By Brett Gillin
As the fight against ISIS continues, more and more unconventional forces are joining together to combat the group. One of the factions that is gaining both popularity and momentum is a Christian Militia, whose numbers are swelling in Iraq, thanks in no small part to Americans and American Veterans dedicated to doing anything possible to help their brothers and sisters.
ISIS jihadists have made more than a few bold statements and threats, including to wipe out Iraqi Christians, according to this article in the Israel National News. People, including famous filmmaking revolutionary and American citizen Matthew VanDyke and U.S. veteran Brett Felton, are spearheading a campaign to help train and mobilize a Christian fighting force to help combat ISIS.
Brett Felton, the 28-year-old former U.S. soldier returned to Iraq as a private citizen in order to help Christians figure out a way to better defend themselves from the ISIS threat. “I’m not here serving my country,” Felton told reporters. “I’m here serving Christians.”
To date, more than 125,000 Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homeland because of the ISIS forces, according to this report from CBS News. That fact did not sit well with Matthew VanDyke, who first gained notoriety in 2011, fighting with Libyan rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. Now, VanDyke has put his weapons aside and donned a camera and a three-piece suit in an effort to help raise awareness for the cause, and to help train a Christian Militia in Iraq.
“This is an extension of my work as a revolutionary,” VanDyke told reporters with the Israel National News. “What gives somebody else the right to sit home and do nothing?” So VanDyke formed a military contracting firm, the Sons of Liberty International, with the goal of training Christian volunteers to fight against their ISIS oppressors.
His first assignment, to train a few hundred volunteers from the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit, has just completed. The Nineveh Plains Protection Unit (NPU) is a group formed to bring Iraqi Christian militia up to speed so they can defend themselves and their country from ISIS. While more than $250,000 has been raised for the NPU, mostly by U.S. based Christian groups, they had a major problem: a severe lack of military training. That’s where VanDyke and the Sons of Liberty International came to help.
VanDyke and Felton are far from the only foreigners in the Middle East with the goal of helping the locals fight against ISIS. Recently released video of Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-born citizen who immigrated to Israel and joined the Israeli army, shows she has left Syria and is now in Iraq fighting ISIS as an independent volunteer. According to the CBC, Rosenberg was the first foreign woman to take up arms against ISIS last year.
While the role of unsanctioned foreign fighters has raised a bit of controversy, to date no legal or governmental action has been taken against any foreign fighters who have joined the cause against ISIS. For his part, VanDyke has admitted that his firm is operating “perhaps in a grey area,” but that doesn’t seem to concern him. “Generally the attitude of the United States seems to be as long as you shoot in the right direction they don’t care.”