Since 2009, the international community observes the 19th of August as World Humanitarian Day –not to focus on the ever growing need of humanitarian assistance around the globe, but to honor those men and women who gave their lives in serving the needy. The date was chosen in commemoration of the UN Chief Humanitarian assistance coordinator for Iraq and 21 other representatives of humanitarian organizations were killed in a bomb attack by Islamist terrorists on 19 August, 2003, in Bagdad.
Each year, humanitarian aid workers around the world continue to be killed, wounded or abducted by the hundreds. Their selfless service for the victims of natural disasters, of war, civil unrest, inter-communal violence, of disease and hunger often takes them to remote terrain, where they are not often not only the first, but the only responders, leaving them mostly unprotected, and making them easy targets to criminals and terrorists of all sorts and persuasions.
But, unfortunately, no other groupings have so relentlessly attacked humanitarian workers than those who claim to operate in the name of Islam. Just a few days ago, six French citizens, young men and women working for a humanitarian NGO, were slain by Islamist terrorists in Niger in Western Africa in a calculated attempt to discourage all western humanitarian assistance from further operating in the world’s least developed country.
When we observe World Humanitarian Day this year, we remember the many innocent victims among those who continue to serve the poor, the hungry and the destitute, and in particular these six young men and women whose lives were so brutally cut short for nothing else but their desire to help their fellow mankind in Need.