03/31/2010, 00.00
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Korean Catholics united against the Four Rivers Project

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
For the first time since 1987, the South Korean community of faithful unite to stop the government project that poses a serious risk to the development and ecology of the country. The path indicated by the Episcopal Conference, quoting the Pope: "Nature is God's gift to man, and we are responsible for it."

Seoul (AsiaNews) - After the Great June Struggle of 1987, the movement that pushed the Korean Catholics to unite against the military dictatorship, a new network has united the Asian Church and its faithful. Together with the clergy and Catholic social organizations, the faithful are mobilizing to launch and support the Catholic Alliance to stop the government project on the Four Major Rivers.  

The project, supported by the Blue House in Seoul, provides a series of initiatives and excavations near the four main rivers of the country. One of these, the Grand Canal, has already been repudiated in 2008 by the Diocese of Incheon. The Canal provides for the creation of a "water highway" uniting Seoul to Busan: in practice, this is an excavation of 540 kilometres that connects the Han and Nankdong Rivers.  

According to critics, the plan puts at risk the drinking water resources as well as the ecological balance of the country. For the new government, however, is a  "unique" opportunity to remove  freight from highways and to renew the tourist market. In any case, the government has earmarked about 13 billion for the program. For opponents, it is "wasted money".  

The Archdiocese of Seoul has launched the first offensive. During the Sundays of Lent, in front of about 200 churches in the capital, leaflets were distributed with the words "Stop the project now it goes against the order of Creation" and "Where the rivers flow, there is life. Do not destroy it. " Even the churches of Incheon and Gwangju have launched a similar initiative.  

But the biggest commitment was the signed petition the government: in one month, over 30 thousand people signed a document calling on President Lee Myung-bak to make a u-turn on the project. The signatures were collected in over 250 churches around the country, and others are joining. But the churches in the territory are the most active.  


The mobilization of Catholics began on March 12, when the Korean Bishops' Conference issued the final report of their plenary. As well as condemning the abortion policies of the government and the Supreme Court - which has defended the use of the death penalty - the bishops have spoken against the project on the major rivers.  

The priests of the Diocese of Seoul, Incheon, Suwon and Uijeongbu - areas that are variously affected by the project - will celebrate Easter Mass together in the area of Namyangju, which will be the first destroyed when construction work begins. The ceremony will be attended to 2,500 faithful and a similar number should participate in a ceremony being held on the Geumgang River.

All of us, the text reads, "are concerned and do not understand the reasons behind such an important decision, taken without the consent of the population. It jeopardizes the development of the ecology of the country, and does not seem  to consider future generations. As Benedict XVI said in Caritas in veritate, nature is God's gift to man. We are responsible for it and we cannot manipulate it at our pleasure".


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