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Stephen McGarvey Christian Blog and Commentary

More on the Korean Hostages

  • Stephen McGarvey
    Stephen McGarvey is the Executive Editor of Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com for the Salem Web Network. He is a World Journalism Institute fellow and has previously worked for BreakPoint with Chuck Colson, and the Home School Legal Defense Association. His articles have appeared in several publications including WORLD, The Washington Times, byFaith, BreakPoint WorldView, and the Union Leader (Manchester, NH).
  • 2007 Aug 07
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The Wall Street Journal and The Economist weigh in on the kidnapped missionaries from South Korea. The Journal also provides a fascinating short history of South Korea's missionary efforts of recent years:

The presence of South Korean Christian aid workers is one of the most visible examples of the trend toward "majority world" missionaries--those hailing from continents other than Europe and North America. South Korea, for example, sent only 93 missionaries abroad in 1979, but by 2000 there were over 8,000 and this number doubled by 2006...

South Korea's fervor is unique in that it's a relatively new Christian nation. The example set by the missionaries (mostly American and British) who came to work in Korea is still a recent memory. Like its neighbors China and Japan, the Korean peninsula was traditionally influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism. A small number of Catholic missionaries came in the late 18th century; their Protestant counterparts arrived about 100 years later. But it wasn't until the 1960s that the number of Christians began to increase dramatically. The traumas of the Japanese occupation (1910-45) and the Korean War (1950-53) had left the country reeling, and some see Christianity's growth as a response to those difficult times..

Read the full article: Further Fervor: Why those South Korean missionaries were in Afghanistan.

As their presence around the world increases, however, so do the dangers these missionaries incur. This incident with the Taliban, may be turning public opinion against Christian aid workers/missionaries. Notes The Economist:

[I]nter-church competition for alms goads pastors into one-upmanship, sending their congregations on ever-riskier missions to reap the resulting publicity.

The Korean press has been seized by the crisis in Afghanistan. Broadband is brimming with videos of frightened hostages and unsympathetic citizens admonishing the aid workers for not heeding the government's travel warning...

Read the full article: A clash of faiths

On FrontPage Magazine, Institute for Religion and Democracy's Mark Tooley notes that this in no way should mean that these Christains got what they deserved:

Some media reports about the captive and murdered Korean Christians have emphasized how purportedly irresponsible they were in traveling to strife-torn Afghanistan, where even the democratic government restricts Christian activity. An Afghan Interior Ministry official reported that the South Koreans, most of them from a Seoul suburban congregation, had been “very carelessly” traveling in their chartered bus when the Taliban abducted them about 110 miles south of Kabul.

But perhaps the Taliban’s beastly attacks upon unarmed Christians deserve more attention than any carelessness by the Korean sojourners. Christian missionaries across the centuries, dating to the age of the Apostles, have long been careless about their safety, often to the point of martyrdom. Most especially, church groups in the West might be expected to express more outrage over the abduction and murder of their fellow Christians, 18 of whom are women.

Tooley also points out the shocking lack of comment from America's mainline Christian denominations. He criticizes the "tepid" response from the World Council of Churches:

The WCC pronouncement is tepid and refers to the “negotiations” between the Taliban killers and the South Korean government almost as though it were a labor contract at issue. When Christians are being brutalized specifically because of their faith in Jesus Christ, might not church officials, even those based in Geneva, be a little more spiritually expressive?

After two millennia of martyrs and persecution, the Christian Church is not inexperienced as a victim of targeted brutality. These latest outrages by Islamist fanatics in Afghanistan might merit at least a Scripture citation and some bold words of divinely-inspired encouragement. Instead, the WCC spoke like a low level U.S. State Department official who is working the night shift.

Read Tooley's commentary: Killing Korean Christians

Again we should be asking ourselves, our media and our Church, "Where is the outrage?"