The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

It's Time to Show Compassion for Tsunami Victims

January 30, 2005, 5:03 pm

The Korea Times

The international community is still in profound grief over the enormous scope of human casualties and property losses that six Asian countries suffered from the earthquake and the tsunamis. Since the cruel natural disaster struck the South and Southeast Asian region on Dec. 26, the death toll has risen to over 160,000, with millions of people now homeless. The region is also in danger of being assailed by various infectious diseases because of the decay of human and animal bodies that were buried in a hurry or have yet to be recovered. But one consolation at this time is the demonstration of the global community’s generosity in offering help to the six countries.

In the midst of the sorrow and compassion felt by the world, it is deplorable that one of the renowned Protestant leaders in the country stirred controversy with a sermon at his church in Seoul last Sunday. He is reported to have told the congregation that the people who were killed by the natural calamity did not believe in Jesus Christ, claiming that their deaths were the results of God’s judgment. He also disparaged Indonesia, which suffered the most in the disaster triggered by the quake with a 9 magnitude, for its people’s belief in Islam. He described Phuket, the world-famous sea resort in Thailand, as a place of evil, saying that promiscuous sex and illegal drug use are rampant there.

It is unbelievable that the veteran clergyman delivered such a contentious sermon when we also suffer some 20 casualties, including 12 deaths. In addition, there are dozens of others who are still unaccounted for. His preaching ran counter to the basic teaching of Christianity _ love. It is feared that his sermon would imperil the safety of Korean tourists to the region, especially Thailand and Indonesia, which are their favorite travel destinations in Asia. Worst of all, it might compel Iraqi insurgents to attack our soldiers stationed in the terror-stricken country or kidnap our citizens living there because of his defamation of the Islamic faith.

As a messenger of love, he should have urged the congregation to join the global efforts to help the unfortunate in the six Asian countries. People should help the poor and underprivileged under any given condition. The global community will not develop and prosper without love and cooperation from the people in it.

Now is the time for us to step up efforts to help the tsunami victims overcome their insurmountable hardships as quickly as possible. That befits playing our due role as the world’s 12th largest economy.


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