and thinking it will have accomplished much! My prayer though is that it will also motivate many of us to stand up to our governments and tell them to STOP bombing yet another majority-Muslim country – the 7th since Mr Obama took office!

There are lots of ways you can share my video appeal:

This last site is the one I would recommend that you refer people to. It is an engaging format and it also invites visitors to join my mailing list

 Masters’ Boxing

a strong win over Queensland's Barry Hancock
a narrow points loss to Kevin Selby

I don’t think I mentioned last time that I’d signed up to compete in this year’s Masters’ Boxing Tournament in Adelaide. The event took place over the 1st weekend of October.

I fought twice over the weekend. My first fight resulted in a points loss to Kevin Selby – a very tough opponent with 41 fights to his name, including 17 professional bouts. I won the first round but ran out of gas in the third.

I made up for the loss the next day with a win over Barry Hancock of Queensland – a man with 46 amateur fights behind him as well as 5 professional bouts. He was only slightly heavier than me but was 10 years my junior. Even so, I knocked him down with body shots in both the 2nd and 3rd rounds for a strong win.

The sequel to all this was supposed to be a rematch with Mr Selby this coming Saturday night for the NSW Masters’ super-middleweight title! Unfortunately I got a bit carried away in the sparring last night and big Matt Richardson landed a heavy blow on one of my ribs and … I won’t be back in the ring for a month. 🙁

So … I’ve had a big couple of weeks – fighting prejudice, fighting militarism, and fighting some very tough men in the ring! I’ll be taking a few weeks forced rest from the ring. Meanwhile the greater battle for justice and peace rages on and I look forward to continuing to battle on in that one with you by my side!

I’ll be in touch again soon. 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.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. For those who have been waiting for my feature episode on ABC’s Compass program, the screening has been pushed back one week. It was supposed to be this Sunday (October 19th). It’s been pushed forward to the 26th. Details here.

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

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Boxing in the streets of Syria

OK Fighter,

It’s been a long time in production but here it is – the video that I’ve been yearning to share with you since returning from our peace mission, entitled “Boxing in the Streets of Syria”

Syria deserves peace
boxing in the streets of Homs
boxing in the streets of Latakia
Boxing with refugees from Yarmouk
Boxing with refugees from Yarmouk

As you can see from above, Fighting Father Denning also took some wonderful still shots of the action but it’s his video I’m most keen to see circulated.

My plan is to use this video as the basis of our recruitment drive to see if we can capture the imagination of some high-profile boxers from Australia and from around the world – capture their imagination to the extent that they will be drawn to join us in running boxing-training camps for the young people of Syria! 🙂

As you’ll see from the video, we were very well received by the Syrian people, and the children of Syria were enthusiastic beyond words! Sol Egberime – Australia’s greatest Junior Welterweight fighter – was an absolute natural with these young people. At one point, as we finished a session with a group of boys in Latakia and got back into our bus, the entire troop of kids followed the bus chanting “Solomon, Solomon …”, which brought our young champion to tears!

Will you do me a favour please and share this video with everybody you know? The persons we are most hoping to reach are high-profile boxers, but even if you don’t know any fighters at all, it may be that some of those you send it to will know some boxers and will pass it on.

Boxing in the Streets of Syria


My hope and prayer is that this video will generate sufficient interest such that we can head back to Syria during their school holidays and spread some more happiness and hope amongst these young people who have seen so little joy in recent years.

So please share the video. I’ll be developing a dedicated site for it very soon to make this easier. In the meantime simply direct people to this blog post, and please add a prayer that people will be moved to join us in doing something for the young people of Syria.

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

P.S. And if you’re moved to join us on our next mission to Syria yourself, just let me know. 🙂

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

 

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Peace Pilgrimage to Syria – peace work in Iran

Hi Fighter,

Once again it’s been too long since I’ve posted. 🙁

I’m back in Oz now, well ensconced with my family. Even so, a large part of my heart remains in Syria. So many memories and images continue to turn over in my mind.
Not all of them are good but all are full of life and colour.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted all the pics and videos from our pilgrimage up here yet. That’s partly because I’ve been under the gun since I got back. It’s also because we’ve been waiting to see whether any TV stations are going to screen our footage. Things are still unclear but we know that they won’t screen our material if we’ve already publicly released it. My plan is to share the images of Sol and me boxing with kids in the streets of Syria next week if we haven’t heard from them.

