Revd Dave Smith on the Pandemic and Social Justice in Australia

Reverend Dave Smith, also known as Father Dave or the Fighting Father, is an Anglican priest who served as parish priest for 30 years in Sydney’s inner-west. It was here he became known for his work with at-risk youth and was nominated three times for Australian of the Year.

He took up professional boxing in 1996 to help fund his youth programs and is currently Australia’s oldest active professional fighter. Father Dave is also well known for his social justice advocacy and inter-faith work. He is the father of four children and the author of two books, the most recent being “Christians and Muslims can be friends” (2020)

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When Peacemaking is Controversial

Earlier this year the Charity Commission notified our trustees of ‘regulatory concerns’, presumably arising from a complaint, questioning whether some articles on the Peacemaker Trust website, were ‘in line with the advancement of the Christian religion or promotion of religious harmony’

The trustees responded by pointing out that the Church of England, and many other Christian denominations, define ‘the advancement of the Christian religion’ in terms of the ‘Five Marks of Mission’These include the aim of seeking “to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.” 

The trustees emphasized that “We understand our charitable purposes in these terms and seek to be catalysts for peacemaking, especially where minorities are persecuted, where justice is denied, human rights are suppressed or reconciliation is needed.”

They referred to a quote by John Stott found on our website

“The incentive to peacemaking is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peacemaking exhibits the love and justice – and so the pain – of the cross.” 

They concluded that “Dr Sizer’s stance in challenging racism, segregation and apartheid, based on non-violence and international law, is intended to advance an orthodox presentation of the Christian religion and promote religious harmony, by supporting justice, peace and reconciliation. This, in the opinion of the trustees, clearly falls within our charitable purposes.”

The trustees are grateful that the Charity Commission responded:

Thank you for the comprehensive response you have provided to our letter; the Commission are satisfied with the assurances provided by The Trustees and no further engagement is needed.”

Dear Archbishop Justin: Why are you silent on the suffering in Gaza?

The Board of Trustees of Sabeel-Kairos UK have written an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury questioning his silence over the last 11 days on the disproportionate violence against civilians in Palestine, and the lack of solidarity and support for the Palestinian people.  You can read our letter, and share in this action here. 

In the last 11 days we have witnessed once again an unprecedented level of violence towards civilians in the Holy Land. 

Whilst people have been suffering in Israel and in the West Bank too, the lives of those in Gaza have once again been disproportionally affected. 219 Palestinians, including 63 children and 35 women (3 of whom were pregnant) have lost their lives. Tens of thousands have been displaced and made homeless once more. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, including 6 hospitals and 44 schools. This is unacceptable.

We welcome the news of the ceasefire, which we hope will hold and protect all civilians from more violence. But unless the root causes are addressed – namely Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, its siege of Gaza, and its discrimination against non-Jews inside the State of Israel, we will be back here, lamenting the next war very soon.

During the last 11 days, Churches around the world have been issuing statements of support and solidarity, and calling for the structural injustices in the Holy Land to be addressed. In the UK, the Methodists, United Reform Church, Catholics, Quakers and others have all spoken out, yet the Church of England has remained silent. In the letter below, written by the trustees of Sabeel-Kairos UK, we challenge that silence, and we ask those of you that are members of the Church of England to do so with us.

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Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions by Anita Damiani-Shanley

Like other Western colonial-settler experiments, for over 70 years, Zionists have been systematically erasing the culture and history of indigenous Palestinians to justify their forced removal and the theft of their land. Ilan Pappe, in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, calls this ‘memorocide’ and in The Palestine Nakba, Nur Masalha elaborates, 

“The founding myths of Israel have dictated the conceptual removal of Palestinians before, during and after their physical removal in 1948… The de-Arabisation of Palestine, the erasure of Palestinian history and the elimination of the Palestinian’s collective memory by the Israeli state are no less violent than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of historic Palestine.”

This is why books such as Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions are so vital in recording the memories and eyewitness accounts of Arabs and Palestinians who experienced the arrival of Western colonialists to the Middle East, were co-opted into their wars, witnessed the rise of Zionism and then became refugees in the Palestinian Nakba.  Anita Damiani-Shanley’s book will most certainly help perpetuate their heritage and rightful historic claim to Palestine.

Ancestral Journeys is however much more than the story of two families, one Arab and the other Scottish joined in marriage. It traces the influence of missionaries, archaeologists, traders and colonialists competing with each other for a share of the Near East as the Ottoman Empire met its demise. Richly illuminated with family photos, the three main chapters trace the ancestral journeys of Damiani-Shanley’s extended family from Scotland and Lebanon to Iraq and then to Palestine. A fourth chapter traces the role of the Anglican Church in Palestine.  

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Surfers Not Street Children

Twenty years ago in 2000, Christ Church, Virginia Water funded Tom Hewitt to enable him to launch the street child charity, Umthombo in Durban, South Africa. Now twenty years on, Peacemaker Trust is pleased to promote his continuing work with Surfers not Street Children. In the light of the devastating impact of Covid-19, Tom has written,

“I could never have imagined that within the space of a few weeks our programmes would completely change and a number of our longstanding donors around the world would be struggling financially. It is heart-breaking.” Tom Hewitt MBE

Surfers Not Street Children has faced many challenges to ensure that street-connected children have access to safe play and development through surfing, mentorship & care in South Africa & Mozambique. 

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