It’s been suggested that the kidnapping of the 21 South Korean Christian aid workers by the Taliban in Afghanistan was one of the most neglected international stories by the American media. Even more neglected may be the implications of the recent release of those hostages and the terms of that agreement.
According to CNN, “While South Korean missionaries have been active in the region, the hostage group’s church has said the kidnapped group’s trip to Afghanistan did not involve Christian missionary work.” Nevertheless, Get Religion reports that “the Taliban and the Korean missionaries believe they are on a mission from God.”
The CNN article described the specifics of the missionaries’ release this way:
Under the terms of the agreement, South Korea agreed to stick by its previous decision to withdraw its 200 non-combat troops from Afghanistan, which work mostly in an engineering and medical capacity.
In addition, Seoul will halt all Christian missionary work in Afghanistan.
This puzzles me. Did the missionaries agree to this? Or is this strictly the government’s doing? If so, how will the government “halt all Christian missionary work” in Afghanistan or elsewhere? Really, who’s being held hostage here?
Some have suggested that the freeing of the hostages was actually bought. According to a New York Times article:
After weeks of sporadic negotiations, a South Korean delegation and Taliban officials reached an agreement on Tuesday for the hostagesâ€™ release. South Korea reaffirmed a pledge to withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, as previously planned, and agreed to prevent any evangelical activities here by South Korean churches.
. . .Speculation was rife in Kabul on Wednesday that the South Korean government had paid a huge ransom for the hostages, a step that Afghan officials said would encourage the kidnapping of foreigners. Taliban and South Korean officials denied that a ransom had been paid.
Afghanistanâ€™s commerce minister criticized South Koreaâ€™s government, warning that the agreement it had made could embolden the Taliban, The Associated Press reported.
â€œOne has to say that this release under these conditions will make our difficulties in Afghanistan even bigger,â€ Amin Farhang, the commerce minister, told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio in Germany. â€œWe fear that this decision could become a precedent. The Taliban will continue trying to take hostages to attain their aims in Afghanistan.â€
Either way, these Christian missionaries — or at least their government — have conceded to stop evangelizing an entire country, under the threat of death.
What’s wrong with this picture? I can’t imagine the apostle Paul bailing on a city or province because they threatened to have his head. He’d say, lop it, bro! Of course, this comes from one who’s never been threatened with decapitation. Nevertheless, I’m hoping I’d give my noggin for the Cause.
The South Korean government’s actions, as well as the admission of the church, is rather baffling to me. I wonder if this isn’t a precursor to something terribly important, that will inevitably effect how — and if — the Gospel is spread anywhere. If so, then we are headed for dark times, my friends. . .