Social Leaders from 34 Countries Demand Human Rights Issues in South Korea​

Human rights violations against the religious minority by a major Christian group in Korea cause global criticism

The crimes committed in the name of religion are the same as wounds of war

“I shouted out the church window, ‘Help me!’. My family said to me that nobody would listen to me. The police came in when I shouted myself hoarse. I grabbed the police and asked them to get me out of here. “

One day a Korean woman was kidnapped into a church and felt threatened in life. Not by robbery or other third parties, the woman managed to escape with the help of the police.

“Since then I have become extremely sensitive and often have had nightmares without taking a good sleep. Sometimes I thought about suicide, even though I knew it was not right. The experience turned out to be a post-traumatic syndrome like trauma from war or holocaust. ”

The reason more than 1,000 people in Korea were taken like the woman is “the coercive conversion program” in recent years. The coercive conversion program is a process in which a Christian pastor encourages the parents to convert their children from other denominational minorities by using violence and persecution in the situation of confinement and kidnapping. It is at the center of the controversy that leads to social divisions ranging from intimidation, verbal abuse, and physical assault, forced leave in the job, divorce, and murder.

According to Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (HAC), a Korean civil society organization, a Christian pastor called “conversion pastor” has earned more than $850,000 (in US dollars). Also, since illegal acts such as kidnapping are carried out by the family, pastors who instigated the parents behind take advantage of loopholes in the law, so that they can never be punished.

A Worldwide Statement on Anti-Human Rights Crime

This phenomenon of violation of the freedom of religion, serious human rights violation, family destruction, and even deprivation of the basic right to life expresses deep concern in the international community. More than 100 leaders from 34 countries have sent the letters of denunciation that strongly condemn the denominations of ministers who have forced to convert.

“The Christian Council of Korea (CCK) under the guise of religious education operates the forced conversion program which will violate the human rights and even cause the loss of life. I strongly denounce such a wrongdoing and I request it kindly to stop this murderous forced conversion program.” – Vilwanathan Krishnamurthy, Representative of Berlin Hindu, Germany

“The CCK is causing only divisions among people through disruption and persecution; no person of faith should take such actions. If the main problem is not having the same beliefs as the CCK, it is good to sit on round table for a deeper discussion and I am sure and certain that the better solution could be attained.” – Mr. Nshimiyimana Jean Baptiste, The VOICE TV Kigali Co-owner, Rwanda

“Accompanied with forceful physical violence, the CCK is carrying out a forced conversion program as a business. I urge the CCK to stop anti-national, anti-religious and anti-peace actions and cease interference with efforts of peace.” – Mr. Ioan Gruia Bumbu, Director of Albaiulianul, Romania

The voice of prohibition on the coercive conversion program from the United Nations

Global civic groups raised the voice of prohibition on the coercive conversion program from the United Nations

​On May 31, at an event titled “Intercultural Dialogue for Peace and Development” in the United Nations headquarters in New York, civic groups around the world advocated the international community to actively respond to the coercive conversion program that occurred in South Korea.

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right of to all people. In contrast, the act of the forced conversion of religion is the greatest violation of this right and regrettably continues to occur all over the world. The act of the forced conversion of religion has nothing to do with religion at all. I state it again, it has everything to do with power, control, and politics!” – Rev. Lee A. Thomas Jr. – Pastor of St. Paul AME Church

“It is very important to protect freedom of religion for peaceful societies as there is no religion that promotes the conversion of religion using violence, and therefore, there is no justification for this kind of practice.” – Priest Nikhil Trivedi – Bharati Center, the United States

“While we support the idea of freedom to choose one’s religion, our community strongly opposes the forced conversion and we urge the UN to ban such practices. Therefore, today, I urge the UN to work with us to achieve our goal of banning the forced conversion of religion and also changing the attitudes of politicians and bureaucrats around the world.” – Urgen Sherpa – President of United Sherpa Association, the United States

On August 9 in South Africa, there was a “Christian Harmony and Peace Seminar” on the theme of guaranteeing freedom of religion and prohibition of the coercive conversion program. The event, hosted by the South African Council of Churches (SACC), the National Interfaith Council of South Africa (NICSA), Gauteng Province Social Development, HWPL and IWPG (International Women’s Peace Group) under the UN ECOSOC, defined such a program as a crime and stressed legal responsibility stipulated in the national law.

Reverend Thamsanqa Mvambo, President of the NICSA, said, “This is a terrible outrage that such people who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ would act in this way using the weapons of the devil against fellow Christians. The CCK and Conversion Pastors should repent immediately.”

“I ask the CCK and pastors who practice and profit from the conversion programmes to immediately and permanently cease such activities. We also call on the lawmakers in the Republic of Korea to make a law prohibiting the coercive conversion programmes and holding pastors who profit from this unaccountable action,” he added.

“My parents now say that they will take me to the conversion program in this September. They will take my freedom of thought, freedom of religion and social life away. Who’s made my parents like this?” the aforementioned anonymous woman raised her voice to denounce the forced conversion.

At the seminar, an official letter representing the National Interfaith Council of South Africa to the CCK was written and inter-religious cooperation with an association of religious leaders for ending human rights violations caused by the coercive conversion program was discussed.