In the meantime I thought I’d publish a series of images and videos that won’t be of interest to the networks as they concern our week in Iran during which we made our preparations. We secured the medicines and toys we were taking with us and we met with some wonderful Iranian peace activists, many of whom went on to join us in Syria..

Meet the team - Sam and Ulrike
Meet the team - Mairead, Ulrike and Carmel
Meet the team - Denning
Meet the team - Dave and Mohamed Reva
Meet the team - Roohulla
Meet the team - John
Meet the team - Mairead and Solomon
Meet the team - Dave & Ali
Meet the team
Meet the team

Four videos are thumbnailed below. Just click one to watch it.

  1. The first video is a three-minute offering from our man, Denning. It’s an overview of the week that is as brief as it is artistic. 🙂
  2. The second is a Press TV report on the delegation. We actually received a lot of media attention. Unfortunately it was all from Iranian or Syrian media.
  3. The third is a talk I gave on “the role of religions in bringing peace” in Qom. Denning has edited it down to 3 minutes which is about as long as I had to prepare it!
  4. The fourth is a wonderful 10-minute compilation of our time in Iran, put together by a wonderful young Iranian film-maker, Mehdi Khoshnejad.

The last of these videos is actually longer than the other three put together. Even so, it is worth watching. It features our time touring one of the ancient mosques in Esfahan wherein there is a special spot marked on the floor from which you can sing and somehow join in the chorus of your own echo!

Denning's Tehran video
Press TV report
Talk at the Armenian Church in Qom
Mehdi Khoshnejad's video

Let me end today by sharing with you the wonderful way in which I met my friend Mohamed Reva (featured in one of the pics up the top).

We were in Tehran, gathered together for a delegates meeting in the lobby of our hotel. I hadn’t met Sheikh Mohamed Reva at that point but he was a part of the gathering.

After the meeting he came across the room and grabbed my hand enthusiastically. “My name is Mohamed Reva”, he said. “I knew you were a special person the first moment I saw you. I am very keen to meet you.”

“Brother”, I said, “I am not special. It is simply the Spirit of God in you recognising the Spirit of God in me. We were connected in this way long before we met.” Mohamed smiled and nodded.

In some ways that experience summed up my pilgrimage to Iran and Syria this time. We generally think of a pilgrimage as a journey that leads to a destination of great spiritual significance. My experience was that wherever I went I found the Spirit of God already there to welcome me! What a wonderful privilege! 🙂

I’ll be back with you again next week.

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.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. If you’d like to see what I’m writing, I’ve just published a new article on www.prayersforsyria.com entitled, Why the Syrian rebellion may soon collapse like a house of cards!” I know that most commentators are convinced that the warring in Syria will go on and on with no near end in sight. I am far more optimistic. 🙂

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

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Peace Pilgrimage to Syria – on the streets of Damascus

G’day Fighter,

It’s Father Dave here and I’m actually now in London, having finished my week in Syria where we’ve been spending time with both politicians and refugees, sharing in the joys and sorrows of the Syrian people, and boxing with kids on the streets of Damascus, Lattakia and Homs!

I have so much to share – pictures, videos and stories – that it’s going to take me a little while to put them all in order, but I want to share something with you today so I’ve chosen one picture that has behind it one amazing story:

Mother Agnes with Sheikh Tahhan and a former FSA fighter

Mother Agnes with Sheikh Tahhan and a former FSA fighter

See the pic above (you can see a larger version of it if you click on it). On the left you will recognise our beloved leader, Mother Agnes. The man in the middle you are less likely to recognise. His name is Sheikh Tahhan.

Sheikh Tahhan is apparently the only man in Homs that the FSA fighters trust if they want to take advantage of the armistice offered by the government. He roams the streets of Homs and seeks out rebel fighters who want to hand in their guns and stop fighting. On the right of the Sheikh is one of these fighters who is no longer fighting. Two of his mates are at his side (out of picture).

