Let’s Continue to Pray for Our 44 Detained Fijian Troops

This is a sombre moment for the whole country. The detention of 44 Fijian troops in the Golan Heights by a rebel group, called al-Nusra Front, brings closer to home
01 Sep 2014 06:43

This is a sombre moment for the whole country. The detention of 44 Fijian troops in the Golan Heights by a rebel group, called al-Nusra Front, brings closer to home the inherent danger and risks faced by our peacekeepers.

No doubt many prayers were offered yesterday and will continue to be offered until our men are released by their captors.

Mokani villager Arieta Didrua Vakaduadua, Tailevu, whose husband Ratu Emosi Vakaduadua is among the detainees, was in tears as she spoke yesterday. The mother of two young children, two years and five months, uttered a plea that must be in all our minds. She asked her husband’s captors: “Please save my husband and don’t hurt him for my children’s sake.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with her and other families of the detainees that they may have peace and comfort in this difficult time.

In a military operation of this magnitude, incidents and casualties cannot be ruled out.

The first batch of troops returned home recently. They were blessed that no one was killed or seriously wounded during their one-year assignment in the Golan.

Before they left Golan, the situation there was fluid. They were caught in the crossfire between warring factions.

We can breathe a sigh of relief because al-Nusra is not as dangerous as other rebel groups.

Al-Nusra has nothing to do with the Islamic State movement, the group that beheaded captured US journalist James Foley recently.

The Islamic State organisation was formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, and is descended from al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, al-Qaeda “central” disowned ISIS because of its brutality.

The Al-Nusra Front is by definition an extremist group but it hasn’t been as ideologically rigid, as expansionist, and as brutal as ISIS has been. It has been willing to work with non-extremist rebel groups in Syria.

So there is hope that the 44 will be released soon after the intervention of United Nations negotiators and Middle East friends of Fiji. Fiji’s allies are also using the diplomatic channels to put pressure for the troops to be freed. Whatever the final outcome is for the troops, it does not change our commitment to global peace.        Peace in the Middle East is part of that world peace. The Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga, says withdrawal from the Golan is not an option. That’s a clear message that Fiji will maintain its presence there no matter what happens.

If the 44 are released and physically unable to resume work, another 44 will be sent to Golan to take their places, according to Brigadier-General Tikoitoga.

It’s this kind of commitment that the UN admires and respects. When no one else was willing to go the Golan and countries were withdrawing their troops last year, the UN turned to Fiji to contribute troops.

Fiji accepted the call and sent more than 500 Fijians who recently returned.

The second contingent had barely settled down when the camp manned by the 44 was overrun.

Let’s hope and continue to pray for their release.

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