Eugene Cho

all [remaining] korean hostages are freed!

All remaining hostages are now freed!  On the 43rd day of the Korean Christian relief workers hostage situation, the captivity has finally come to an end.  [I’ve sought to regularly update folks on the situation through this blog entry].  The remaining 7 hostages were released today. 

Taliban militants in Afghanistan released seven hostages Thursday evening in two batches of four and three.

A Taliban negotiator Mullah Bashir told The Korea Times over the telephone that the release of the group of four _ two men and two women _ had been confirmed, while confirmation of the freeing of the other three had been delayed due to the long distance they had to travel. However, he said they were handed over to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [read full article]

Now, another long drama of words and worldviews will ensue.  Korean officials also agreed to order all Christian missionaries out of Aghanistan by this Friday as well.  As a Christian pastor, I have incredibly conflicted feelings over this matter but will post more on this later.  The political implications are also potentially far-reaching as well.

Even in the recent days, I’ve read much criticism of both the [Korean] Christians Missions on their purported recklessness on this relief aid trip [which I sought to debunk in earlier posts] as well as the Korean government for caving into the demands of the Taliban.  Will there be escalating political ramifications?  Will the Taliban be empowered to further their tactics in similar manners? 

These questions are legitimate questions but I’m frustrated by the continual references to the 23 Korean Christian Relief group as the perpetrators in this entire ordeal.  They are NOT the perpetrators.   When have they stopped being the victims of a grave human rights violation?  While they had an agenda [simply by their faith in Jesus], they went to Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan.  The church that commissioned them had invested significant funds to help build a hospital and other elements of infrastructure. 

Let’s not forget the real perpetrators in this ordeal – the Taliban.  They’ve managed to get the Korean officials to agree to withdrawing their remaining quasi-troops, order all current Korean missionaries out of the country, agree to halt all future Christian involvement, and I’m certain that they’ve walked away with loads of cash.  What will the Taliban agree to?  What will they pay for the brutal murders of Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu and Shim Sung Min?  How is the global community holding them accountable? 

Again, my prayer is that something like this doesn’t discourage people all around the world – regardless of their religious views- to pursue a desire to DO GOOD and help fellow humanity.  It is my prayer that this doesn’t discourage Christian missionaries around the world to pursue their convictions in both communicating and demonstrating the gospel and grace of Christ. 

There is much to be learned here so may we learn together.  For now, I’m so thankful that the remaining hostages are all freed now.  During this ordeal, I was hopeful and prayerful, but I honestly had my doubts so this outcome is amazing and an answer to many prayers lifted up by the larger Church and global community.   Soon, they’ll all be back home to enjoy their loved ones [and the barrage of media and public overdose and scrutiny].

My condolensces to the parents, wife, children, and other family members of Pastor Bae Hyung Kyu and Shim Sung Min.  May these two not be forgotten…

Filed under: christianity, religion

20 Responses

  1. brian says:

    I have such mixed feelings. This is great news but I’m concerned like others about the political ramifications. We’ve indirectly given thugs like the Taliban another card to play with and these assholes don’t play fair.

  2. TomB says:

    How wonderful that they are free!

    Let me start the drama of words, just in case the media misses the point.

    1. How’s this for a comparison? The Christians are reckless? because they express their compassion by risking their lives to serve the oppressed … while the Taliban & their friends are not? considered reckless for flying into buildings??

    2. How’s this for a comparison? The Taliban express the passion for their God by taking hostages and killing people. The Christians express the passion for their God by expending vast resources and accepting extreme risks to show a selfless love.

  3. […] respect to Eugene Cho for cutting through the media silence and becoming a voice and advocate for these followers of […]

  4. kartikatyam says:

    I am very grateful for their release. And even though I had not been following the situation I do understand at least some of the ramifications of the release from both sides.

    In response to TomB’s second point of expending resources: The taliban/Al-Qaida/Hezbollah also say that they do all of their actions for their professed love of Allah. While I truly beleive the Koran never never does and should never be misinterpreted to beleive that it is allowed to kill innocent people in any circumstances, I also do beleive that we must be careful with our analogies and comparisons. They preform all of their actions strongly on their beliefs and go to any extent to see them accomplished and having people come to prosthelize Muslims to Christians is a woeful experiance for them.

    I personally do not agree with the missionaries choice to go to that area, especially now, but I am very happy they are back home and safe.

  5. Tonya says:

    What great news and oh, how wonderful is answered prayer!

    Thanks to Pastor Cho for keeping us abreast of the situation so we can be informed and prayerful.

  6. gar says:

    Good news, indeed…

  7. Daniel says:

    I’m happy to see their release but I also have mixed feelings.

    I have been very angry at the points of view that treats these missionaries as the perpetrators. I have also been angry at the other Christians who say that “they should have known better” than to go into such a dangerous place. I’m glad that their faith in God was stronger than their fear. I’m thankful for all the Christian missionaries in this world who choose to deny themselves and follow Christ.

    Christ is our master. Not our fears or the opinions of others. I just hope now that God heals and comforts the released missionaries so that they won’t need to feel the guilt that will surely be pushed on them from other koreans – christian and non-christian.

  8. Pat says:

    Thanks, Eugene, for keeping us informed. I’ve been praying for these relief workers, and am very thankful for their release.

  9. […] eugene cho updates michelle malkin updates news ABC News: Taliban Free Last South Korean […]

  10. paul says:

    i’m glad they’ll be home safe soon. and we should recognize the unstable political situation in that country before daring to visit or live there; but it’s disturbing that the korean gov’t had to make a promise not to let its citizens go there to help people as christians, even for medical work!
    leaving my mind aside, i feel that the two men died in vain.

