Father Dave’s Missive – March 26, 2014

Hi Fighter,

Fighting Fathers monastic smock

modelling the prototype of the Fighting Fathers’ monastic smock!

My apologies for another prolonged silence. I’m afraid I’ve been flat out of late organising our Peace Pilgrimage to Syria. We leave next week and I wanted to invite you to our send-off BBQ this coming Sunday.

I appreciate that not everybody will be able to come but all are welcome. Unless it’s raining we’ll meet in my backyard after church.

Church starts at around 9.15, and since our house is alongside the church building I’d suggest that you join us for worship first and then just stick around (though if you want to arrive for lunch only, I’d suggest you come around noon).

All the meat will be halal and there will be no alcohol served, so whether you’re Christian or Muslim (or neither or both) you are welcome to attend the BBQ, and you’re equally welcome to join us for church too.

If you don’t know how to find Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, click here.

Whether or not you can make it to our farewell, I’m certainly hoping that you’ll keep us in your thoughts and prayers while we’re away. The pilgrimage will take us three weeks in total. It starts in Iran and ends up in London, with Syria sandwiched in between.

The main aim of the pilgrimage is to develop a conduit into Damascus through which we can channel ongoing aid and people, such as aid workers and sporting champions – all of whom can play a vital role in the rebuilding of the country. We intend to arrive in Damascus heavy-laden with medicines that we will purchase in Tehran, and with Australian boxing champion, Sol Egberime. My hope is that Sol will be the first of many great Australian boxers who will travel to Syria to help bring hope and joy to young people across the country!

Anticipated highlights of the trip for me include:

  • Catching up again with dear Mother Agnes, Mairead Maguire and other old friends.
  • Seeing more wonderful grass-roots reconciliation work in action in Syria.
  • Meeting up again with the Grand Mufti of Syria
  • Hopefully also meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury and Julian Assange in London (though not at the same time).
  • Sol and I doing some boxing bouts both in Damascus and in London.

These are some of the highlights I’m anticipating but I’m sure there will be lots of other wonderful experiences that I haven’t even dreamt of yet! It is a great privilege to make this pilgrimage and I’m hoping that there will be others like it ahead. Perhaps you’ll be able to join me on the next one?

I must also mention that I am accepting donations both towards the cost of the medicines and the overall costs of the pilgrimage.  I’ll have two separate donation tins set up accordingly at the BBQ this Sunday. If you can’t make it but you’d like to contribute, please Paypal any amount to me at my regular email address – dave AT fatherdave.org (with AT replaced with an @ of course). Please specify whether you want your donation to go solely towards medicines or whether you’re leaving it to my discretion as to how the funds are distributed.

Sermon Time

I wanted to include a sermon today that I gave earlier this year – a sermon on a text from St Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 1:11)

I was interested in this text because it occurred to me that ‘being of the same mind and same purpose’ was a good description of the Jihadist terrorists who are reeking havoc and destruction across Syria at the moment!

It raises for me the question of whether ‘unity‘ is always a good thing and how Paul might have distinguished what he meant by being ‘of one mind’ from the sort of mindless group-think that we associate with terrorist violence?

If you’re interested in exploring these issues with me, click below or access the written version of this sermon here.

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and if you can’t view the video, click here

OK Fighter, I’m going to finish up here and get back to work. I’m taking off at dawn to head down to the Iranian Embassy in Canberra to finalise visas so I need to get an early night.

I’ll hope to see you this coming Sunday at the BBQ. If not, do keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – October 4th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

I’m writing to you from the lovely town of Narooma on our state’s south coast. Our family is taking a few days off at Ange’s partents’ house and, as you can see from the pic below, the children are out frolicking in the sunshine and enjoying the great outdoors!

Enjoying the great outdoors!

Enjoying the great outdoors!

I’m afraid that since we last spoke I seem to have been bogged down in desk work and other clerical duties, though I have been keeping myself up-to-date with Syria. Indeed, I’ve been finding myself increasingly mired in the ongoing information war.

I hope that you saw my article on How Obama lost the first battle for Damascus.  It got quite a wide circulation and can now be found on onlineopinion.com.au, orientalreview.org, and counterpunch.org, as well as on my own Syria blog – prayersforsyria.com.

My aim in the article was to try to unravel some of the rhetoric that was being used to prepare the ground for open war. Since writing, I’ve been made even more aware of just how deep and dirty this war of words really is!

The Battle for Hearts and Minds

Some of us are old enough to remember the only war in human history that was ever brought to a close due to popular demand – the war in Vietnam (1955-75). The reason the Vietnam War was so unique and was concluded in such a unique fashion was that it was the only war to have ever been televised by an independent media!

The power-brokers learnt their lessons from Vietnam. Mainline media is no longer so independent, and reporters are no longer allowed to move freely around the front lines. They are now safely ‘embedded’ at well-determined vantage-points.  The makers-of-war lost control of the narrative in Vietnam and determined not to lose their grip again. Then along came the Internet, and with it, the threat of the true democratisation of information!

This where Obama came unstuck, I suspect. He announced that Assad had committed a crime that warranted his country being invaded, and a million bloggers cried foul!

From what I could see, the mainline media did very little to question the official government narrative, just as they completely failed to notice that every sector of the church across the globe had united in opposition to US intervention. Even so, the multiple voices of dissent could not be kept below the surface. There were too many of them, and too many people had the capacity to hear them!