Naturally Sheikh Tahhan is a prime target for those who want to keep the fire going, and he is very aware of the fate of Jesuit Priest, Father Frans Van Der Lugt, who was shot in Homs only last week. Father Frans was apparently also involved in this same work – mediating between the government and rebels who want to lay down their arms.

So why, you might wonder, are both the Sheikh and Mother Agnes smiling when they both have prices on their heads? The reason is because the Sheikh has been telling Mother about a high-level meeting between the rebel leaders of Homs and the government’s Ministry of Reconciliation in Damascus. Apparently there is talk that the entire FSA contingent in Homs will hand in their arms and seek reconciliation with their fellow Syrians. If this happens it will mark the beginning of the end of the violence!

So many commentators are saying that there’s no end in sight to the Syrian catastrophe. If what the Sheikh has told Mother is correct though it could all be over within a couple of months! As I see it, if the Syrian rebels of Homs successfully take advantage of the armistice, other FSA fighters will follow quickly. Of course this won’t affect the more powerful rebel groups such as ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra, who are made up mainly of foreign fighters on jihad. But if the Syrian members of the rebellion stop fighting the government there is every chance that many of them will join with Assad’s forces to expel the foreigners! Once this happens the violence will wind up very quickly as the foreign backers who are funding the conflict will quickly cut their losses and pull out.

Of course nothing is certain and there are still many things that could become road-blocks on this path to peace. The Americans are still training rebel fighters in Jordan and graduating them at the rate of around 150 per month (see this excellent first-hand account by Sara Williams if you haven’t read it yet) and the Canadians have apparently been making preparations to enter Syria themselves, all guns blazing (see here)! Beyond this insanity though the victory of government forces seems inevitable. Moreover, if there ever really was any common ground between those Syrian rebels who were fighting for democracy and freedom and the foreign takfiri (who now make up the greater part of the rebel ‘alliance’) it has by now completely evaporated.

That’s enough from me today. You can see where my heart and my prayers are. I am hoping that the next time I am in Syria it will be to celebrate peace and to participate in the rebuilding of this shattered country. So many people have suffered and it will require a massive amount of sustained energy to reestablish the infrastructure of the country. Even so, my respect for the strength and determination of the Syrian people gives me every confidence in a bright future for this wonderful land and I look forward to joining hands with the Syrian people to do what I can to share in that rebuilding.

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.how2changetheworld.com

P.S. If you’d like to see some of the media coverage we had in Syria, check out these Arabic and Farsi language articles (using your brower’s translator):

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

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Peace Pilgrimage to Syria – April 4, 2014

Hi Fighter,

lighting a candle for Syria
sharing the light
Imogen lets her light shine 🙂
Imogen and Soren help lead the prayers
a great Aussie BBQ followed

our ‘Prayers for Syria’ service and farewell BBQ

Father Dave here, speaking to you from sunny Tehran, and despite what you might have heard, it is a beautiful city and seems to be filled with gracious and hospitable people!

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest historical movie drama – 300 II – the Battle of Salamis. It’s part two of what I assume will be a trilogy covering the three great battles between the Greeks and the Persians in the 4th Century B.C.

Like its predecessor that covered the epic battle of Thermopylae, I expected 300 II to be more drama than history. Even so, I hadn’t expected the Iranians/Persians to be portrayed quite so inhumanly!

While the Greeks were depicted as the authors and upholders of democracy, the Iranians were bizarre creatures led by demons! Their religion was thoroughly irrational. Their leaders were merciless. And they even had ancient versions of suicide bombers!

Perhaps that was all just intended as good theatre (and I confess that I did enjoy the movie at that level). Even so, I was left with a deep degree of suspicion about the underlying motives of the author and director. This is, after all, how many in the West envisage Iran – as a dark and scary place led by irrational religious fanatics. It only takes a day in the capital to discover that Iran, like every other country in the world, is filled with ordinary people like you and me.

Indeed, the chief cultural difference that confronts you in Tehran is that everybody seems more comfortable being outdoors! The parks are filled with families just lounging around.  Girls are playing badminton and boys are playing table-tennis or kicking a football around. Admittedly, it’s a public holiday, and Mansour tells me that all Iranians are strangely driven to seek out green-space during public holidays!

