This summer, associate pastor Bae Hyung-kyu led his mostly female medical team from South Korea into Afghanistan. The plan was to alleviate physical and spiritual suffering. But Taliban terrorists had another agenda. On July 19, radical Islamic insurgents kidnapped the 23 South Koreans traveling by bus through southern Afghanistan.

During 40-plus days of captivity, team members from Saemmul Community Church, located south of Seoul, were relocated repeatedly, beaten, and made to endure forced labor.

The Muslim Taliban also tried to convert the Christian hostages by force. When Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu refused, his captors put 10 bullets in his head, chest, and stomach. They also murdered another hostage before freeing the rest—after controversial direct negotiations with the South Korean government.

Blaming the Victims

In exchange for the release of the church workers, South Korea banned missionaries from traveling to Afghanistan, paid a $20 million ransom (according to the Taliban), and announced it would remove 200 troops from Afghanistan by year's end—a decision the government had already made prior to the abductions.

Missions experts say missionaries around the world are probably more at risk now of being kidnapped for ransom. Certainly the prospect of any government telling Christian missionaries where they can and cannot go is a huge problem.

So guess who is taking the brunt of the verbal backlash in the wake of their release? It's not the Taliban, nor even the South Korean government. It's the freed missionaries and their church. One Korean newspaper opined, "Religious groups should realize once and for all that dangerous missionary and volunteer activities in Islamic countries including Afghanistan not only harm Korea's ...

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November 2007

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