Two opinions on the Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan...
I suppose that I should have an opinion on the hostage crisis in Afghanistan.
I mean the 23 (now 22) Christian medical missionaries from South Korea captured by the Taliban and threatened with execution if South Korea doesn't withdraw its troops 'immediately' or pay a ransom, or if the Afghan government doesn't exchange 23 (now 22?) Taliban prisoners for them, or if the United States doesn't do something (probably), or if the whole world doesn't convert to Islam (eventually). As you see, I'm not absolutely clear on what the Taliban want.
Even one local police chief in Afghanistan, Khwaja Mohammad Sidiqi, acknowledges that the Taliban demands are confusing: "One says, let's exchange them for my relative, the others say let's release the women, and yet another wants a deal for money."
While the Taliban may not know what they specifically want, they do want the world to know that they are very serious. They've already killed one prisoner, the 43-year-old pastor, Bae Hyung-kyu, who was leading the group, reportedly because he "was sick and couldn't walk and was therefore shot." I don't know if that early report was accurate, but it's hardly one to counter the negative image that many already have of the Taliban.
Anyway, I suppose -- as I said -- that I should have an opinion on the hostage crisis in Afghanistan.
Actually, I have two opinions, and I've already expressed both of them ... not here at Gypsy Scholar, but over at the Marmot's Hole. My first opinion was in reaction to the spate of initial criticism blasted at the missionaries themselves by a number of commentors, who considered the missionaries stupid -- first for being Christian, second for going to a Muslim country as missionaries, and third for going to a war zone. At that time, people didn't know much about the situation and were reacting to the report in ways that sounded less like reasoned analysis and more like the results of a Rorschach Test, revealing less about the hostages than about the commentors themselves.
Here -- from the Marmot's original posting on the hostage crisis -- are my own Rorschach results:
I think that every Korean Christian heading to Muslim countries has been perfectly aware of the potential cost ever since Kim Sun-il was beheaded in Iraq three years ago.Later, in the comments to another Marmot post, I expressed my other opinion -- the Rorschach results this time revealing my Realpolitik views:
These Christians go to do volunteer work in health and charity services as well as to witness to their faith, which is by and large a peaceful one.
When they speak to Muslims about their faith, they speak of a God who loved the world enough to take human flesh and die for humanity, and they see as their mission to live a Christlike life, which for them means living -- and possibly dying -- in the service of others.
They don’t force anyone to become a Christian -- and in fact believe that belief cannot be forced.
They are among the last individuals whom I would look down upon. (Posted July 20, 2007 at 9:31 pm)
As I told the folks in my Sunday School class, these 23 missionaries chose to express their faith by going to Afghanistan to minister to the Afghans. They knew the danger, and they took the risk. They made their choice. The Korean government should not negotiate with the Taliban over these hostages. The Taliban are murderous, violent, fundamentalist Islamist terrorists. Negotiating with them will lead to more hostage-taking -- especially hostage-taking of Koreans.The Western Confucian (Joshua Snyder) corrected me:
If Christian missionaries wish to witness -- in word or in deed, or both -- to Muslims, then they should not expect their own governments to pay ransoms for their release. It was said -- perhaps by Eusebius -- that the blood of the martyrs watered the seeds of the church. If that’s so, then Christians should accept the possibility of martyrdom.
That said, I do not know what these missionaries have expected, nor am I sure that anyone knows clearly since their wishes have not been expressed in any reports that I’ve read. Doubtless, their faith is on trial. Faced with death, whose thoughts wouldn’t be concentrated? -- if I may borrow a thought from Samuel Johnson. I hope that they are released unharmed -- the 22 remaining ones, at any rate -- but that should be the decision of the Taliban, and nothing more than moral pressure should be exerted, with the exception of a rescue operation if that be the decision of the NATO forces in Afghanistan.
I suspect that the Korean government has already gained the reputation as one willing to pay ransom, based on the experience of hostage-taking by Somali pirates and Nigerian rebels. Unless I’m mis-remembering what happened in such cases... (Posted July 26, 2007 at 6:29 pm)
[I]t was the heretic Tertullian, God bless him, who said it: "sanguis martyrum semen christianorum." (Posted July 26, 2007 at 9:44 pm)Thanks, Joshua. For the benefit of those whose Latin is rusty, here's what Tertullian meant to say: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians." I haven't located this exact quote, but Tertullian says something similar in his Apology: "semen est sanguis Christianorum" (Apologeticum (Apology) 50.13), i.e., "the blood of Christians is seed."
But Tertullian's insight may also be true for Islam: "sanguis martyrum semen muslimorum."