Rev. Patrick Augustine writes An Open Letter to Talibans and Islamic Community on Korean hostages.


To Leaders of Talibans and the Islamic Community:

The kidnapping of the 23 South Korean citizens has been a very disgraceful and painful story in a land where Afghan hospitality is a cherished tradition. Twenty-three young persons came from South Korea to your land with a noble mission to help the suffering people of Afghanistan. The world is well aware of more than three decades of ongoing suffering caused by war and political unrest in your land. Many of us, as citizens of the global community, care to help Afghan people. I personally have experienced the Afghan hospitality. I was born and raised in Pakistan and served as a priest in Rawalpindi and Islamabad in Pakistan. Now I serve as an Imam of a Christian Church in the USA. I personally have helped and provided for the Afghan Islamic community to worship in our church parish hall. Christians in New York city learned over the Radio that the Coalition Forces had bombed a mosque in Qarhabah in Afghanistan. They collected money to build a mosque and sent their priest on February 14, 2003 from New York to Afghanistan for the rededication of the mosque. Many churches in the West have provided welcome and services to Muslims in their neighborhoods. You must wonder why Christians come and help Muslims or other communities around the world. Let me share with you that Christians do not come with the intentions of converting Muslims to Christianity. This is true, although, Islam and Christianity both are evangelical religions, who give invitation to the other to embrace the truth. "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Sura 2:256) In the Christian faith there must not be any coercion used but Jesus Christ said to his followers: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39) and "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5: 16). The Koreans who came to Afghanistan had one intention: To alleviate the suffering of Afghan people. It is the teaching of Jesus Christ, for whom you have the highest reverence in the Holy Qur'an, which compels them to serve their neighbors in need anywhere on this planet. If you kill all twenty three Korean hostages, I firmly believe as followers of the teaching of Jesus Christ they shall send more people to help Afghan people. Jesus Christ does not teach revenge but rather love for all people of all colors, races, religions and ethnicities. While, you are killing and keeping these innocent Korean hostages in your custody, there are millions of Christians in Korea and around of the world, who are praying that God Almighty shall show you the way to love and not shed the blood of innocent people. These are not soldiers who have attacked you, but rather they came to help Afghan people. The hostages themselves are praying for Almighty God's mercy as they remember what Jesus Christ has taught them: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11). The kindness of Afghans towards their guests is legendary. These Koreans are your guests. The Holy Qur'an urges you to make the guest feel comfortable and welcome: "Allah is kind and loves kindness in all matters" (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). There is a great teaching on hospitality in the Holy Quran. "Has the story reached you of the honored guests of Ibrahim? Behold, they entered his presence and said: "Peace!" He said: "Peace" (and thought: These seem) unusual people." "Then he turned quickly to his household, brought out a fattened calf, and placed it before them. He said: "Will you not eat?" (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 24-27). Koreans came with a message of peace to help the poor and the needy in your country. Your tradition has always been generous to your guest in your land. Hear the cry of a father Seo Jung-bae, 59 years old, whose daughter and son are in your captivity. He has made an appeal to you: "Please, please send my children back so I can hold them in my arms. Our families are the same. Your family is precious, so is mine." By your own actions you are contradicting the teaching of Holy Qur'an and centuries old tradition of to honor and to protect your guests. I humbly appeal to you and to the leaders of the Islamic community to help to release the Korean hostages and spare their lives. Let hatred not destroy our faith communities. May we no more divide and labor each other with hatred and violence. We must combine our forces to work for peace and justice for the prosperity of the Afghan people. Let us be the harbingers of hope. The God of the Holy Bible and Holy Qur'an is the God of mercy and hope. With this hope, we Muslims and Christians can together plan and sow the seeds of hope to cultivate the culture of peace. May I invite my Muslims brothers and sisters to not let prejudice and hate overcome the deeds of charity and goodness. The Almighty God we worship is a God of mercy and forgiveness and our profession of faith is that "God is Great" and "God is love." Let us engage with each other to work together for peace, building bridges, reconciliation and to offer the balm of healing for the wounded. Let us learn to embrace each other. I pray that the Islamic religious scholars and people of good will in the Islamic world shall use their good offices for the release of innocent Koreans who reached out to the people of Afghanistan with common bonds of affection of brotherhood and sisterhood in the name of humanity. May God Almighty's/Allah's name be praised, hallowed and blessed. Let there be peace on earth. Salaam, Peace! Sincerely yours, The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin Canon and Commissary to the Archbishop of Sudan in the USA August 4, 2007.

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