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Last Thursday, President Barak Obama authorised the US Armed Forces to begin air strikes against the combined forces of the Islamic extremist terrorist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), otherwise referred to as the Islamic State.
It is notable that the President, who pledged a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq during his first bid to become President, was persuaded to approve US military engagement in the country once again due to the Islamic States’ brutal murder of civilians, particularly those who belong to religious minorities.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes as the extremists gave them a stark choice – leave, convert or die.
The choice given to the Christians of cities such as Mosul and Qaraqosh is horribly familiar to the hundreds of thousands of Christians in Northern Nigeria, who have been offered the same choice albeit by a different Islamic extremist terrorist group – Boko Haram.
Only last week the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported as many as 650,000 people have been forced from their homes in Northern Nigeria.
As Chair of the Northern Christian Elders Forum my prayers are with our Iraqi brothers and sisters who are suffering a similar fate to our members in Northern Nigeria. No one should suffer the atrocities and injustices these evil groups inflict upon their victims, and I pray their terror will soon end.
But it is not just in Iraq and Nigeria that Christian’s face persecution. The pattern of violence and persecution can be seen across Africa and the Middle East. In a recent statement, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby highlighted the dangers that face the Christian populations:
“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith.”
Our friends in the US have been very kind in the recent past to offer military assistance to the Nigerian government, especially in the wake of the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State.
Military and intelligence advisers, training and equipment have all been provided to aid the Nigerian military in the successful recovery of the kidnapped school girls. US surveillance aircraft and drones have spent months searching for the girls over huge expanses of dense forest our own military would simply not be able to do. Yet one must ask – why has the US not committed to airstrikes on Boko Haram like they have on the Islamic State?
Surely the value of the hundreds of thousands of Christians in harm’s way at the hands of Boko Haram, are just as important as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians?
Should the question not be what more the US government – and indeed the whole international community – can do to prevent the persecution of religious minorities across the world?
Should the debate not be opened up to what should be done in: Iraq; Nigeria; the Central African Republic; Syria; South Sudan; and Burma?
Should an international crisis of this scale not be at the top of the agenda in the UN?
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to freedom of belief. President Barack Obama and the international community cannot pick and choose which battles they decide to fight and which they decide to turn a blind eye to.
They must urgently come to the aid of those nations being torn apart by religious intolerance and bigotry. To allow these Islamic extremists groups to flourish anywhere is to allow the terrorists to win.
Written by Olaiya Phillips, Nigerian businessman and current Chair of the Northern States Christian Elders Forum (NOSCEF).
Culled from The Huffington Post..
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