South Korea may ban missionary work in Middle East

By September 1, 2009

South Korea (MNN) — The government of South Korea may be curtailing missionary work in the Middle East.

According to reports, safety concerns are allegedly prompting South Korea to ban their citizens from entering Middle Eastern nations for missionary work. The move comes as an increasing number of South Korean tourists as well as missionaries become targets of terrorism in the region.

However, Glenn Penner with Voice of the Martyrs-Canada says South Korean Christians are concerned. "As they hear about these possible restrictions, there are concerns being raised. Such a travel ban would violate rights such as freedom of religion and freedom of movement."

The government is under pressure, "especially from Middle Eastern governments," says Penner. "They're saying, 'Your people are too evangelistic. They're causing problems. Please put a travel ban on allowing your people to come to our countries for evangelistic work.'"

Two recent cases seem to be prompting the ban debate. Two years ago South Korean Christians were kidnapped by the Taliban while working in Afghanistan. Also, in June a North Korean nurse was murdered in Yemen.

Penner says since these tragedies, South Korean Christians have received more training to help them as they go in to high risk areas.

Having said all that," Penner adds, "it is never safe to follow Jesus, and we can't make it safe to follow Jesus. Following Christ always entails carrying our cross. That does mean a willingness perhaps even to die and to sacrifice for the sake of Christ with even our lives, if need be."

While this could slow the spread of the Gospel, "I think it's likely that they will find creative ways of getting into these countries. When people have the call of God upon their lives, sometimes you do have to make a decision between whether you're going to obey your government or whether you're going to obey Christ," Penner says.

The decision isn't final yet. He says, "There are still consultations going on between the Ministry of Justice and the National Intelligence Service. So there's certainly more discussions going on. Pray for South Korean Christians and church leaders as they interact with their governments."

Penner is also asking people to support VOM-Canada. "We do an awful lot of work on radio broadcasts and also providing literature to evangelists — mostly Middle Eastern evangelists who are spreading the Gospel."

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