Korean Christians and the Taliban: A Clash of Faiths

August 2, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Economist


“GOD'S work has to be carried out, at any cost, even death.” Such was the Taliban's grim justification behind the murder this week of a second of the 23 Christian-Korean aid workers kidnapped last month en route from Kabul to Kandahar. The weeks since their abduction have brought unmet demands, a papal plea, a botched hostage release and an emotional appeal from the hostages' relations to the American embassy in Seoul. On August 1st the latest deadline set for the Afghan government passed, without the release demanded by the hostage-takers of their jailed comrades. There were rumours of prisoner exchanges, ransoms and renewed rescue operations.

The Koreans, too, thought they were doing God's work. The South Korean government vehemently denies that Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, whose bullet-ridden body was found on July 25th, and his flock were engaged in any form of evangelical or missionary work. But the Taliban say they were. Most Afghans have long followed a conservative interpretation of Islam. Polished toenails might now peek out from burqas on Kabul streets, but the Afghan public continues to challenge any slight against Islam. Even the appearance of proselytising Christianity is enough to foment widespread rancour.