Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Repost: 'My personal view on the current hostage crisis' from the Marmot's Hole

I've really wanted to chime in on the Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan, but I've stayed away from it simply because it's ongoing and my views are pretty matter-of-fact and sterile. I'm really about not stirring up what is already a very emotional situation for many Koreans. Also, I've heard that those who have strong opinions like me have been taking it too far saying things like maybe they should die or that the government shouldn't try to get them out. That's silliness even if you disagree with them going there.

The talk has been so tough that people have asked Korean bloggers to just back off of the harsh talk. I think the dialogue should happen because Koreans need to do it. It's a democracy and people have a right to their opinions whether you like it or not. However, as it's not my country this is not a topic that I'm comfortable opining about until it's all settled. Here is a piece from Time.com on it: Korean Missionaries Under Fire

With that said, there is a balanced opinion on it at The Marmot's Hole. I'll just repost it here in full. I'll turn comments off 'cause if you have something to say, you should take it there, but maybe this will give some insight into the questions about why people would willingly go into a war zone.

My personal view on the current hostage crisis

A lot has been said regarding the hostage crisis, among them the irresponsibility of the 23 that went on the so called medical mission to Afghanistan. Now why would 23 men and mostly women decide to go on a mission which most of them, despite the somewhat insane pictures taken at the airport, knew would be akin to a suicide mission?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go far to find an answer, because based on my own personal experiences with Korean Christians, it wasn’t difficult to figure everything out.

Now I have to add that not all Korean Christians are like this, but the Korean Christians who are level headed are in the minority. Unfortunately the majority have the following tendencies;

1. The need to convert everyone around them.

This seems to be the case with almost every Korean Christian that I have gotten to know. The first question is usually “Do you go to church?” If the answer is “No”, then the sales pitch begins with lobbying on why I should believe in God and Jesus Christ, which leads to pushing me to go to church (”Are you free on Sunday? Be here by this time”) and eventually leads to comments like “why aren’t you coming to church?” or “attending the church is good for your future” or “if you attend our church then there are girls waiting in line to date you.” Some like our CIO take a more direct approach, by gathering his reports and saying “I order you to go to church with me” and in a Korean company, if your boss orders you, you don’t have much of a choice.

Personally, if I want to believe in a religion and follow its teachings, I would rather do it without people ordering/pushing me to believe in that particular religion, and what really angers me, is the Korean Christians’ penchant to ignore the wishes of the person whom they are trying to convert.

This is in contrast to American Mormon missionaries whom I had an opportunity to meet during my college years. They were eager to show me the Mormon beliefs and teachings, but at the same time, they were willing to step back and let me decide on my own. At the end, it was nice talking to them, but I decided that the Mormon church wasn’t for me, and the missionaries respected my decision.

Which brings me to this story. One of my college hubae, was an active member of a certain church with an Ancient Egyptian sounding name, and saw me talking to the Mormon missionaries. He asked me if I was planning to become a Mormon. I answered no. He sighed with relief and said that I had made a good decision. He also added that out of curiosity, he had read the Book of Mormon, and that there was a nasty odor from the hand that touched the Book, and from this he concluded that the Mormon church was not a proper church, and that it will decay.

At the same time he said that I should join his church, because his church was the true church. Yeah right.

2. The desire to be a recognized among the congregation.

Inside the church, there is a sort of pecking order. On one side are the church veterans, who have considerable influence inside the church, hold officer positions, and are well known among the congregation. On the other side are the less well-known members, who hold junior or no positions in the church. The not so well-known members aspire to be become the part of the well-know group and thus gain higher positions and influence in the church.

The reason? Some Koreans do go to church because they believe in God and Jesus Christ, but there are some Koreans who go to church as a means to an end. To them a church is a place to meet people, who might help them get lucrative contracts, jobs, plus help them out during rough times. In order to create the above mentioned network, one has to gain recognition and influence, by becoming an officer of the church.

In Korean churches, whether or not a member rises into a higher position is not judged by whether or not his or her religious beliefs and convictions are strong, but by the amount of activities that he or she has participated. This includes overseas volunteer work such as the one that the 23 were involved in Afghanistan. And from what I’ve heard from Korean churchgoers, participants of this type of work get the most points.

This means junior members feel that they have to volunteer for such work.

So now we have the two big factors that led to the 23 to embark on their fateful mission to Afghanistan. The desire to convert Muslim Afghanis to Christians, regardless of the fact that the Afghanis may not be interested in converting to Christianity, and the endless line of “volunteers” to carry out the mission.

But one may ask, why Afghanistan out of all places? Well I don’t think Afghanistan is the only country that has become practice ground for the Korean Christians. If one were to go to the Emirates and Korean Air waiting lounges at Dubai International Airport, it’s easy to notice a huge group of Korean Christians going back to Seoul, after completing their mission. And from the looks of it, they are probably transiting from countries in South West Asia and Africa. I don’t know about the other countries, but I think Afghanistan was selected because of the fact that the central government is weak, which means that the “volunteers” can go to a certain village and do their stuff without worrying about the local police. And also, because the majority of the local population is not well off. Provide them with good medical service, they get friendly with you and may be willing to listen to what you have to say. Which makes it easier to say a few words about the merits of Christianity.

Also, the fact that there was no security when the group were on their bus can be explained. They probably didn’t ask for security not because they were irresponsible, but probably because if they did, it was a matter of time before the Afghan police figured out what they were doing, which means being put on the next plane to Dubai.

As I mentioned above, the 23 members have been criticized for embarking on their foolhardy mission. But IMO, the responsibility of the entire fiasco should also rest on the shoulders of the church elders, who may have taken part in the planning and recruiting of “volunteers” for this ill-fated mission.

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