Korean Christians Scarred by Tragedy

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CWN.org - One year ago the world was watching as a group of Korean Christians were held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

They'd gone for a short-term mission trip, but were kept in captivity for 42 days. Two of them never returned home.

One year later, Korea's Christian community is still dealing with the tragedy.

On the second floor of the Saemmul Community Church in Seoul is a small memorial dedicated to Pastor Bae Hyung-gyu and Shim Sung-min, two missionaries killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2007.

The terrorists held 21 other members of the missions team for more than a month before setting them free.

Pastor Park Eun-jo says the tragedy shook the church and its leaders.

"I cried saying 'It is ridiculous! They were the ones who prepared more than any other teams and they were healthiest among us. I still cannot understand the death of those two people.' There was no way to overcome such state of mind," he said.

Former hostage Yu Kyung-shik says the experience has left him with an obligation to live his life with more purpose.

It is my task to think about the way to repay what I have received from many people, living the life as they expected," he explained.

He especially remembers Pastor Bae, and how he encouraged the other hostages to have faith in God and keep forgiveness in their hearts.

"There was a saying from the Pastor Bae, Hyung-gyu, 'Don't worry too much. The believers all over the world will pray for us. Do not respond if you are injured, but remain standing at this moment with the heart of love for these people. That is the attitude we Christians should have,"' he remembered.

The experience triggered much soul-searching at Saemmul Church and the Korean Christian community.

"It was an incident that caused the death of two people and the detention of 21 people for 42 days," Saemmul pastor said. "It also made all the people in Korea worried. For this reason, we have spent time thinking about the way to settle the issue, but our hearts are full of regret."

Regret for the loss of two church leaders, and for the trouble the crisis caused the Korean government.

In response, the Korean World Missions Association is helping churches and missions agencies protect overseas workers with crisis management training.

The association also says churches should re-evaluate short-term missionary work by focusing more on supporting long-term workers rather than faith-inspiring trips.

"After about two weeks from the incident, I started thinking about the reason why God let us experience such event," a leader of the group said. "Maybe it is the order of God to embrace the people in the world with the sacrifice of the blood shed by two magnificent young men."

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Gary Lane

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