It would be interesting to do a detailed comparison of the various lies that have been used to justify wars and see how this latest set compares. Even putting to one side the obvious lies concerning Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and his supposed links to Al Qaeda, we could compare:

  • The stories told by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, in April 2011, about how Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was issuing Viagra to his troops to encourage the systematic rape of civilians – a charge that was later investigated by both ‘Doctors Without Borders’ and ‘Amnesty International’, and shown to be without foundation (see here).
  • The eerily similar 1993 story of an unnamed Serbian General who commanded his troops to “Go forth and rape”. It made the front page of the New York Times and helped grease the wheels for NATO’s intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The paper later published a small correction saying that “the existence of “a systematic rape policy” by the Serbs “remains to be proved.”” but this received little attention.
  • The Kuwaiti girl who testified before Congress in 1990 that she had seen Iraqi soldiers storm the hospital where she worked and dump newborn babies out of their incubators. She turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, if you remember, and the whole ‘baby-killer’ story turned out to be the brain child of an American marketing firm, but nobody questioned the story until well after it had played its role in justifying the first invasion of Iraq.
  • George Bush I’s outlandish depiction of Manuel Noriega, accompanied by the transparently false claim that American lives were at risk in Panama, used to justify the invasion of 1989, cynically named “Operation Just Cause”!
  • The outrageous lies told by Ronald Reagan back in 1983 to justify the invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada – claiming that the tiny country was being developed into a Cuban-Soviet military base that would be used to launch communist attacks against the US!
  • The staged “The Gulf of Tonkin” incident that launched America into a full-scale war in Indochina in 1964!

Most of us are too young to remember this last incident, but recently declassified documents reveal quite unambiguously that the “unprovoked attack” by North Vietnamese vessels on the USS Maddox on the night of August 4, 1964, never actually took place!

In short, government lies are nothing new and they are rarely particularly sophisticated. You get the impression that the great powers assume that their voting public will believe anything that comes from the top, and history shows that generally we do!

I think the reason for this is simple. The papers inevitably report what our leaders say. If the official narrative is challenged, that challenge is nestled somewhere deeper in the paper, on the pages that most people never reach.

But nowadays the counter-narrative is in your face! It’s coming at you through your smart-phone, and it’s all over Facebook and Twitter before the papers carrying the official narrative are even printed! This must be causing those who reap the big profits from war and human misery to panic!

The Machinations of Propaganda

It’s macabrely fascinating to watch the way the power-players are handling these latest developments.

On the one hand we see the relatively sophisticated US propaganda machine try to reframe the argument for war and refocus us on other issues, using their full arsenal of ‘weapons of mass distraction’ (as Chomsky calls them). On the other hand we find basic thuggery and intimidation being used in other parts of the world!

One saga that has gripped me has been the unraveling of an article published in Mintpress News on August 29 that was the first to claim eye-witness accounts of the gas attacks in Ghouta! According to the two Jordanian journalists to whom the article was attributed, it was actually the Saudis who were behind the attack!

Since the publication of that article, one of the journalists seems to have disappeared and the other is trying to distance herself from the work completely. Apparently she’s under pressure from … (you guessed it) … the Saudi’s! (see the full story here).

In the middle of all these machinations is our own dear Mother Agnes, who published a lengthy study of her own that disputes the official US version of the gas attacks. This has earned her praise from some quarters and ridicule from others. Mother Agnes’ study can be downloaded here.

Mother with Mairead and myself in Beirut

with Mother Agnes and Mairead in Beirut

I found it difficult to study Mother Agnes’ report in detail as it contains multiple images of apparently dead and suffering children, and it is hard to look at such images analytically. Even so, I appreciate that if we are to take these children’s suffering seriously we must investigate these crimes scrupulously, and this is what Mother Agnes has done. If you’d prefer an abbreviated version, this RT News article draws directly on Mother Agnes’ work and makes it clear that at least some of the videos used by the US to justify the proposed attack on Syria cannot be trusted!

And so, as Mother Agnes tries to unravel the propaganda, she becomes a target of propaganda herself! Media sources from Russia and other countries that oppose foreign intervention in Syria have been praising her while those in favour of intervention pillory her.

The effort from Australian mainline media seem particularly pitiful. One recent article published in the Melbourne Age that was straightforwardly critical of Mother Agnes turned out to be a simple cut and paste job done on an article that appeared in the New York Times. The interesting thing is that the New York Times article is actually far more balanced. The Australian version has all the balanced bits cut out!

And now ‘Human Rights Watch’ have come out in opposition to Mother Agnes! This might sound like a damning indictment, but it probably says more about ‘Human Rights Watch’ – an organisation whose objectivity has been under suspicion for some years – than it does about Mother Agnes. Read this article published on the ‘Ron Paul Institute’ site if you’d like to know more about this saga.

A Solution for Syria?

And while the propaganda war rages, a solution to the actual war on the ground may be nearer than we had thought!

One consequence of the proposed intervention that the Americans may not have anticipated was that it has further fragmented the Syrian opposition, many of whom hate the Americans even more than they do Bashar Al-Assad!

On the one hand this has led entire units of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ to defect to Jabhat Al Nusra – the largest of the Islamist groups – who are by no stretch of the imagination fighting for a free and democratic Syria! Conversely, those Syrians who are still fighting for reforms to their homeland are now considering teaming up with government forces to help throw out the foreigners!

Robert Fisk reports that secret meetings between FSA and government officials have already taken place and that we may well soon see a complete reshaping of the conflict! If this happens I expect that the war in Syria will end pretty quickly. There will be no way that the US will be able to justify arming Al Qaeda against an all-Syrian coalition who are defending their country from foreigners. And once support for the opposition dries up from the US and its allies (the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey) it will not take long before the insurgents will be in full retreat!

I pray that this will happen quickly, as I would much rather return to Damascus when this is all over there than go there as a human shield. Even so, things are by no means resolved as yet, and the propaganda machine still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.

Sermon Time!

