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Korean Martyrs and Hostages
Ron Coody - 8/29/2007
What is going on in Afghanistan with the Koreans? A group of young medical personnel travel into a desperately difficult situation to address the needs of hurting people and they become prisoners in a nightmarish drama of international proportions. They didn’t go to fight, they didn’t go to threaten, they didn’t go to trouble anyone. They went to serve the physical needs of other human beings.
Oh, but there I go forgetting to mention something, they were Christians sent by a church back in Christian…or is it Buddhist Korea? That incriminates them by people on the secular left and the Islamic right. After all, what right do they have to assume they have a corner on the truth, and maybe they had some ulterior motives of actually talking about their exclusive beliefs while they took advantage of people’s suffering. To some folks that’s just as bad, or maybe worse, than their captors’ crime of taking them hostage. Fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims… as CNN’s documentary “God’s Warriors” boldly dares to promote, there are militant fringe types everywhere and moral equivalency is the measuring stick for anything that smacks of too much religion.
Muslims, when confronted by the problems of Islamic terrorism, like to point out that real Islam is a religion of peace that condemns the killing of civilians. Many like to quote a verse 5:32 from the Qur’an. Here’s an example of how it is usually translated. “Whosoever kills a human being without (any reason like) man slaughter, or corruption on earth, it is as though he had killed all mankind.” But actually this translation is inaccurate. In “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an” translated by Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, verse 5:32 reads, “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land- it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” Alas, this verse offers little hope for the Koreans, who undoubtedly have been judged as “not innocent” by virtue of their “spreading mischief in the land.” It’s most ironic as well that this verse so often quoted as a safety-valve to relieve Islam of the guilt of terrorism is actually a written as a command for the community of Israel.
The reality is that there is a world of difference between the Korean hostages and their captors. No amount of spin can detract from the heroic, self-sacrificial, and we should add, non-political effort these Koreans made to bring some decency and humanity to a war-torn society. No amount of paraphrasing and misquoting of religious texts can create a legitimate moral equivalency between committed Asian Christians and the Taliban. The Korean men who were shot to death were martyrs in the finest sense of the term, willing to lay down their lives for someone they cared for and loved. They paid the highest price in trying to save other lives. While the Taliban sinks into more dark behavior, these Koreans have shown noble character worth not forgetting.
|Ron Coody is a Ph.D. candidate in Intercultural Studies at Concordia Seminary. From 1993-1998, he lived and worked in Kazakstan doing environmental work. Since 2002, Mr. Coody and his family resided in Istanbul, Turkey.|