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The Hostage Gospel

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 fig02_chained_bible.jpgneglected 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 hostages’ 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.

Afghanistan’s commerce minister criticized South Korea’s government, warning that the agreement it had made could embolden the Taliban, The Associated Press reported.

“One has to say that this release under these conditions will make our difficulties in Afghanistan even bigger,” Amin Farhang, the commerce minister, told Bayerischer Rundfunk radio in Germany. “We fear that this decision could become a precedent. The Taliban will continue trying to take hostages to attain their aims in Afghanistan.”

medium_Dead_Hands_Image_Tied_hands.jpgEither 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. . .

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • dayle September 3, 2007, 1:48 AM

    It gets worse, Mike.

    There was an article on Yahoo news stating that most Koreans are angry with the missionaries. Because they have brought dishonor upon their country. I disagree totally. I had a new admiration for our already wonderful ally South Korea. But, this is a different culture we’re dealing with. Maybe Christianity is a minority in that country and frowned upon.

    Now, keep in mind– They were told not to go. And, this is not the U.S. we’re talking about. Then again, U.S. citizens are forbidden from traveling to Cuba. I’m not sure if this applies to missionaries.

    I will say this–they are brave. God bless ’em.

  • janet September 3, 2007, 11:48 AM

    What is it with the news? I heard about the kidnapping the day it happened and prayed tearfully for those brothers and sisters in Christ. I kept praying. I started to ask people around me, “what’s going on with those hostages?” No one knew. Eventually I did hear that a couple of the men had been killed and then some women released. But yeah, the story just sort of dissappeared. I’ve just recently decided to take more initiative to find for myself what’s happening. Because you sure won’t find out on the local 5 o’clock news.
    I remember following so closely the story of the Burnhams who were held hostage for so long in the Philipines. New Tribes Missions were so careful, balancing the desire to see the Burnhams released with the need to see the Gospel spread and thought given to other missionaries (the whole setting precedent thing/ making the captors think the kidnapping thing works well…)
    Thanks for this post.

  • Nicole September 3, 2007, 3:15 PM

    I do not trust eithr CNN or “The New York Times” to accurately report what truly happened. We might never know the real story.

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