Research snapshot: religious dimensions of militarism

(Photo sources:  Hankyoreh and NewsNJoy)

South Korean Catholic priests are putting their lives on the line to oppose military base construction: “To blow up the Gurombi Rocks, first blow up the people of faith!”

Gurombi Catholics

Catholics led a ceremony of 153 bows, as they have done every day since August 25, 2011. This is in reference to the miracles associated with the number 153 in the Bible, but I think it is also reminiscent of Buddhist practice of taking three prostrate bows and one step (sambo ilbae 삼보일배 三步一拜), a mainstay in contemporary protest repertoire in Korea especially in recent years.

Catholics bow153

In the meantime, ultra-conservative Christians held a prayer rally on March 1 to denounce Communism, promote the Christian Democratic Party, and vow to obliterate leftists without mercy. Rev. KIM Hong-do, the retired pastor of the largest Methodist congregation in the world, is quoted in this article for sermonizing, “Communism kills all people. I would rather die as a slave under blacks in Africa than live under Communism.” He always has a way with words.

Another right-wing Christian pastor, Rev. SUH Kyong-seok urged support for naval base construction and declared that he’s ready to head down to Jeju Island to “combat Catholics and leftists” seen above.

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In response, a Christian activist from Jeju wrote this open letter with a heartfelt plea: “When the Church stands to protect state power, it may temporarily benefit from sharing that power. But the Church cannot then speak for Jesus Christ. Now is a time to protect the gospel of peace for which Jesus gave up his life. To follow Jesus means to relinquish the privilege and vested interests and to embrace suffering, but gained in return will be the privilege of being called a “child of God.”

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