I attended some lectures by the great theologian Stanley Hauwerwas last week where he emphasized the need for theological language to be challenging and confrontational. No parable of Jesus’ manages this task more disruptively than His ‘Parable of the Sly Bastard’, recorded in the first half of Luke chapter 16.

I received mixed reactions to my sermon on this passage – some thinking I went too far and was downright offensive. I suspect Jesus received much the same reaction when He told the parable!

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If you can view this video click here

You’ll have to forgive me for the length of today’s tome, but I’ve got one more thing I must share with you before I let you go.

Last week my friend Steve Lacey called and told me that I’d been featured in an article he’d written for the Sydney Morning Herald, entitled “I want to see my abs one last time“.

I do remember Steve calling me and asking for my advice as a fitness trainer regarding how he should lose weight and strengthen his abs, but I hadn’t put two and two together and realised that my advice was going to appear as part of a major article. Neither did I really think too much about what might happen if I won the poll, featured at the end of the online version of the article, where readers were encouraged to choose which of the four advisers Steve should listen to.

Bottom line is that (thanks no doubt to my loyal Twitter followers and Facebook friends) I received 33% of the 6791 votes, with my nearest rival coming in at 28%. This means I’m now Steve’s official trainer for the next seven weeks, and apparently Steve’s progress is going to be monitored with further articles and a video diary!

Anyway, my prescription (as you can read in the article) is basically lots of boxing and no carbs. I suspect though that plenty of my subscribers will be able to supplement this program in useful ways that will help Steve achieve the rock-hard six-pack he’s looking for!

So send me your suggestions please. Indeed, come and join us in person and shout your encouragement at Steve! The training times are on dulwichhillgym.com if you can join us.

Family day trip to Montague Island

Family day trip to Montague Island

OK, I’m winding this missive up now, having just returned from a wonderful day-trip to Montague Island.  I’ll be back in Dulwich Hill in time for church Sunday morning and I’ll hope to see you there.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – July 11th, 2013

G’day Fighter,

Father Dave here after a fantastic week where I got to meet two of my heroes! :-)

Yes, there they are below: Dr Chandra Muzaffar and George Galloway!

Dr Chandra Muzaffar

Dr Chandra Muzaffar

George Galloway

George Galloway

I met up with Chandra last Tuesday in his offices in Kuala Lumper.

Denning and I were there as a part of Mother Agnes’ team – giving her whatever support we could as she spoke about the Syrian crisis to Malaysian politicians and a slew of foreign ambassadors.

Dr Muzaffar had organised a forum of over 100 people to come and dialogue with Mother Agnes and it was a magnificent event! :-)

with the under-secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs in Malaysia

Malaysian Department of Foreign Affairs

with the he JUST team in Kuala Lumper

with the he JUST team in Kuala Lumper

We got back on the Thursday and George Galloway’s meeting at the Town Hall happened that same night!

For those who missed the event, you really missed out! It was more like a rock concert than a political gathering.

George evidently has an enormous fan-base in Sydney, most especially amongst Shi’ite Muslims. The fact that we managed to fill the Sydney Town Hall when the meeting was only organised 6 days earlier, with (almost) everyone there paying at least $30/ticket, was an outstanding testimony to George’s profile and popularity.

On Friday morning I was deeply privileged to have George drop by for coffee. I invited about a dozen local activists to come and join us. We had a fantastic time!

Ange with George Galloway and Gayatri

Ange with George Galloway and Gayatri

2013 - with George Galloway

walking the streets of Dulwich Hill!

I feel I’ve had a week of unparalleled learning as I’ve tried to suck up every word or wisdom and insight that has been shared with me from each of these great men.

I’ll record only one insight from each of them here, though I can think of many.

The first was Dr Chandra Muzaffar telling me about the work of his organisation, JUST (The International Movement for a Just World).

Chandra has been running JUST now for more than 20 years now and its focus is solely on issues of global hegemony. This seems to me to be potentially the most frustrating and unrewarding work that anybody could choose to devote their life to. How could you ever be sure that you were seeing results for your efforts? :-0

Even so, Chandra told me emphatically “We endorse no political party of ideology. We simply critique global power structures with spiritual values and shared wisdom”

That statement impressed me deeply. Here was a man who was happy to forego short-term results for the sake of maintaining the integrity of his mission!

The other most memorable statement for me was from George.  I asked him (in the interview that’s featured below) how he, as a politician, managed to always speak from the heart. Every politician I know tailors what they say to fit in with what they think their voters and/or sponsors want to hear. George’s answer was as simple as it was profound. “I have no power so there is nothing they can take from me”.

On reflection I realised that the wisdom of both these men was as one, and the message to me was clear: Maintain your integrity above all else! Don’t look for short-term results but stick to what you know to be true! Amen!

Other News

I’ll try to be brief but let me throw a few other things your way today:

  • Last week I mentioned that I was looking to sell off some websites that I can’t manage any more. A few people have expressed interest. The sites (and there are around 20 of them) are in the areas of drug addiction, child custody and speed reading. If others are interested, contact me soon before I make any final decisions.
  • We are looking to finalise our teams to manage weekends at our bush camp, Binacrombi. A goodly number of people have responded and we’re currently organising training for the teams. Get back to me ASAP if you’re interested.
  • We are planning to re-open our Youth Centre very soon in an exciting joint venture with the Salvation Army. Unfortunately we’ve had to push back the launch date to August 4th. Never mind. All the greater opportunity to plan a truly dynamic celebration! Let me know if you’d like to contribute. :-)
  • Our friends at Bourke Street Bakery are putting on a fundraiser for us on Saturday, July 27th. You can see the flyer with all the details here. In truth, I am deeply grateful to these good people and I know that they will put on a wonderful feast. Please consider joining us if you are able.