  11. rolz911 says:

    Hi all.. I believe nothing is ever in vain when done for the Lord. Our two brothers were taken home and they now rest in eternal glory – Their faith tried and tested. Pray that the living will continue to be strong and courageous to love and reach out to the unlovable in a world of aghast moral decline and indifference. See you all at the end. 🙂

  12. Todd Kim says:

    Thank God for their release. Thank you PE for actively keeping on top of this situation and being a voice when it seemed so many were indifferent to what happened.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well the word is out. The Taliban now claim a “victory” in the hostage situation and I quote: “We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful,” Qari Yousef Ahmadi (Taliban Spokesman).

    I hate to say this, I mean thank God that they’re safe, but this might open the door for other incidents God forbid. I think it was wise for South Korea to ban missionary activity there. If the ROK wants to help, help through NGOs who don’t carry some sort of religious message or affiliation.

    A lot of Christians don’t seem to be getting the point when I read these comments. THEY DO NOT WANT YOU THERE SO STOP COMPLAINING! If you honestly think that they’ll be damned forever for not following Christ, then whatever, their loss I guess. There’s plenty of other people in the world that need help and won’t shoot you for it. I mean if you think the Lord wants you to go and try to help others, go ahead. I hear people saying that the Iraqis and Afghans need help in the form of Christ, and that’s noble/cute, but not logical. The whole go out and convert the masses thing might be noble in concept, but the world does not work like that. Religious zeal leads to nothing but trouble, I mean look at these Taliban monsters. Their zeal actually makes them believe that shooting an innocent pastor will somehow please Allah.

    So please to all missionaries, not just Koreans, if you want to help, help in a place with people that don’t see other religions as a threat like many Muslim extremists do. I honestly don’t think it was putting God over fear, I think it was straight-up naivete and a total lack of research/security. I hate seeing young people get caught up in religious fervor. I mean it’s good that they have a mission and purpose in life through God, but to cast away common sense and to instill this sense of overwhelming duty in young people is wrong. Cut the one-upmanship garbage, because God doesn’t want churches to compete over how much missionary work they do and even to die over it. God doesn’t want advertised piety. Little does one realize how much pain a death, even if in the service of the Lord, can cause to family and friends. I feel terrible that those two were shot, but I believe them being alive could’ve served a greater purpose. Sometimes the joy you can bring to friends and family and others by being a good Christian and not being a martyr is just as good if not better.

  14. Wayne Park says:

    Anonymous, your comments are completely misinformed. As one that has worked in the missionary endeavor I promise you, we are NOT driven by “noble zeal with a lack of research”. That’s really a baseless accusation.

    Missionaries make the best linguists, scholars, researchers, anthropologists, many times better than their secular counterparts. The kind of missionary activity you propose limits missionary activity to the “safe” places, which effectively shuts down the work of the kingdom.

    we’re not talking kingdoms of ideology or “religious fervor” – I think you’ve mixed up missionaries with fundamentalists. I encourage you to re-read verses such as Matt 24:14 or Gen 12, maybe then you might rethink your position on missions? It is much more than “advertised piety” as you suggest.

    Careful also when you appeal so strongly to logic – logic is not the standard for our faith; we believe in a gospel that is “foolishness to Gentiles”. In the end I’m sorry you (and many people) feel this way; it really misunderstands what the missionary endeavor is all about.

  15. kyung chul says:

    Scripture also says:

    Jesus answered him, “It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
    Matthew 4:7

    Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
    Acts 15:10

    We should not test the Lord, as some of them did–and were killed by snakes.
    1 Corinthians 10:9

    Furthermore, the leadership of the Saemmul Church was compelled to be dishonest about the reasons behind the mission. They kept insisting that it was purely aid work.
    There’s something wrong when the church has to tell lies in order to keep missionaries alive when they’re in dangerous places. This further reveals that neither the church nor the members of the Afghan 23 were prepared to die for their faith. But yet somehow soft, pampered middle-class civilians, and mostly doe-eyed young women at that, wind up in the middle of a war-zone anyway.

    The Korean gov is now a multi-million dollar indirect sponsor of terrorism in Afghanistan. The Taliban has announced that they will kidnapping more foreign civilians. This jeopardizes every kind of effort in Afghanistan and makes any humanitarian work so much harder now. The Afghan people were dealt a major disservice. There is absolutely NOTHING about any of this, or what has happened, nor any of the consequences of this tragedy, that appears to be the work nor will of God.

    The people who organized and were involved in this mission trip did not take the obvious dangers of being in a war-zone in a Muslim country seriously. Instead of being discreet, they traveled in a big tour bus in the open, practically asking for it. Some of them posed for photos in front the of the gov warnings in the airport. I am almost positive that the leaders and the pastors mislead the group about the dangers involved because by the way these people behaved before they were caught, you would have thought they headed toward Disneyland. The leadership of the Saemmul Church needs to be held accountable. Church can make mistakes also and admit it when it happens and not say stupid, vague, and pointless things about the mystery of God’s will or some such nonsense.

    As an intra-Church, Christian-to-Christian discussion and debate, I say this is a wake-up call for the Church to reevaluate what it exactly means by “doing God’s work”.

  16. Bernard says:

    Woohhooo! I have been following their ordeal thru your blog, Eugene. Thanks. And thank God for His grace.

  17. […] Eugene Cho at Beauty and Depravity, who has been following the ordeal the entire time, asks some pointed questions that deserve answers: …I’m frustrated by the continual references to the 23 Korean […]

  18. Blake says:

    Praise God for their release. This IS good news!

    As far as the rest of the ramifications are concerned, God is in the habit if redeeming mistakes (if there be any) for His glory. I’ve seen it time and time again in my own life and the lives of others around me.

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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.


my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease… || 1 day ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 1 day ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 4 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 4 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 4 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago