ERBIL, Iraq, May 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- When ISIS beheaded two of Matthew VanDyke's friends, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, he wondered what he could do to stop what he calls "this scourge on humanity." That's why he is in Iraq now, helping train Christians to defend themselves against ISIS.
"I think if you believe in something, you should do something about it rather than just give a thumbs-up to the television from your sofa," he said.
Last year, he founded Sons of Liberty International (SOLI), a security firm that trains vulnerable populations to defend themselves against terrorists and insurgents. Earlier this year, SOLI trained a battalion of more than 300 Iraqi Christians to fight ISIS. Today, May 11, SOLI began another training session, with a focus on leadership training for sergeants and officers. SOLI has enlisted a former West Point instructor to lead the training. The men are members of the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU).
Unlike other security contractors, SOLI doesn't charge for its services; it operates on a non-profit business model and depends on financial contributions from the public.
"The Christian community in Iraq has been pushed around for a long time, and it needs to stop. I have the right connections and experience to help," VanDyke said.
He has a master's degree in Security Studies from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. As a former documentary filmmaker, he spent years in the region, travelling by motorcycle through North Africa and the Middle East from 2007-2010. In 2011, he fought in the Libyan Civil War with the rebel forces. He was captured, spending nearly six months in solitary confinement, before escaping from prison and returning to combat on the front lines. His experiences in the region were the subject of the film "Point and Shoot," winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
In prison, VanDyke's Christian faith deepened, as did his determination to help freedom fighters in the region.
"Sons of Liberty International's mission is to step in where the international community has failed," VanDyke said. "The future of Christianity in Iraq is uncertain. Supporting Sons of Liberty International is a tangible way to make a difference."
For more information, visit http://www.sonsoflibertyinternational.com/.
CONTACT: For interviews with Matthew VanDyke, please contact Steve Yount at 972.267.1111 or [email protected].
SOURCE Sons of Liberty International