David B. Smith, famously known as Father Dave is a Parish priest, a community worker, a martial arts master, a pro boxer, an author and father of four, living in Australia. Khamenei.ir has conducted an interview with Father Dave about his visit to Iran and his experience with the Iranian Christian community.
When did you visit Iran and what was the purpose of your visit?
I have been to Iran twice, and the first time (in 2013) was only for a couple of days. I went to see a friend in Esfahan. On my second trip I stayed for a little over a week.
I was able to catch up with my friend again but I was really there on a stop-over on the way to Syria.
I have been involved in peace work in Syria now for four years. On the second trip I visited a large Armenian Church in Esfahan. It was a large complex with a very impressive museum.
How did you find the Christian community in Iran and their interaction with Muslims?
Certainly the Armenian Christians were respected members of Iranian society and were well integrated into the community.
From what you observed, what did you find the most surprising about Iranian Christians and their status among Muslims?
From my conversations with the Armenians and from subsequent conversations with the faculty of the University of Religions in Qom, I received a strong impression of the openness of Iranian society to Christians. This is something many of my peers find hard to believe!
As a Christian priest, what do you recommend believers in Jesus- Muslims and Christians- to do to bring more peace to the world?
I believe that the church and the mosque have a vital contribution to make to world peace.
Indeed, I believe that peace will not even be remotely possible unless Christians and Muslims at all levels work vigorously together to pursue it.
My reasoning for this is quite simple. We need a strong institution with organization and resources to contend with the power-brokers that are manufacturing endless wars for their own purposes.
The problem is that all the political institutions (and even the large NGO’s) have been corrupted by the same forces and they cannot be relied upon.
How do you think religion can pave the ground for peaceful co-existence?
We have to look to the world’s major religious institutions (the church and the mosque) to fill the moral vacuum left by corporate greed and political corruption.
Where else can we look? The problem of course is that religious leaders and institutions are also subject to corruption.
Even so, I am very impressed by the current Pope, as I am likewise impressed by some of the Muslim leaders– men such as the noble Sheikh Nimr, who is greatly missed.
It is a matter of urgency that Christian leaders and Muslim leaders unite in efforts to constrain the slide towards Salafism worldwide.
I believe that the Christian and Shia communities are particularly well-placed to form a tight coalition, as both groups are being targeted by DAESH.
While there is no by-passing the need for a military response to these takfiri, I do believe that the Christian and Muslim communities together could make a significant and more long-last contribution to the global battle through programs of education, targeting youth in particular.
Would you like to make a final point?
We are in desperate times, and the devastation experienced in Syria and Iraq in particular is horrifying.
Even so, I believe that God has also given us a historic opportunity in these dark times to come together with mutual respect and love, so that we might address these problems together.
Together, by the Grace of God, I believe we could turn much of this darkness to light.