Dr Ken Elliott should have been an Australian of the Year by now. Instead, he is receiving the Raoul Wallenberg treatment. How much longer does Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne consider Australians should wait for some action on Dr Elliott? The fact that the opening statement has to be clarified is testimony enough to the indifference of Western liberals towards real heroes, past and present, and to the inert craven attitudes of Western governments, including Australia.

Raoul Wallenberg was arguably the greatest hero of World War II, although, remarkably, he was a diplomat from a neutral country – Sweden. Due to his efforts, probably 100,000 Hungarian Jews were saved from the clutches of Adolf Eichmann and the local fascists of the Arrow Cross. What was Wallenberg’s reward? To be incarcerated for the rest of his life, by Stalin’s NKVD thugs after the Red Army swept into Budapest and seized him on January 17, 1945, despite his diplomatic immunity.

Being made a citizen of the United States by Ronald Reagan and an Australian citizen by Julia Gillard, was the belated recognition given to the great Swede who was deserted by his homeland. Canada, Hungary and Israel are the other nations to honour him with posthumous citizenship.

Is Dr Elliott simply going to be forgotten until it is too late? Is this the treatment he deserves? Abducted on January 16, 2016, with his wife Jocelyn, who was quickly released, the Australian missionary doctor from Perth has now been held for 5½ years by Islamists in Mali. 

Last September, Swiss missionary Beatrice Stöckli, who had been also captured in January 2016, was killed by Islamist terrorists. Thus, the attitude of some in calling for a diplomatic “don’t rock the boat” approach to a “sensitive matter” holds little appeal as a solution. Indeed, the “do-little” approach by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade may have meant that Dr Elliott’s release was not secured last October, when the release of four captives was secured.

While Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and her Department may pride themselves on “quiet diplomacy”, Clive Williams (campus visitor, ANU College of Law), notes it was possible that Australia was not even made aware of the negotiations for the release of the four captives, either through our High Commission in Ghana (the post that is responsible for Mali), or the Australian embassy in Paris, as France, the former colonial ruler, still has influence in this region (The Strategist, October 23, 2020).

Career missionaries since 1972, Ken and Jocelyn Elliott were abducted from neighbouring Burkina Faso, where they ran a 120-bed clinic in the province of Soum. Dr Elliott was referred to as ‘the Doctor of the Poor’, giving free treatment to his patients. Since he was taken captive, the clinic has ceased to operate; patients now have to travel hundreds of miles to the capital, Ouagadougou, causing great distress.

There in a nutshell is the difference between good and evil, the difference between a lifetime of service to others and those who terrorise others for a lifetime. In the small West African nation, unlike in his homeland, Dr Elliott has not been forgotten – he was declared a citizen of Burkina Faso in November 2016. Dr Elliott is now being held in Mali by a group now known as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM). According to ANU security expert Clive Williams, he is under a guard of about 20, and is constantly being moved from place to place because of worries about possible recovery raids by French and U.S. special forces.

These terrorists should be made to be afraid, as should the political wallflowers who have achieved nothing to help the prisoners. While Islamist factions, poor communications and infrastructure, plus political intrigues within Mali, all make it difficult to extricate Dr Elliott, the needs to redouble efforts for him and Colombian nun Gloria Argoti, South African Christo Bothma and Romanian Julian Ghergut, should be a priority.

Dr Elliott’s value to the terrorists is obvious: his medical skills and value as a trainer in his profession. His value to us should be just as obvious and indeed is recorded by the One he has served so faithfully on the mission field, in 1 Samuel 2:30: “He that honours Me, I shall honour.”

A pity the Australian Government and people are not so constant in attempting to fulfil those words on earth.

Lest We Forget. Indeed.

– John Elsegood, with thanks to News Weekly at ncc.org.au/newsweekly/

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