Holy Trinity Invite

And now for the videos …

As I said, it was a very special week for me, getting to meet two of my heroes. In truth, I fear I’m running out of heroes to meet! There’s still Julian Assange, of course, but apart from him and Johnny Rotten, Ive just about exhausted my list of heroes that I haven’t yet met! 

I’ll let the great men now speak for themselves. Please leave your comments at the end of the blog post.

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If you can’t view this video, click here

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If you can’t view this video, click here

In conclusion …

That’s enough for this week.

I’ll leave you with a  closing picture of my son, Soren, showing off a praying mantis that he found in our back yard last Sunday.

Soren Lee Smith

Soren finds a new friend

I’ll look forward to engaging with you again next week if I don’t hear from you before then.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Weekly Missive – July 2nd, 2013

G’day Fighter,
Father Dave back with you – a little weary but strong in spirit. :-)
I seem to have been spending all my time travelling and speaking since last we spoke.
  • I spoke to a Lions Club gathering, hoping to raise more funds for our youth work.

2013 - guest speaker at the Sydney Executive Lions Club

  • I spoke to at a gathing of the Wikileaks Party faithful

2013 - Addressing a gathering of the Wikileaks Party faithful

  • I had the privilege of being guest speaker at Sydney’s 2013 Muslim Youth Conference!

2013 - it was a great privilege to be invited to address the Sydney Muslim Youth Conference

I’m still trying to work out what made the ‘Muslim Women’s Association’ think I’d be a good speaker on the subject of issues facing Muslim youth, but I must say that it was a great privilege and I had a great time! :-)

As to travelling, I’m still following dear Mother Agnes around!

You’ll remember that not long ago I dragged Mother and Sister around Canberra. We got back and went one step further up the ladder of greatness and met with Bishop Rob!

2013 - Mother Agnes and Sister Carmel meet Bishop Forsyth

Then, before Mother Agnes left our fair state, all the churches shared with her in a wonderful evening of prayer for Syria at the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Sydney.

2013 - a great night of prayer for Syria at the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Lidcome

Right now I’m en route to meet up with Mother again – this time in Kuala Lumper! Indeed, I’m starting this missive at an altitude of 11582 metres according to my flight information (and I thought they always measured these things in feet :-0)!

Within a few hours of landing we are scheduled to meet with members of the Malaysian Department of Foreign Affairs. Our subject, of course, will be Syria.

Our host in Malaysia is the great human-rights activist, Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

I first had the privilege of meeting Dr Muzaffar in the late 80’s in his home in Penang. I had read about his exploits – how he had worked tirelessly to defend the rights of minorities in Malaysia, especially Christians. That was the first time I had heard of a Muslim community leader putting himself on the line for Christians.

And then I heard how he’d been imprisoned by the government for his efforts – an act that created such a stir worldwide and generated so many protests (including many from prominent church leaders) that the Malaysian government was force to release him!

It seems that this year I am getting to meet all my heroes!.

I had the privilege of travelling to Syria with the great peace-maker and Nobel Laureate, Mairead Maguire, and now I’ve been invited to Malaysia by another champion of human rights! And of course it didn’t surprise me when Dr Muzaffar told me that Mairead was on the board of his human-rights organisation – JUST (The Campaign for a Just World).

God has been extremely gracious to me of late and I do not take it for granted. :-)

Anyway, I’ll send you a full report of my two days in Malaysia next week. For the moment I have some more urgent things to share with you:

George Galloway in Sydney

Just when I thought I was running out of heroes to meet, that outspoken and wonderfully offensive Scotsman, George Galloway, arrives in Sydney!


If you don’t know George, he’s a British politician and a passionate human-rights activist, particularly well-known for his Palestinian advocacy.

How did he come to be in Sydney? Well … it’s a long story, but my friend Mohammed Naqi gets the credit for organising both his trip and his appearances!

There are two public gatherings and only one that has not been sold out. It’s at the Sydney Town Hall this Thursday evening. Click here to get the details on Facebook or here to download the flyer.

The event is not free because Mohammed needs to cover his costs for the hire of the Town Hall (which doesn’t come cheaply). Even so, this is a great opportunity and not one to be missed. I will certainly be there (God willing) and hope to see you there too.

The Youth Centre is Re-Opening

No, we haven’t rebuilt our Youth and Community Centre yet after the arson attack in March that completely destroyed it, though we have now levelled the site and have submitted our ideas to the architects.

2013 - our once-mighty Youth Centre has now been levelled to the ground

While we wait for our new centre to be constructed, we are teaming up with our new best-friends – the Salvation Army Corps of Dulwich Hill – to open a new Youth Centre in our area, based on their premises! :-)

It’s a true joint venture. The Salvo’s are providing their wonderful space and are also contributing a youth worker. We are contributing more team members and lots of equipment, including a new boxing ring! I guess the Salvos are also counting on us to supply a truck-load of kids, and I trust that we won’t disappoint! ;-)

At any rate, we have scheduled our grand opening for Sunday July 28. We’ll probably start with a lunch-time BBQ and continue till early evening.

I know that some of our Koori friends have expressed enthusiasm with regards to providing a band. My idea was to celebrate the opening by having a last-man-standing bout with Fighting Father Caine!

Either way, we’ll hopefully also have clowns and jumping castles and sticky food and lots of other great party stuff! It will be a great opportunity to put the ashes of the past behind us as we forge ahead with new initiatives of service to the young people of our region! :-)

Binacrombi Needs YOU!

I mentioned last week that our beloved Binacrombi caretaker, Geoff, is leaving for New Zealand and that we are looking for teams of people to run weekends down there.

I’ve had a handful of people express interest, but now I really need those of you who are interested to get down there before the end of this month (when Geoff leaves) and get trained in how to run the site!

