Matthew Van Dyke was just a typical American kid. Grew up in suburbia, graduated college, had little world experience. He decided to buy a motorcycle and ride across the middle east. When the Arab Spring broke out, he returned to the region to help friends he’d made there - he was captured and sent to prison. Now he’s helping Christians in Iraq fight ISIS. Incredible.
Below is a rush transcript of this segment
GLENN: I want to introduce you to somebody who a lot of people I think will say, that's crazy, man. You'll appreciate him. But you would never do it yourself.
It is a -- it's a guy who decided -- well, I'll have him tell the story. He decided he needed to grow up. And he wanted to go and motorcycle across the Middle East a few years ago.
That didn't work out well. Matthew VanDyke did that and then and then he had a few experiences that changed the course of his life. And now he is somebody who is rolling up his sleeves and saying, I'm going to do something. Matthew, welcome to the program.
MATTHEW: Hey, thanks for having me.
GLENN: Sure. Tell me about what happened to you on kind of your tour of the Middle East and you found yourself in a prison for Muammar Gaddafi.
MATTHEW: Well, it's a very long story, but the short version is. I graduated with a master's degree from Georgetown in security studies and wanted to go see the region myself. So I took a four-year motorcycle journey in North Africa and the Middle East and did some filming and made good friends in Libya. So a few years later when the Libyan Revolution started and my friends needed help, I went to help them. And I joined the revolution as an American in the rebel forces. Fought in the war. Was wounded and captured. Spent nearly six months as a prisoner of war. Later escaped with other prisoners and returned to combat on the front line until the end of the war. And later did some film about the Syrian Revolution and worked in Syria. And in recent times, I've turned my attention to ISIS after the murder of my friends James Foley and Steven Sotloff at the hands of ISIS. And so I formed a company that operates essentially as a nonprofit in many ways. Called Sons of Liberty International. And we recruit US military veterans to go to Iraq and consult and train Iraqi Christians to fight ISIS. And we also are going to start supplying non-lethal aid to some of these Christian groups as well.
GLENN: Okay. So I'm not sure if I agreed with you in Libya or if I agreed with you in Syria. I mean, they're all really bad horrible guys. But, you know, the destabilization of the Middle East kind of came from that and what we supported in Egypt. And, again, really bad guys so you kind of look at it and go, I don't want those guys. But I also don't want the other guys coming in. I'd really like freedom in the Middle East. But that's not what's happening.
But now you are focusing specifically on the Christians. And when we spoke last time, you were talking about what they're going through. And there's really a Holocaust of Christians that is going on right now. And they're completely defenseless. And nobody in the United States -- our government is not helping them at all.
MATTHEW: Right. It's a quiet genocide that's happening right under our noses. And the administration is doing nothing about it. The administration supports just Kurdish Peshmerga. And also supports actually some Arab tribes that they think will fight ISIS. But the Christians are left completely defenseless. They were defenseless when they were attacked. The Peshmerga did not defend them. They slipped out the back door in the middle of the night, and the Christians woke up to find ISIS in their backyards. It's a serious crisis. The whole future of Christianity is threatened in Iraq.
GLENN: Tell me what their attitude is like, these Christians who have been abandoned by the world.
MATTHEW: Well, that's exactly how they feel. They feel abandoned. They can't believe the world doesn't care about them at all. They feel like they've been left in the hands of ISIS. They're desperate for international help. They like America. They prefer American help. I've taken leaders of one of the Christian militias to meet with the State Department and make their case. We have a good relationship with the State Department. But help for them is still not forthcoming, and it's really tragic. And there needs to be a lot more outreach about it. And a lot more political pressure put on Washington to do something about this.
GLENN: Matthew, tell me about what the situation is with the Christians. I mean, what have you seen? What have you heard? I mean, there are stories of crucifixions. And I've seen the pictures of it. But nobody reports on any of this. Tell me what they're going through.
MATTHEW: Yeah. It's really strange how little is reported on the crisis facing Christians. I don't know if it's not politically fashionable to report on this, except Christians have been beheaded, crucified. Put in cages and paraded around streets. Their homes have been burned down or blown up. In some cases, explosives have been wired to the doors, so if they ever return home, they'll be killed. Christian churches have been destroyed. Ancient manuscripts have been burned. Women and young girls have been kidnapped and sold as sex slaves by ISIS or taken forcibly as jihadi brides. It's a really horrible, horrible genocide occurring.
STU: Matthew, is there some weird like PR thing they're trying to do here? Are they worried that our outreach and help will look like it's too pro-Christian in the region? What could possibly be the reason that we would ignore Christians?
MATTHEW: I'm quite sure that's the reason. The administration has this view that they think it would like sectarian. That it might increase sectarianism. That it does not look good for the United States, in their view, to be supporting Christians against Muslims. That's how the administration thinks. The administration has already had sort of an anti-US power. Anti-US involvement. Apparently anti-Christian involvement.
