Seoul (AsiaNews) – The agreement sealed by the South Korean government and the Talibans for the release of Christian hostages is “a source of joy because human life must always come first. But at the same time it should not set an example for the rest of the world,” said Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, bishop of Taejŏn and chairman of Caritas Corea, when he heard about the release of the first South Korean Christian hostages abducted in Afghanistan on July 19.
The prelate told AsiaNews that “the release of Protestant missionaries has set a dangerous precedent. Our government humiliated itself by dealing with fundamentalists. Now they can think they can do the same with other hostages. At the same time, the agreement humiliated Protestant Churches who have been much criticised at home for their action abroad and for the ransom many think they paid.”
This is because “Korean Protestants are sometime themselves fundamentalist and aggressive in their faith. They talk about social service but in reality seek conversions, often forcefully. This is no true evangelical spirit; it is not true mission. Now many have come to realise this here (in South Korea) as well.”
South Korean Protestant organisations welcomed the agreement between the government and the Talibans with joy. They have pledged not to undertake any missionary activities in Afghanistan as agreed to in the release deal.
Christian Council of Korea Chairman Lee Yong-kyu thanked the government for its efforts on behalf of the hostages and expressed sympathy for the families of the captives.
The Korea National Council of Churches in a statement Tuesday night said it was “right to respect the government’s agreement with the Taliban,” adding that it will use the hostage crisis as a opportunity to reflect on Korean Churches’ overseas missionary strategies and to devise more effective and safer ways to carry out missionary activities abroad.
But for Choi Han-woo, head of the Institute of Asian Culture and Development and organiser of an abortive “peace rally” of Korean Christians in Afghanistan last year, the Talibans “apparently demanded the ban to officially define Korean volunteer activities as missionary work and to justify their abduction.” Still he said that his organisation will pull out its “aid workers” from Afghanistan by late this month in compliance with the agreement.
Although two Christian missionaries were killed, the families of Korean hostages expressed joy and happiness for the successful end to the incident.
Ryu Haeng-sik, whose wife was among the hostages, said: “I could not tell my child that his mother was kidnapped,” but now “I am truly grateful to tell him that his mother will return.”