It’s not easy! We have our own eco-system at Binacrombi. We are not connected to the power-grid, the gas-grid or to any mainline water or sewerage system. You need to know how our generators, gas system and water-piping system works, and you can only really learn through hands-on experience.

So if you’re keen please book in over the next few weeks and let’s make Binacrombi the greatest adventure camp for young people in the Southern hemisphere!

I’m selling my websites

OK, I’m not selling all of them, but with Fighting Father Jim now gone (see last week’s post) it’s going to be impossible to maintain so many of my traditional sites.

I have at least three ‘mininets’ of sites that I’m willing to part with. All are useful and informative sites that can also generate a significant income through Adsense ads etc. These site networks are currently being under-utilised as I just don’t have time to maintain and develop them any more. They cover topics such as child custody and drug addiction.

Each of these mininets offers a significant public service and each has generated up to $1,000 per month at different times. At the moment though they aren’t generating more than a few hundred per month between them, but if you were willing to put the necessary time and energy into them …

Interested? Send me an email and we’ll work something out.

Mother Agnes’ gives us the Good Word

OK. It’s high-time I got back to more spiritual matters.

Last week we had the privilege of having Mother Agnes join us for worship at Holy Trinity, Dulwich Hill, and it was a wonderful service!

Here’s a pic of our liturgical team just before the start of the service.

2013 - Mother Anges joins us for worship at Holy Trinity

Some said that it was the greatest service they had experienced at Holy Trinity. Mother Agnes, for her part, said that it had ‘all the grandeur of the Byzantine liturgy’.

I’m sorry I can’t give you a recording of the whole service but I have got Mother Agnes’ sermon for you. Enjoy! :-)

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(if you can’t see the video above, click here)

OK guys. That’s it for me this week.

As expected I’m now in Malaysia. I’ve just met with the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and am soon to head off for dinner with dear Dr Muzzafer!

So I’ll hold off on the details of all that till next week.

Until then, I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – May 27th, 2013

Hi Fighter,

You’ll have to forgive me for the gap between missives.

The last one (May 13) was sent out while I was still in Iran, enjoying a short respite with my dear friend Sheikh Mansour Leghaei. It was a two-day stopover between Syria and Sydney. I wish it had been longer.

Since I got back in the country my feet have barely touched the ground! I’ve been preoccupied both with my Syrian experience and with issues associated with the burning down of our Church Hall/Youth Centre, which happened only a week before I left.

Receiving a gift from Dr Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria

I was overwhelmed to receive this gift from Dr Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria

Making Sense of Syria

The more I reflect on the so-called ‘civil war’ in Syria, the more I become convinced that we could be on the edge of World War III.

As I understand it, the goal of those who are fueling the violence is to isolate Iran by severely weakening its only allies in the region – Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Having seen first-hand the terrible overcrowding of refugee camps in Lebanon, I can appreciate that all it will take to completely destabilize that country is to push another million displaced Syrians over the border. There are already close to a million refugees (mainly Palestinian) in Lebanon – a country that is already overcrowded with its native population of 4.3 million. Another million people will certainly break the back of the country’s infrastructure, and that is exactly what is envisaged should the strife in Syria continue for much longer.

So the world’s power-brokers play their games (and I hear on the news tonight that both Britain and France are now champing at the bit to pour more ammunition into the fray) while the Syrian people pay the price with their blood. The big oil and arms manufacturers are (quite literally) making a killing in Syria. It is entirely demonic!

We don’t see this side of the story, of course. Indeed, we don’t see much of the story at all in this country. It seems that all ‘Western’ media have been extracted from Damascus (with the curious exception of CNN)! The major Australian media companies are refusing to even purchase stories and photos from independent journalists and photographers in  government-controlled areas on the pretext that it puts them in danger! We had an excellent journo and cameraman with us in Lebanon from Australian SBS television but he was pulled out and sent home before we crossed the Syrian border!

Whatever the reason behind the media blanket over Damascus, it means that most of us only see the conflict from the perspective of those embedded amidst the attacking rebel forces. This means that we only hear one side of the story. Moreover, it means that we only ever see Syria as a war-zone.

What I saw in Syria was not a war. I saw human beings trying to get on with their lives – lots of wonderful men and women with lovely families who were trying to make the best of their situation and who were committed to bringing about change in their country through dialogue rather than through violence!

God bless the people of Syria! God bless the many people working for peace, especially the religious leaders (both Christian and Islamic), the community leaders, and the young people! We saw so many beautiful young people in their teens and twenty’s who still believe in a bright future for their country and who were still willing to devote themselves to the work of peace. God bless them all!

Talking peace with the Bishops of Damascus

Talking peace with the Bishops of Damascus

Mother Agnes returns to Oz

I will stop eulogising over Syria in a moment, but I must mention two more things first:

Firstly, if you didn’t see the formal statements made by our Mussalaha Peace Delegation to Syria, I commend them to you:

  1. The Concluding Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation to Syria
  2. The Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation on the Refugee Situation in Lebanon

Secondly, in case you haven’t heard, know that dear Mother Agnes of Homs is going to be back in Australia in only three weeks time!

Mother Agnes is going to be raising both funds and awareness in this tour and there will be a $100/head fundraiser dinner on the evening of Friday, June 21st. I’ve already booked a table, so if you’d like to join me at my table I’d love your company. Just let me know.

If you can’t afford to join us at the dinner, I’m hoping to have Mother Agnes with us for church with us on the Sunday – June 23rd. That won’t cost you anything (and you even get a free cup of coffee afterwards)! 

with Mother Agnes at the Umayyad mosqe

with Mother Agnes and the team at the Umayyad mosque

Binacrombi Boot Camp II

The Fighting Fathers held another wonderful ‘Boot Camp’ while I was away.

