A review of “Christians and Muslims can be Friends”
Published in New Dawn 188 (September-October 2021)
Christians and Muslims can be Friends by Father Dave Smith 194 pages, paperback/Kindle Published by Rethink Press, 2020 Order from www.amazon.com.a
Father Dave Smith is an Anglican priest, well known in Sydney for his community work. He combines a commitment to the learning and liturgy of a traditional church with a direct activism for disadvantaged youth, for the promotion of boxing as a sport, and for the improvement of relations between Christians and Muslims.
In stating that Christians and Muslims can be friends, Father Dave partly states a truism and partly makes a daring declaration that causes inflamed reactions. He has wolked into an area of conflict, but with the balance and daring of a trained boxer, as well as a cleric.
Father Dave explains how he initially formed a friendship with an Islamic cleric in 2002 and how he has extended his knowledge and worked to promote understandings between the two communities. This quest has taken him all the way to Syria where, even in the midst of military conflict, he found religious people very like himself. The section of the book where he interviews Syrian priest Father Toufic Eid in the ancient shrine town of Maaloula records the almost unbearable persecutions of the Christians in the Middle East and their faith-filled response.
The book is made up of interviews and short articles. Father Dave sets out his ideas, such ash his explanation of the Holy Trinity – a theological point which particularly divides the two religions – with scriptural references and a serene sense of belief. In working for understanding with Islam, he is no less a Christian.
In a generous spirit, Father Dave devotes much of this short book to the words of other people. He records the words of a series of activists, religious thinkers, and an Indigenous sportsman, putting their perspectives at the centre of attention. The points made combine the problems of divisions, racism, and exclusion with happier moments of growth, recognition and reconciliation.