Independent reporting on human rights, environmental and conflict issues

Korean Hostage Crisis

I had dinner with a friend who has been covering the news here for three years. He had just come back from a story up north, and spent the last few days deep in the Korean hostage crisis. There is an added tension in some regard for those of us here working in Afghanistan because of it. Travel is restricted for foreigners now. Some press is still trying to get down there, but clearly, last week, we were told to shut up.

I was shocked when I saw the CNN and BBC reports telling of an evacuation, after leaflets were dropped in the area where the hostages are said to be held, notifying the people an attack was imminent to attempt a rescue. CNN quickly retracted its report and for two days, we heard nothing about it. Someone messed up, and I’m pretty sure the area is fully sealed off from journalists now.

On the way to the restaurant, I chatted with my friend, trying to get a sense of what he had heard of late. “The Koreans haven’t learned their lesson yet,” he started. “The issue at hand, really, is that they are Christian missionaries here to convert people, and if there is one thing that is important to Afghanis, it is Islam. Not everyone will make it,” he said. “I think they’re going to kill some people tonight.”

The Koreans’ church has officially said that the hostages are not involved in any Christian missionary work in Afghanistan; they are here for the sole purposes of providing aid to its distressed people, but that’s not what people are saying here. The Taliban are a complex network of people that largely remain a question mark in Afghanistan. Sending Christians into war-torn, Islamic fundamentalist territory to do a bit of proselytizing could be a simple formula for acquiring new martyrs.

While I was sitting in an office, drinking tea at the Ministry of Justice this afternoon, waiting for an official letter to be prepared, a Mullah sat across the way and struck up a conversation through my intrepreter. “People are not following true Islam,” he said. “The holy Koran says that we should respect our guests and treat them well. We should not kill foreigners, and yet, we do.” Bad news sometimes brings people closer together.

It’s a tragic story. There are innocent, human lives at stake. Whoever is responsible for sending this young, probably well-meaning religious team into a war zone that wants very much to stay Muslim, is hopefully asking himself if its activities should be altogether ended in Afghanistan. Those organizations that have succeeded in remaining neutral in this country, have been among the most efficace, and have remained largely unscathed by the war that rages on, and they are few and far between. Politics and religion have no place in aid work. Seeking to change one’s religious views when people are at their weakest is manipulation in its purest form. It’s a sort of religious colonialism that, clearly, isn’t welcome here.


One Response to “Korean Hostage Crisis”

  1. InTransit says:

    U No Who intends to klik here from time to time, as it is so clear that one is able to get an unbiased point of view, from where ever this creative and persevering photo-journalist is at the moment.

    And that is YOU!

    Be Well

    Be Safe

    Good Sojourn


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