Oh, did I mention that I caught up with Sheikh Mansour?

A friendly face on arrival! 🙂
three amigos!
at the lecture hall of Ayatollah Khomeini
at the adjacent Khomeini museum

The poor man met Sam and I at the airport, spent the day with us, and then headed back to his home-town of Esfahan overnight!

I hadn’t envisaged it this way. I knew he was scheduled to leave on a flight to the USA the day after we arrived but I had assumed that his flight was leaving from Tehran and so I thought it would be convenient for him to meet up with us before he left.

On the contrary, his flight left from Esfahan (more than four hours away by car), and so he caught a bus overnight to Tehran on the Monday, spent Tuesday with us, and then caught another bus back home overnight so that he could fly out from Esfahan in the morning! When I told him this was too much to expect of him he said “Hey, in the olden days I would have had to do it by camel!”

We had a great day with Mansour. We visited both the former palace of the Shah of Iran and the former home of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The contrast could not have been more stark! The Shah’s palace (or rather, complex of palaces) were the epitome of luxury and indulgence, reflecting a particular penchant for French art and culture (which was something I hadn’t expected). The Ayatollah, on the other hand, had lived in a two-room flat! He entertained guests in one room and ate and slept in the other!

I evidently need to do some proper research on this figure – a man I’ve known nothing about but who always looked alien and scary to me with his long beard and black hat. Could there really have been something of a Ghandi-figure behind that stern expression?

I’ll do more research before I say more. My immediate concern is to get the rest of my team safely into Iran.  Most of them are due to arrive in the next couple of hours. Unfortunately we had one member (Sheikh Ali) almost barred from entry at Sydney and another member – our dear boxing champion, Solomon Egberime – stopped in Perth!

Apparently one of the Qantas staff mucked up his ticketing in Sydney and he wasn’t able to board the connecting flights. He’ll be stuck in Perth for a night and then in Doha for another night during transit!  And the worst part of it is that (thus far) Qantas have expected us to foot the bill for re-booking the flight. Indeed, as I understand it, they haven’t even given him a hotel room to stay in while he waits!

As I always say, ‘if you’re not getting shot at you’re not in the front line’. Perhaps these mishaps are all a part of the greater spiritual battle that we’re engaged in here. Either way, I am confident that none of us will buckle under the pressure. We have a job to do in Syria and we are assembling quite a team to make sure that job is done right!   I’ll update you more on the team in my next post as they should all be assembled by then.

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.how2changetheworld.com

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

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Father Dave’s Missive – March 26, 2014

Hi Fighter,

Fighting Fathers monastic smock

modelling the prototype of the Fighting Fathers’ monastic smock!

My apologies for another prolonged silence. I’m afraid I’ve been flat out of late organising our Peace Pilgrimage to Syria. We leave next week and I wanted to invite you to our send-off BBQ this coming Sunday.

I appreciate that not everybody will be able to come but all are welcome. Unless it’s raining we’ll meet in my backyard after church.

Church starts at around 9.15, and since our house is alongside the church building I’d suggest that you join us for worship first and then just stick around (though if you want to arrive for lunch only, I’d suggest you come around noon).

All the meat will be halal and there will be no alcohol served, so whether you’re Christian or Muslim (or neither or both) you are welcome to attend the BBQ, and you’re equally welcome to join us for church too.

If you don’t know how to find Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, click here.

Whether or not you can make it to our farewell, I’m certainly hoping that you’ll keep us in your thoughts and prayers while we’re away. The pilgrimage will take us three weeks in total. It starts in Iran and ends up in London, with Syria sandwiched in between.

The main aim of the pilgrimage is to develop a conduit into Damascus through which we can channel ongoing aid and people, such as aid workers and sporting champions – all of whom can play a vital role in the rebuilding of the country. We intend to arrive in Damascus heavy-laden with medicines that we will purchase in Tehran, and with Australian boxing champion, Sol Egberime. My hope is that Sol will be the first of many great Australian boxers who will travel to Syria to help bring hope and joy to young people across the country!

