A big thank-you to Luke Waters for putting together this piece for SBS World News. It is perhaps the primary goal of Boxers for Peace to let the whole world know what is really going on in Syria. In truth, it is hard for us to get our story out as it doesn’t fit in with the prevailing narrative.
Our message is simple: Syria is more than a war-zone! It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people, most of whom are just trying to get on with their lives despite the violence they are being forced to endure. They don’t need us to introduce more violence (except in cooperation with their military) and they are quite capable of electing their own political leaders.
Maybe there’s a way of putting that that’s simpler still. Even so, I trust you get the message.
For those for whom the iframed feed from the SBS website is being blocked due to you being outside of Australia, the text and the video are below:
An unlikely group of Australian boxers have returned from a remarkable, week-long tour of war-ravaged Syria where they delivered a unique message of peace in unique fashion.
Profound messages of peace and hope are rarely associated with the combative sport of boxing, but for Dulwich Hill-based priest Father Dave Smith, it’s a constant narrative.
For years Father Dave has used boxing to help countless people through troubled times, and he has extended his outreach all the way to the war-torn country of Syria.
He recently took eight Australian boxers to Syria to train with Syrian boxers in the ancient ruins of Palmyra.
“The experience in Palmyra in particular was very surreal,” Father Dave said.
Palmyra was seized by IS in May, 2015 and dozens of people including Syrian civilians were executed and parts of the ruins were destroyed.
The historic site was liberated in March, and Father Dave said it was highly symbolic for Syrian boxers to spar and train in a place that saw unimaginable atrocities just months ago.
“We’re going into a place that’s been associated with brutality and death recently and we’re playing – we’re playing sport with Syrian kids,” he said.
Syrian boxers have limited opportunities to improve in their chosen sport.
Being about to train with the Australian boxers was a rare treat and a diversion from the brutal reality confronting their homeland.
“We are very grateful for the help from the Australian delegation,” Syrian boxer Ghadir Abaydi told Father Dave through a translator.
“We hope they will always honour us with their presence, so we can benefit from their experience and knowledge.”
The trip was Father Dave’s fifth to Syria in four years, and he said the contrasts were typical of the country he has grown to love.
“I appreciate there’s a backdrop there of violence and pain but the light shines in the darkness and things keep moving forward,” he said.