Shincheonji churches minority religious group in south korea
Lee Man-hee, the founder and leader of the Shincheonji church, holding a news conference last week in South Korea. PHOTO/NYTIMES

NGOs in the UN and Religious Leaders Raise Voices against Repression and Discrimination on a Minority Religious Group in South Korea.

Rising voices for a Minority Religious Group in South Korea: Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, there is a growing concern that the discrimination and hatred against minorities around the world are rampant. 

Although people who are discriminated based on their ethnicities and nationalities are covered in the media, people who are discriminated based on their religious identities often go unnoticed. 

Justice, Human rights NGOs and religious communities around the world are raising their voices on to stop the oppression, infringing the religious freedom of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a minority religious group in South Korea, and human rights violations against Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL).

On June 18, 11 NGOs, including European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted a report for ‘annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ to the UN Secretary-General at the 44th session in the UN Assembly Human Rights Council. The report is titled “scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.”

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The report to the UN said “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others overstate appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the disease outbreaks.”

Furthermore “the government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainstream Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.

The report also stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.” 

 “In South Korea, the members of the minority religious group, Shincheonji Church of Jesus—labeled “heretical” by fundamentalist conservative Christian organization —are facing a probe after a congregation became the center of the country’s biggest outbreak in February,” reported in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

This is one of the Shincheonji members
This is one of the Shincheonji members.

Religious communities are writing letters to urge the government to stop revoking the corporate registration of Shincheonji and HWPL and the differential treatment between religious groups affiliated with major denominations and Shincheonji Church.

Simon Lokodo, minister of Ugandan Ethics & Integrity, said, “the chairman of Shincheonji, Mr Lee, announced the church would cooperate with the government and they conformed the direction of government. Even he responded to the government’s action to provide a list of all the members of Shincheonji, including overseas members not related to Korea’s COVID-19”. 

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Addressing the irrational and discriminative measures in Korea, he continued, “Recovered Shincheonji members from COVID-19 made a plasma donation that is equivalent to 830 million US dollars for the development of vaccines. They are trying to help the government.”

This is one of the Shincheonji members2
A member of the Minority Religious Group being treated in the hospital.

Also, on the news of the cancellation of corporate registration of HWPL, a Peace group represented by Mr Lee, he added, “I humbly pray that you place our concern to encourage the government of Korea not to close the activities. And operations of HWPL as to the best of my knowledge it is the world’s uniting factor in achieving world peace and alliance of religions.”

Swami Hindu Spiritual Head of Arya Samaj in South Africa, said, “I implore the South Korean Government and other relevant authorities to immediately drop all charges and lawsuits and rather support the efforts of the Shincheonji Church in encouraging other recoverees to donate their plasma. Let’s unite and overcome this huge problem we are facing.” 

Author: Kaliro Alex