Anticipated highlights of the trip for me include:

  • Catching up again with dear Mother Agnes, Mairead Maguire and other old friends.
  • Seeing more wonderful grass-roots reconciliation work in action in Syria.
  • Meeting up again with the Grand Mufti of Syria
  • Hopefully also meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury and Julian Assange in London (though not at the same time).
  • Sol and I doing some boxing bouts both in Damascus and in London.

These are some of the highlights I’m anticipating but I’m sure there will be lots of other wonderful experiences that I haven’t even dreamt of yet! It is a great privilege to make this pilgrimage and I’m hoping that there will be others like it ahead. Perhaps you’ll be able to join me on the next one?

I must also mention that I am accepting donations both towards the cost of the medicines and the overall costs of the pilgrimage.  I’ll have two separate donation tins set up accordingly at the BBQ this Sunday. If you can’t make it but you’d like to contribute, please Paypal any amount to me at my regular email address – dave AT fatherdave.org (with AT replaced with an @ of course). Please specify whether you want your donation to go solely towards medicines or whether you’re leaving it to my discretion as to how the funds are distributed.

Sermon Time

I wanted to include a sermon today that I gave earlier this year – a sermon on a text from St Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 1:11)

I was interested in this text because it occurred to me that ‘being of the same mind and same purpose’ was a good description of the Jihadist terrorists who are reeking havoc and destruction across Syria at the moment!

It raises for me the question of whether ‘unity‘ is always a good thing and how Paul might have distinguished what he meant by being ‘of one mind’ from the sort of mindless group-think that we associate with terrorist violence?

If you’re interested in exploring these issues with me, click below or access the written version of this sermon here.

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and if you can’t view the video, click here

OK Fighter, I’m going to finish up here and get back to work. I’m taking off at dawn to head down to the Iranian Embassy in Canberra to finalise visas so I need to get an early night.

I’ll hope to see you this coming Sunday at the BBQ. If not, do 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.zerocostwebsite.net
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.warriorweekends.com
www.how2changetheworld.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Father Dave’s Missive – January 31st, 2014

Hi Fighter,

I got caught in a domestic violence situation tonight.

I think I handled it just right. It’s so hard to get these things right.

I was putting the garbage out and heard what I thought at first was kids shouting at each other. Then I saw a woman on the ground and a man standing over her and … I realized happily that I had my clergy shirt on. I adjusted my collar appropriately as I rushed to the scene.

The clergy collar has always proven to be more powerful to me than a superman outfit in situations like this. Nobody wants to punch the priest, and nobody wants a priest watching them while they beat their woman.

There was lots of shouting going on and the woman was screaming obscenities but it didn’t seem as if any punches had been thrown so I stopped about three meters short of the two and stood at right-angles to them without saying anything. From the nature of the shouting and accusations it was clear that they were partners (of sorts).

There was another woman involved (a friend of the first woman) who was also screaming at the man and probably wasn’t helping. The man had no shirt on but didn’t seem to be drunk. The woman would scream “give me my phone back. Give me my smokes”, etc. He would then throw the smokes/phone at her and then lean over and grab them back from where she’d dropped them.

None of this was done in an overly violent way though I was aware that things could degenerate into open brutality at any moment and I was only a millisecond’s distance from the man’s right hand if it came to that. Even so, I think that by standing where I was, saying nothing and so not confronting the man directly but evidently monitoring the situation very carefully in my clergy collar, I helped keep a lid on the problem.

The man eventually complied with the woman’s repeated requests, such as “f**k the hell off” and “get the f**k out of my life” (or at least with the first request anyway). He disappeared and she then walked around the corner. I took the opportunity to call 000 and the police said they were on their way.

The woman had sat herself down in a heap alongside our local Salvation Army store. I spoke to the friend who was all very grateful to me, recognised me as the boxing priest, and told me all about how God had spoken to her while she was in a coma. Our happy conversation though suddenly ended when she screamed “Oh my God, he’s coming back“, and sure enough he was coming back, and I turned to take my stand this time between the man and his target.

I figured this time that things were highly likely to get bloody but before the man reached us a paddy-wagon screeched to a halt alongside me and four policemen had the man on the ground and hand-cuffed within about 0.5 seconds! The man didn’t resist at all. Two of the police stayed with the man, one talked to the woman and the other came over to me “Hey Father Dave, how’s it going?”

