Religious leaders speak out against South Korea’s scapegoating of church after members test positive for Covid-19
Religious leaders and NGOs in association with the United Nations around the globe have raised their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violations against a South Korea religious group, Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
From Southern Africa, 14 religious leaders from the Christian, Islam, Hindu, the Church of Scientology, Hare Khrishna, and the Bruma Kumaris submitted video messages and open letters to the Korean Government urging the state to drop the charges and lawsuits against church leader, Man Hee Lee.
Spiritual leader, Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft of the African Jewish Congress wrote, “I implore you to rather channel your energy and effort in working to find the cure for this deadly virus, rather than to focus on direct anger at Chairman Lee who through his efforts is bringing unity, respect, tolerance and most importantly peace in the world.”
In a video recording Reverend Mathias Tsine, Secretary-General of Federation for Indigenous Churches of Zimbabwe stated, “We are peace messengers, we support his vision, we advocate for freedom of religion as contained in the UN Charter”. The Reverend also added, “Mr. Lee never used HWPL to pursue the interest of the church as falsely reported by critics bent on putting his personality into disrepute.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak in February 2020, the Shincheonji congregation members have been singled out by the government as being responsible for a coronavirus outbreak in the country. Recent developments in an ongoing court case against the religious group have led to an $82 million lawsuit, confiscation of buildings, and arrests of some church officials.
National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at South Africa, Mansoor Zahid wrote, “I wonder how a government of the Republic of Korea try to persecute and ban the activity of such a peaceful person and his church, it is actually a disgrace to humanity and it is against religious freedom.”
In his statement Swami Vedanand Saraswati of Durban, South Africa, shared, “I firmly believe that the Chairman, a man of great integrity, has done and continues to do all in his power to aid in fighting against the COVID-19 virus, and assist the relevant authorities where possible.”
The leader and founder of Shincheonji, who has publicly apologized for the part that the church played in spreading the virus, has committed to doing everything to help and cooperate with authorities. As a token of goodwill, 4,000 Shincheonji members who have recovered from COVID-19 committed to donating their blood plasma for research for therapies to treat the novel virus. From the 13th to the 17th of July, 500 Shincheonji members will start the donations at the Gyeongbuk University Hospital in South Korea.