NGOs in association with the United Nations and religious communities in the globe are raising their voices on the need to correct inappropriate persecution and human rights violation against a religious group in South Korea named Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
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.”
By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, 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 appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”
“The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.
The report 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.”
Referring to recent remarks of Prime Minister of India as well as the case of Shincheonji Church and other cases of religious discrimination in India, Pakistan and Cambodia due to COVID-19, the Freelance journalist, Ms. Sonia Sarkar, said in her research essay published in the world’s leading medical journal BMJ (British Medical Journal), “As covid-19 takes hold worldwide, fear is fueling already entrenched religious hatred and hindering public health.”
Religious communities initiated to issue statements to advocate improvements in the unequal treatment against Shincheonji.
“Although it is true that Shincheonji did not respond well to COVID-19 at first, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church already apologized, and I think it is unfair to investigate too much only in Shincheonji despite the fact that other churches now have COVID-19 confirmed,” said Ven. Hyewon, a Representative of the Republic of Korea of World Buddhist Summit
“Efforts of Shincheonji Church to donate plasma is commendable. Such efforts deserve respect and a bow of acceptance of such assistance rather than becoming victims of lawsuits and bureaucratic torture. I humbly urge korean Statutory bodies to take prudent actions amidst this pandemic,” said Mr. Preetam Singh Shokar, Managing Director of HCI SVCC (High Commission of India Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre) Suva Fiji and Former Head Priest of Samabula Sikh Temple.
Swami Vedanand Saraswati, a Spiritual Head of Arya Samaj South Africa said, “I firmly believe that the Chairman Lee of HWPL, a man of great integrity, has done and continues to do all in his power to aid in fighting against the COVID-19 virus, and assist the relevant authorities where possible. As a Hindu Spiritual Leader in South Africa, 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.”
Recently, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus encouraged the members who recovered from the COVID-19 to voluntarily join in donation of plasma. Around 4,000 recovered members said they are willing to donate plasma for research on a new treatment.
He said that there has been political motives in persecution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus and HWPL (a peace NGO) by “using us (Shincheonji), the victims of COVID-19, as their scapegoat in order to hide their own faults.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”