GLENN: I want to get your opinion on this. We just released something last night on Facebook on genocide. And we're setting up the next Root. And it's on the --
MATTHEW: I saw it. It's excellent.
GLENN: Thank you. And it's talking about the genocide that was happening in north Africa that nobody was paying attention to. And the reason why, Turkey, in particular does not want to recognize genocide. And it leads to the Christians. And we're doing a big thing all this summer on the Christians over in the Middle East. And I want to get your -- your thoughts on this. That, we're not -- we're not talking about -- that it's -- let me put it this way. It would not be an overstatement to say, a Christian Holocaust is happening right now.
MATTHEW: That's exactly what's happening. And it's happening across regions, even. I mean, I've gotten emails from Christians in the Philippines who want help. And in Nigeria. And, you know, you saw Egyptian Christians executed in Libya. And Christians being attacked in Egypt. Everywhere that the Islamic State or its followers, and even not just the Islamic State, but also there's, you know, conflicts between religious extremists and Christians all over the globe happening right now. And it's widespread. And the world knows very little about it. And I think a lot of the reason sadly is because it's viewed as not fashionable to report on it. It's not fashionable to think about it. When I started working with the Christian community, I was attacked by people I know accusing me of being a crusader or you know, stoking the flames of sectarianism. It's just, you know, you can help any group except for Christians is what it seems like.
GLENN: We're talking to Matthew VanDyke. He's the founder of sonsoflibertyinternational.com. And I want you to go there. I want you to do your own homework. I want you to check him out. And if you feel prompted to help fund what he's doing, then that would be something that maybe you should do. People want to know, how can I help the Christians? Matthew, tell me specifically what you're doing when you go over there to help the Christians.
MATTHEW: Well, starting in December, we began training a Christian army. They're called the Nineveh Plain Protection Units. We provide consulting and advising to them for the structure of their force. You know, which men they should recruit. How they should deploy -- pretty much everything helping them build up an army. Took over US military veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we started training. And in February, we trained an entire battalion. So there's nearly 350 Christian men serving in the force. They're very eager to defend their lands and fight against ISIS. And we continue to take trainers. In April, I'll return, shortly after Easter, with trainers for specialized training. And also, we have leads on supplying them with non-lethal aid and build them into a really legitimate good force. They're very US-friendly. They want to work with -- with the security forces of Iraq on a unified strategy to fight ISIS. They're very intelligent, very motivated. Very high morale and just excellent people to work with.
GLENN: Can I ask you a personal question? What is your relationship with Christianity? Why this passion for this? Is it just oppressed people or why? What role does God play in your life?
GLENN: Well, I became quite religious during my years on the road. You know, like many people, oftentimes when things went wrong, I'll admit. I call it a foul-weather Christian. You know, when things are bad, you pray a lot. I especially learned that lesson when I was a prisoner of war in Libya. For six months, pretty much all my conversations were with God only because I was in solitary confinement. So that really made me more religious in a quiet personal way that I don't talk about too much. I feel an affinity with fellow Christians in the region. They're also oppressed. They've been oppressed for a long time and persecuted for a long time, long before even ISIS came. The population of Christianity dropped from about 1.5 million in 2003 to less than 300 -- 300- to 400,000 now.
GLENN: That is phenomenal. And the idea -- and the -- the -- if ISIS has their way. There will be zero Christians in the area. Zero. I have had people from the Simon Wiesenthal come out and literally ask me to please stop concentrating so much on the Jewish persecution because -- and this is a quote. Because, Glenn, the real persecution that is happening right now is with Christians. And they are being wiped out systematically. So, again, if you would do your own homework and find out if you believe in Matthew's cause and what he's doing. All of the information is up on his website. And a chance for you to participate one way or another. Maybe you can donate. Sonsoflibertyinternational.com. This is somebody who is going over and helping the Christians. Again, with non-lethal aid, but teaching them how to defend themselves. Teaching them how to fight. Sonsoflibertyinternational.com.
STU: Now, Matthew, you're going back to the region this weekend. Right?
MATTHEW: Not this weekend. I've decided to stay for Easter. But after Easter, I'll be returning back.
GLENN: You ever concerned about not coming back? Have you considered of being beheaded and being one of those guys on the beach?
MATTHEW: Yes, and especially after my friends James Foley and Steven Sotloff were held by ISIS and executed, I thought, what if I were in their position, and also my experience in Libya. I do have a fear of being wounded and captured again. But, you know, if you believe in something, I think you should go out and do it. It's worth the risk for the cause and I believe in it strongly. So I'll take my chances. But we do take precautions. Myself and personnel. And we do the best job we can and we try to do it as safely as possible.
GLENN: I pray for your safety. God bless you. Thank you very much. Sonsoflibertyinternational.com.