Ange tells me that the program ran exceptionally well. Apparently we not only had Christian and Muslim boys join us this time but a Jewish boy as well. Everybody demonstrated a wonderful camaraderie and commitment to the program, which was both challenging and invigorating!

Congratulations go to Fighting Fathers Mungo McCall, Caine Pennell, Danny Sarkis and Sol Egberime for making the weekend work so well! :-)

Our next Boot Camp is scheduled for the last weekend in July. Given the icy-cold temperatures at Binacrombi at that time of the year, this one will be tailored towards the truly battle-hardened. Book now! 

Binacrombi Boot Camp II

Veterans of the Binacrombi Boot Camp II

Mairead Maguire

As I said before I left for Syria, one of the things I was most looking forward to on the trip was the opportunity to meet one of my great heroes – Maired Maguire.

I know that often when you meet someone whom you’ve admired from afar for many years they turn out to be a bit of a disappointment in person. Not so in this case! Mairead is as inspiring when you get to know her as she is at a distance! More-so in fact! :-)

If you don’t know Mairead’s story and the role she played in the peace process in Northern Ireland (which won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976) you can read about her in Wikipedia or in a thousand other places on the web. For the moment, I’ll let my interview with her speak for itself.

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If you can’t view the video, click here.

Before I go today I need your help with something:

I’m setting up a website on Syria – a site where I can post articles and videos that will keep us all up-to-date with the news on Syria that you won’t see on TV. I’ve purchased three domain names but I’m not sure which on to use?

  • syria.net.co
  • newsinsyria.com
  • syriaupdate.com

Which one do you think works best? Please email me your thoughts or post them at the end of the blog in the comments section.


In closing, allow me to share with you some of pics I took in Iran with my friend, Sheikh Mansour.

If you don’t know the history between Mansour and me, and how I fought tooth and nail to prevent his ‘deportation without trial’ a few years ago, it’s all on savethesheikh.com.

Mansour is now back in Esfahan while his sons remain in Australia. His case is still before the United Nations Human Rights Committee for consideration. One day we hope to see him back in Sydney.

In the meantime, Mansour and I are hoping to develop some sort of online inter-faith radio show together. We’ve been planning it for years in fact. If all goes well we might be able to start something even next month! In the meantime, here’s a few photos of me and Mansour in Tehran, Qom and Esfahan (click to enlarge).

A sight for sore eyes – meeting Mansour at the airport

A sight for sore eyes – meeting Mansour at the airport

at the Jamkaran Mosque in Qom with Mansour

at the Jamkaran Mosque in Qom with Mansour

with Mansour in Esfahan

with Mansour in Esfahan

That’s it for today, fighter. I hope to be back with you this time next week.

Until then I remain …

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. And as I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 21st, 2013

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave back with you again, and I confess that I’m kicking back a bit tonight.

I’m taking it easy, as I feel rather tired.

I’m not sure why I feel tired but I’ve abandoned my weekly half-marathon run tonight and am enjoying a glass of wine instead.

I feel a bit bad about the fact that my running partner, Solomon ‘Mr Jones’ Egberime, won’t have me to push him along, but the truth is that when he runs with me he has to slow himself down so much that he runs backwards for about a third of the journey and at other times literally runs rings around me!

I think he’ll manage just fine without me!

Now … I’ve had some exciting news since last we spoke.

I’m off to Syria! (God willing)

I mentioned last week that I’ve been invited to be a part of a peace delegation in Syria, but I wasn’t sure last week whether I was going to be able to commit to the trip.

My main concern was being back in time for our Confirmation service that’s being held in the second half of February. It appears though that Mother Agnes and the team have shuffled things around a little to make it possible for me to get back in time. Indeed I am humbled by their efforts.

Since making the decision to go I’ve received all sorts of news – both positive and negative – that has increased my level of excitement and anticipation!

On the one hand I’ve heard that my old friend Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal is going to be joining the international delegation! Riah was Bishop of Jerusalem when I made my one and only visit there in 2004 to be reunited with dear Morde Vanunu when he completed his 18-year sentence in Ashkelon Prison.

Bishop Riah was the man who gave Morde sanctuary in the guest house of the Cathedral, and he was gracious enough then to let me spend a week in his own flat in that guest-house so that I had time to catch up with Morde!

The pic below of me and Riah and my dear friend Sheikh Mansour is from when the Bishop visited Sydney two years later. We hosted a dinner for him here in Dulwich Hill. What a great night that was!

Bishop Riah with me and Mansour in 2006

Anyway, not only will dear Bishop Riah be there, along with the great Mairead Maguire and dear Mother Agnes, but I’m told that Rev. Stephen Sizer from Surrey in England will be joining the delegation too!

The Reverend Sizer is another man I have long admired for his fearless social justice advocacy and he’s been the feature of a number of articles lately on israelandpalestine.org – mainly concerning complaints that have been made about him to his Bishop!

Anyway … all this is very exciting. On the other hand though, all the news coming out of Syria is scary at the moment.  It seems that the heaviest fighting is in the very areas we are planning on visiting. Apparently we’ll be traveling into areas controlled by both government and rebel troops.

I uploaded this video concerning a recent massacre in Homs to the Fighting Fathers Member site. The report well reflects the conflicting narratives about what is taking place in Syria. The rebels claim that the government troops are responsible for the atrocities, but the survivors of this massacre disagree, blaming instead masked rebels who had the words ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘God is great’) printed on their headbands!

I personally can’t imagine anything more demonic than a group of men proclaiming ‘God is great’ while they slaughter women and children. It seems the height of blasphemy to me!

Mind you, it’s not as if Islamic fundamentalism has a monopoly on such atrocities. I hate to think of the terror once wrought by the Crusaders, each proudly bearing the symbol of the cross on their shields as they butchered people mercilessly in the name of Christ! And those knights of old have plenty of modern counterparts – fiery preachers who mix Christian jargon with mindless nationalism.

