Religious leaders of all faiths Monday appealed for an immediate release of all 23 South Korean volunteers workers kidnapped by Taliban.
Representatives from the Korean Council of Religion and Peace (KCRP) and leaders of other religious groups issued a statement, saying that Taliban militia should consider the pure intention of the hostages who tried to help the poor in their country. KCRP is a coalition of seven religious orders including Protestants, Catholics and Buddhists.
``The abductees are innocent people who did volunteer services in kindergartens and hospitals without any political hostility. The hostage-takers should not overlook their good causes for political reasons,’’ the statement said.
After the members of KCRP issued the statement at the Hamilton Hotel in Itawon, Seoul, they visited the Islamic Temple in Yongsan for their appeal for the safe return of the young South Koreans.
The Muslim community in Seoul meanwhile urged the Afghan captors to release the South Koreans, citing the Islamic culture of tolerance to other religions. In a statement, Abdul Raziq Sohn Joo-young, president of the Korea Muslim Federation, said, ``We very sincerely appeal to Muslims concerned in Afghanistan to help the Korean people be freed unharmed and returned to their beloved families.’’
The head priest of Saemmul Community Church in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, where 20 of the 23 abductees attended, said that the church will suspend volunteer work overseas in Afghanistan not to cause any misunderstanding of their activities.
``We will stop all the volunteer services in Afghanistan. We have also started necessary steps to withdraw other missionaries and volunteer workers,’’ Park Eun-jo said at the church. ``I’m so sorry to have caused such huge trouble. I sincerely apologize to the hostages’ family members.’’
Park established the church in 1998. Since 2004, he has also worked to help the poor in other countries including North Korea as the president of Korean Foundation for World Aid. Overseas volunteer services include building houses, hospitals and schools and providing medical treatment for the poor.
His remark is interpreted to mean that the Taliban militants misunderstood the Christians as missionaries spreading the message of God in the conservative Islamic country. He indicated that the churchgoers went to Afghanistan to help the poor and the underprivileged.
He said the church would suspend all projects not wanted by Afghans.
Korea ranks second after the United States in the number of missionaries overseas.
According to the Korea World Missions Association, more than 16,600 South Korean missionaries were working abroad last year.
But an American church leader estimated 30,000-40,000 Korean missionaries are engaged in overseas evangelism and charitable services. Many of them are dispatched to dangerous areas such as Iraq and Somalia.