Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Korean Hostages of the Taliban in Afghanistan (Added links)

(Posted August 1)

How best do we deal with blackmail? That is the core question of this and all "hostage" stories. Thinking about the situation makes me angry and sad. Angry because I feel such rage against the perpetrators, and sad because I feel so helpless. Prayer, as ilona points out, is all we have left.

Spreading an awareness of the story may be beneficial but that can be a double-edged sword. Blackmail is a form of terrorism, and the greater the public impact the more effective it becomes. This morning I heard an NPR report from Baghdad of yet another truck bombing that took the lives of several ordinary people as they were eating ice-cream celebrating Iraq's victory over Arabia in a sports event. He made a very telling comment to the effect that people are at some level relieved to know of sudden death because it is kidnapping with subsequent torture and murder that they fear more! That kind of thinking is hard for me to hear about but under the circumstances I completely understand.

There are several links for interested readers to follow, but that of Eugene Cho seems most earnest, balanced and up-to-the-minute. You Tube links are included but hard for me to watch.

(Added August 4)

FP writer Prerna Mankad looks at the hostage crisis in The price of proselytizing in a war zone?

...the criticism in South Korea over the evangelicals' mission has been withering. But as so often happens, much of the anger is now shifting to the United States as relatives and Korean lawmakers plead for U.S. help. Should the U.S. and Afghan governments cut a deal with the Taliban to release the remaining hostages? And should the fact that the missionaries were aware of the risks, flouted the government's advice, and failed to take precautions change the answer to that question?

Clearly, these are difficult issues. But with 17,000 missionaries in 173 nations(including Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Sudan, and the North Korean border), they are questions that South Koreans will have to address. I just hope that after this disaster, churches will think twice about sending their missionaries into the lions' den.

The Asia Times link (I love this title), North Korea's missionary position, explores recent Christian history in the Korean penensula, pointing out that North Korea's famous dictator was not averse to using the faith to bolster a political agenda.

Once upon the time, Christianity played an important role in North Korean politics. Indeed, few people are now aware that in the colonial era, between 1910 and 1945, what is now North Korea was the stronghold of Korean Protestantism. Protestant missionaries came to Korea in the 1880s and achieved remarkable success in conversions. By the early 20th century Koreans had come to associate Protestantism with modernity and progress, and many early Korean modernizers came from Protestant families. Although Christians composed just 1-2% of the population, they were over-represented among intellectuals and professionals. It helped that Korea was colonized by a non-Christian nation - Japan - so in Korea the teachings of Jesus avoided those associations with colonialism that proved to be so damaging in many other parts of Asia.

Once upon a time, relations between early Korean communism and Korean Christianity were much closer than either side is willing to admit nowadays. Kim Il-sung himself, the founder of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), was born into a family of prominent Protestant activists. His father graduated from a Protestant school and was an active supporter of the local missions, and his mother was the daughter of a prominent Protestant activist. This was fairly typical: it seems that a majority of early Korean communists had Christian family backgrounds, even though Christians were few and far between in the general population.

Much more at the link, all of it news to me.

Anyone who thinks that religion has no political significance is living in a fantasy world. And it's not always the fantasy we like to advance. It is for this reason that I have strong feelings about maintaining a well-constructed wall of separation between church and state. The invocation of the name of Goerge Bush in many churches strikes me as a case in point. He's no Kim, but he sure ain't no Jimmy Carter either, as he would be quick to point out. See what I mean?

This little snip jumped out at me about halfway through.
I think it should be enshrined somewhere prominent:
...Christians were politically unreliable.

(Added August 7)

From Eugene Cho's blog....

Today, a video from Ryu Haeng Shik to his wife, Kim Yun Yeong [one of the Korean Christian hostages in Afghanistan] was posted on YouTube as a plea to the Taliban to release her and the other hostages. His letter has also been published in numerous places. This is the first of a series of letters entitled, ”Love Letters to Korean Hostages in Afghanistan.”

Prominent News today: Taliban wants to swap two Korean female ill hostages for two female Taliban prisoners; Bush and Karzai agree to not give into Taliban [Chosun News] and [CNN]. No surprise there but you have to ask the question: Are they doing all that they can. Despite what was initially stated, this kidnapping had NOTHING to do with the hostages being a Christian Relief Group. So, let’s stop with the bashing of Christians or Korean Christians.
I know that I’ve already complained about the lack of attention this has received from both the media and the larger [C]hurch. For me, it’s so very simple: If the US is at war against terrorists such as the Taliban, why wouldn’t you highlight this story in some way or another? Doesn’t this support the cause? Particularly, if it’s a group of innocent civilians who trained for SIX months to go to provide relief and aid?

The lack of attention in the larger Church is more enraging. These are Christian missionaries and relief workers. These are brothers and sisters in Christ. But hardly a whimper. Does that make sense? Is the larger church that fragmented?

Someone emailed and asked a simple question:
“Why are you wasting your time by posting updates every day? Let’s face it…You nor I can do anything…God is in control.”

My response: It is true that I am spending more time than I want on this blog. I try to give myself no more than 45 minutes each day but have broken my own rules. And I also agree that ultimately, God is in control. I believe that God is able and will redeem this situation… But, before you get carried away, let’s not stop caring, believe, hoping, praying, or working just because you have what I call a hyper steroidified version of Calvinistic worldview. I share these updates because outside of Korea and some of Asia, the stories of these 23 people - innocent civilians, doctors and nurses, relief workers, Christians living out their faith, missionaries with a plan not to blindly oppress and proselytize the Afghani people with forced or manipulative evangelism but rather, faith demonstrated in compassion and care - will never be heard. They will simply be forgotten. Their compassion and their courage will be forgotten. Their purpose will be forgotten…

And finally, while I acknowledge the situation looks very dim, let’s not let that discourage us from ENTERING into their STORIES.


Steve Hayes said...

Have you found an article that deals with the motivation of the Koreans going to Afghanistan in an unbiased way? The Asia Times article was factual, but dealt mainly with past history. The Foreigh Policy one was biased beyond belief -- givc me Al-Jazeera any day!

Hoots said...

Well, no, but I haven't looked for any. Motives seem moot at this point. It should be clear to anyone reading this blog that I am in sympathy with the Koreans.

The FP piece comes across as cold-blooded, but the questions raised are valid. I'm not sure how being "unbiased" has much to do with resolving this crisis. I want to think appeals can be made to the better angels of the Taliban's nature, but there seem not to be any. I notice the latest offer is to swap for FEMALE Taliban prisoners, which shows another measure of compromise.

The current Al-Jazeera update seems factual enough, so you may be right. Other articles are linked in the sidebar.