I’m personally suspicious of any church that hangs its national flag at the centre of its place of worship. I’m not opposed to patriotism. I just don’t understand it. It seems to be a way of saying that my country is better than yours, or at the very least that my pride in human achievement should stop at my nation’s borders.

It seems to me that if we are serious about calling Jesus Christ our Lord then all other Kings and Kaisers and Presidents and Prime Ministers need to take their proper place, and our human family should be of far greater concern to us than any sub-group within that family with whom we share a common language or skin-colour or country of birth!

… sorry … I’ve slipped into pulpit-mode, haven’t I, and I do try to restrict myself to just one sermon per week?

Anyway … hopefully I’m off to Syria in a few weeks and if there are genuine dangers to be faced, I’ll be facing them in excellent company!

The Hot and the Holy

I did want to share a sermon with you this week, though it’s not the one from last Sunday.

It’s a sermon that I gave last December, and I think it was probably the best sermon I gave last year. It was a sermon on the book (and the character) of Ruth.

I find Ruth to be one of the most inspiring characters in the entire Biblical drama, though I appreciate that she is rarely extolled as one of the heroes of the faith, as her exploits can seem trivial in comparison with some of the more colourful Biblical women and men.

But it’s Ruth’s ordinariness that really captures my imagination! I am inspired by her for the same reason that Joe Frazier always inspired me as a boxer!

Frazier, to my mind, may have been the World Heavyweight champion with the least natural ability of all time! He was a very one-dimensional fighter. He wasn’t super-fast or super-strong or super-anything. He was just a damn hard worker, and he made up for his lack of natural ability with a deep and passionate commitment to his art!

Ruth is a heavyweight champion of the same ilk! She wasn’t a powerful person (in worldy terms). She had no great role or significant job. She had no education nor any obvious special ability. She had one thing going or her – she was drop-dead gorgeous – and she made that work for her! Indeed, she used her body to secure a future for herself and for the elderly woman who was more dear to her than life itself!

I suspect that the good religious folk of Ruth’s day always looked down on her as someone who was willing to prostitute herself for the sake of her mother-in-law. I see her as a genuine Christ-figure in that regard – as one who sacrificed her body for the sake of those she loved!

However we decide on Ruth, she is indeed a powerful combination of principle and passion, of the erotic and the domestic, of the hot and the holy.

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(and if you can’t see the video because you’re on your iPhone, click here)

That’s enough from me for one day, fighter.

I’ll keep you in touch with my progress as I prepare for the trip to Syria, though you’ll appreciate that we are trying not to publish the details of the trip too broadly.

Keep me in your prayers as I do you.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. As I’m apt to remind you, if you’d like to support our work, the best way is to become a financial member at fighting-fathers.com. It only costs you $10/month but it makes all the difference at this end!

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – January 14th, 2013

Hi Fighter!

It’s Father Dave and it’s good to be back with you for another week.

Before I say anything else today let me thank you for your prayers for Bernie!

There was a torrent of prayerful response to last week’s missive where I mentioned my time with a dear man named Bernie. Without wanting to intrude into his privacy, let it suffice to say that after he left me some very positive things happened for him that resulted in him returning home safely. Thanks be to God!

And special thanks to Fighting Father Tony, who helped me track Bernie down. It was a chase that took me on a circuitous route through boarding-houses and places in suburban Sydney where I had never been before. Even so, the quest had a happy outcome! Thank you!

Your Prayers Requested

I have an opportunity to embark on another exciting quest next month, but I’m currently quite unsure about whether I should go and would value your prayers and your feedback.

I’ve been invited to go to Damascus (in Syria) to be a part of an international peace delegation. The venture is being organised by dear Mother Agnes of Homs, who you will remember came and shared with us here at Holy Trinity late last year.

Father Dave and Mother Agnes

Mother Agnes is one of this world’s great saints – a woman who has put her body on the line for the sake of the people of Syria and for the sake of peace. And the international delegation she has pulled together is going to be headed up by another hero of mine – Mairead Maguire – the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for her magnificent work as a peacemaker in Northern Ireland!

I must admit that I would happily travel half way around the world to meet Ms Maguire, and I expect I probably could make a useful contribution in terms of drawing attention to what’s happening at the grass-roots in Syria. At the same time though the timing is very bad for the parish here. We have a Confirmation service scheduled and all sorts of other significant events looming at around that time.

If I do go to Damascus I will be there for my 51st birthday! It is weird to think that I might spend my birthday in a warzone. Even so, as students of the New Testament know, the Road to Damascus has a history as a place of great spiritual encounter! What better place to celebrate?!

The Baptism of Jesus

I’ve got another sermon for you this week. Yesterday was the day the church traditionally remembers the ‘Baptism of Jesus’ – an event that I must admit has never inspired me!

I went through my pile of old sermons and discovered (to my horror) that I had never preached on this topic before either! I’ve been a professional preacher now for 25 years! How did I manage to avoid Jesus’ baptism for all this time!

No matter! I determined that I must do it and I spent many, many hours reading through scholarly material on the subject and turning it all over in my head. Eventually something clicked for me!

I’ll warn you in advance though that all I really do with the sermon is retrace the steps I took to come to terms with the passage. I had feared that this might make the whole sermon a bit too academic. Even so, a surprising number of people told me that they found it very helpful.

I’d be grateful for any comments you might leave on the blog. I’ve had some excellent constructive criticism from people who have watched me preach lately and would welcome more!

[imaioVideo v=1]

If you’re having trouble seeing the video, click here.

