by Marie Sansom
He is accustomed to the heat of battle but Father Dave Smith, from Dulwich Hill’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church, has his toughest fight on his hands.
The former boxer, whose nickname is Fighting Father Dave, is taking a stand and opposing the Immigration Department’s plans to deport Muslim cleric Sheik Mansour Leghaei, his wife Marzeih and one of their four children, Mohammad Ali, 21, to Iran.
His other three children have Australian citizenship.
The department recently gave the sheik, a moderate Shi’ite preacher at Earlwood’s Imam Husain Islamic Centre and member of inter-faith groups, one month to leave the country, although he has lived here for 16 years and caused no trouble.
It is understood ASIO has labeled him a national security threat but he does not know why or what information they hold on him because they will not release it.
To show solidarity with his friend, Father Smith has arranged a Unity in the Community Barbecue this Sunday and a 24 hour prayer vigil in Easter Saturday.
“It’s a chance for people who have been working and praying and hoping for a good result for the sheik to get together and express their support,” Father Smith said.
“We would also like to make a public statement that a large segment of the community is deeply concerned.”
“The fact that a guy can be charged, judged and executed without every being told what he did seems outrageous in a supposed democracy.”
Since going public with his support for the sheik in 2007 Father Smith has received abusive phone calls and emails, many from people declaring themselves to be Christians, and some from white supremacists.
“I trust all the sheik’s supporters with a big commitment to peace but I hope no one tries to provoke the crowd or comes in with any other agenda at the barbecue,” Father Smith said.
- Unity in the Community Barbecue is at Steel Park, Illawarra Rd, Marrickville, on Sunday from 11 am.
- A 24 hour prayer vigil will start at Dulwich Hill’s Holy Trinity Church at 9am on Easter Saturday.
- The events are to show solidarity with Muslim cleric Sheik Mansour Leghaei and his family.