War in the Persian Gulf has captured all the headlines and television news reports this past week. Yet it should not be forgotten that other fighting, some of it already years old, is still going on.
There is scarcely a corner of the globe that does not have its conflicts. Some erupt from time to time in terrorist attacks after periods of quiet; others are more constant.There is not room to list every one of the places that involve soldiers and violence, but here are just a few stories from the past few days showing that not all the damage and dying is in the Persian Gulf:
- Hundreds of ethnic minority Tamil rebels in the island nation of Sri Lanka invaded a Sinhalese village, overcame guards and police and hacked to death 27 people, mostly women and children. The eight-year war has seen some of the most murderous activities anywhere. More than 14,000 people have died.
- On Bougainville, the site of arduous World War II battles, a two-year civil war seeking independence from New Guinea has killed hundreds and shut down the country's only industry, one of the world's largest open pit copper mines. The national economy is wrecked and Amnesty International says both sides are guilty of brutality, torture and summary executions.
- In Somalia, on the Horn of Africa, rebels have risen against the brutal dictator Siad Barre, who seized power in 1969 and never let go. As the Cold War ended, the superpowers stopped showering money and weapons on the strategically placed nation of six million people. Rebel clans have joined hands, although they still kill each other, and are striking at Somalia's capital. More than 2,000 have been killed in recent weeks, but neither side appears strong enough to defeat the other. Extended warfare seems likely in an already poverty-stricken country.
- Near Somalia lies tiny Rwanda, where a four-month civil war has flared again. Rebels, based in neighboring Uganda, have invaded and fighting is intense. France is considering sending paratroops to protect French nationals in the former Belgian protectorate. Paratroops were dispatched last October for the same reason, but rebels withdrew.
- In El Salvador, an 11-year civil war has seen various massacres by both sides, including the murder of Americans by rebels and the slaughter of religious workers by government troops. Armed men invaded a village this week, robbed the inhabitants and killed 15 men and women, virtually the entire adult population of the small cluster of huts.
This is just a small sampling taken from news stories this week. Obviously, prayers for peace and justice and compassion need to be extended a long way beyond the Persian Gulf.