A couple more quick things before I wind up this week:

Firstly, I mentioned the great Mother Agnes above. You might not know that Fighting Father Denning created a DVD of the talks she gave here on what’s really going on in Syria.

You can watch each of these sessions separately on our YouTube channel, but if you’d rather have them in higher quality on a DVD I have a few copies left! Paypal us $10 to cover postage we’ll send you the DVD at no extra charge. The Fighting Fathers Paypal address dave [AT] fatherdave.org (nb. replace [AT] with @).

Secondly, I would like to encourage all members of our online community to share their wisdom in our online forum.

There are two threads at the moment that I’d recommend in particular:

  • The first is the thread about gun control in the US. This has certainly been the most heated thread we have ever had on the forum. Even so, there is a lot of good information and a lot of wisdom contained there too.
  • The second is a thread started by Fighting Father Rob from Michigan and addresses issues of God and science and the reality of pain and injustice. In other words, it tackles the big issues!

I’d love to hear more on this latter thread from some of the professional theologians who are part of our online community. In truth, I’d love to hear more from everybody! C’mon! Get that light of yours out from underneath that bushel!

I’ll be back with you next week.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called

Your brother in the Good Fight,


P.S. Thank you to new members who joined our member site (www.fighting-fathers.com) between this week and last. Your $10/month contribution makes an enormous difference.

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

Monday Missive – October 8th, 2012

Hi Fighter,

It’s Father Dave, and I’m afraid it’s going to be a short missive tonight as I’m rather tired.

It’s been a rather busy couple of weeks for me:

  • Our fighters have been fighting
  • My family has been travelling
  • We’ve had another fire at Binacrombi
  • We’ve had the privilege of hosting Mother Agnes of Homs at our church!

Accordingly, lots of congratulations are in order:

  • To Pete, Rob, Simone and Kayleen on their wonderful amateur boxing debuts!
  • To my travelling family members for making it back safely
  • To Geoff (Binacrombi’s onsite manager) for quickly putting out the fire.
  • To all who participated in the visit of Mother Agnes.
Mother Agnes and Sister Carmel Mother Agnes speaking at Holy Trinity

In truth, I only left Mother Agnes about an hour ago. She has spent the evening addressing a large group that came to hear her speak over dinner – a group that included Bishops and politicians and the press and more Syrians that I thought we had in Sydney!

Yesterday’s gathering at Holy Trinity was more of a community affair. There were about a hundred of us, and probably an equal mix of Anglicans, Catholics, Muslims and others from the local area who wanted to meet this amazing nun from the other side of the world!

She is an amazing woman, and she is a sweet soul, but her message has certainly been a bitter pill for many to swallow as she is calling into question the prevailing narrative about what is really going on in Syria.

As someone who has been on the front-line of the so-called ‘civil war’ in Syria, Mother Agnes has been eye-witness to many terrible atrocities, and she has avoided taking sides. Even so, she challenges the depiction of the ‘rebellion’ as being something akin to Robin Hood and his merry men trying to throw off the shackles of the evil Prince.

Indeed, while Mother Agnes avoided speaking directly about political scenarios, she clearly believes that a rebel victory in Syria will only result in seeing an oppressive regime replaced by an even more oppressive one. Her preference is for dialogue, and a peaceful resolution that will benefit all Syrians, and she is diametrically opposed to all foreign intervention, which she believes is inflaming the conflict and prolonging the suffering of her people.

I won’t say more about Mother Agnes’ message right now as we video’d her presentation and I did a video-interview with her as well, all of which I hope to have ready for you in the next week or so. Mind you, we did attempt to do a live video-cast of Mother Agnes yesterday, and it may be that you tuned in to that?

The Videocast

I have no idea whether the videocasts yesterday worked properly or not!

Sunday morning church was rather chaotic!

Everyone was late because of Daylight Savings, most of the lights and the sound system hadn’t been switched on when we started, there was no one to lead the singing, and Denning told me that the video just hadn’t kicked in!

I figured my frustration and tiredness had probably permeated my preaching yesterday, so after the service I was sort of glad that the video hadn’t worked. Then Denning told me that it actually had been working the whole time and he just hadn’t realised!

I remain confused!

Thank you to Stuart who notified me immediately after the service that he hadn’t been able to pick up a thing. But thank you too to those who have subsequently told me that they caught much of the sermon and that the quality of the feed was excellent (though they said nothing about the quality of the sermon as such )!

In truth, I hope quite a few of you did catch the videocast yesterday as I was preaching on that very painful statement made by Jesus:

“Whosoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12)

These words tend to cut rather deep for all of us who have failed in a marriage and have divorced and married again!

If you did miss the video, both the audio version and the written versions of my sermon are online if you’re keen.

Please share your insights!

OK. I said I’d be brief tonight but I don’t want to let you go without thanking Fighting Father Rod Walker for the forum post he made about his sister’s work at an orphanage in Mozambique. Please keep contributing to the forum, and keep commenting on the blogs.

And since I’ve mentioned the blogs, let me recommend to you a few things I’ve published lately:

On each of these pages you’ll find an embedded video of the address along with a full transcript.

I’ve also transcribed on israelandpalestine.org the details of a new law just passed in California that apparently makes it illegal to criticize the government of Israel! Your feedback would again be appreciated.

OK. Enough! It’s nearly 3am and I need to get to bed!

Please note that there will be NO video of the service this weekend as I’ll be taking a short holiday to attend the wedding of Geoff and Laura – two great Fighting Fathers who manage our beloved Binacrombi Bush Camp between them.

I mentioned above that Geoff has an expertise in putting out fires. Evidently though there’s one still kindling between Laura and himself.

I know I speak on behalf of all of our online community when I offer Geoff and Laura and their family our heartfelt congratulations and our ongoing prayers.

May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,


About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four