This young Constable took down all the relevant details but he was frankly more interested in hearing how his mates were doing at boxing training (as I’m currently training three officers from the Marrickville Local Area Command).

It was a horrible way to end what was otherwise a quite night of domestic tranquility. I stepped out into a war-zone. Then I stepped back inside again. I’m not used to that now like I used to be. I think that’s how I learnt to compartmentalize in the early days here.

Feeding deer at Mogo Zoo
We still enjoy the merry-go-round at Luna Park
Festival of Sydney jumping castle at the Opera House
Imogen and I do dinner and a movie! 🙂
Looking for a chapel for Binacrombi

And so the school holidays are well and truly over and it’s back to business for all of us.

I didn’t really get a proper holiday myself this January but I did spend some lovely time with the kids as you can see from the above.  I also made some significant steps forward in terms of my New Year’s resolutions!

In case you’ve forgotten, I set five goals for this year:

  1. Develop Binacrombi as a place of contemplative prayer.
  2. Make a contribution to peace in Syria.
  3. Make a contribution to Palestinian statehood.
  4. Win a world boxing title
  5. Help each of my kids complete their years at school.

At the moment I seem to be moving forward in leaps and bounds on all fronts!

In terms of Binacrombi, I believe I have found my first Abbott – a true man of prayer and a legendary sportsman who can help develop the monastic side of our retreat without compromising our commitment to extreme sports (trail bike riding, boxing, etc.)!

We’ve also been offered a chapel that we may be able to simply pick up and relocate to our site. Of course these things are never simple but I’ve already been looking over things with a builder-mate and we’ll know soon enough what is possible.

I can’t give the names and details on any of the above until things are more settled but it seems clear that the Lord wants us to proceed with this vision. 

As far as Syria goes, plans are coming together very quickly for another mission that will probably happen this side of Easter!

Again, I can’t give you details at this stage but I can give a broad outline of what we hope to achieve:

  • Express our solidarity with the church in Syria
  • Take in much-needed medical supplies
  • See if we can secure the release of some prisoners
  • See if we can initiate boxing programmes in the refugee camps

No prizes for guessing who came up with this last idea. The exciting thing for me is that my colleagues around the world are as excited about the prospects of setting up boxing programmes in refugee camps as I am! 

And so far as my hopes for a world title go, it seems that I may have two fights on the horizon – one in Dublin and another in Syria itself!

Frankly, it doesn’t really matter whether there is any title attached to either of them. I have a feeling we’ll be able to accomplish something significant with those bouts if we can make them happen!

As to my fifth goal – helping my kids through school – we’re off to a good start! Two out of three are back to their studies and I took Francesca for her evaluation session for Kindergarten today. She will start regular classes on Monday!

Enough prattling from me for now about goals and achievements, but I think the above proves the point I made in my last missive – that if you tell people what your goals you are far more likely to move on them!

I’m still hoping that you might share some of your hopes and dreams for the year in the comment-box below. Go on! Be daring! Dream big!

Sermon Time

I’ve been preaching rather a lot lately so I’ve got plenty of sermons I could pass on to you today but I really want to share with you the one I did for the Feast of the Holy Family.

I’m conscious of the fact that ‘Christian values‘ and ‘family values‘ are often taken as being synonymous and that the Holy Family (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) are generally depicted as being the archetypal white, middle-class nuclear family unit.

A little investigation of the texts though suggests that Jesus’ human family was far from the ideal model that preachers of family values would like it to be. Indeed, I suspect that most family therapists would have found plenty of material to work on there!

I don’t know whether you’ll find this sermonic exploration into the family life of Jesus encouraging or unnerving. Either way, if the church is going to make pronouncements about what a Christian family is supposed to look like, this material needs to be taken into account!

[imaioVideo v=1]

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

OK Fighter, I’ll be in contact again as soon as I’ve got the details of the Syria mission all worked out. We’ll be doing some fundraising and simultaneously launching Fighting Father Denning’s documentary movie of our last Syria trip.

Until then, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,

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