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[Editorial] No Religious Harmony, No National Unity

Posted August. 28, 2008 08:41,   


An estimated 60,000 Buddhists took to the streets yesterday against the religious bias of the Lee administration. The rally, however, ended peacefully without conflict. Pickets around the rally site read anti-administration slogans such as demands for apologies from the president and police commissioner. This is the first time for Buddhists to rally versus the government, raising serious fears.

Prior to the rally, President Lee said, “Public servants should not discriminate against a particular religion. This will harm national harmony.” The very next day, however, the children`s choir of Christian Broadcasting Service sang at a dinner for visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao. This event aroused controversy in the presidential office. Without strict and unbiased enforcement of the separation of state and church, band-aid measures like the firing of the police commissioner or the president’s apologetic comments apparently cannot heal the wounds.

Korea is unique in the world in that Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists have maintained a peaceful balance in the number of congregations. Buddhist leaders sent congratulatory messages on Christmas Day and Christian leaders did the same on Buddha`s Birthday. It was beautiful. Recently, however, a well-known pastor openly disparaged Buddhism. The desire for respect from other religions requires respect for other faiths.

Christian NGO, a body of Protestant pastors, said, “We reflect our lack of harmony with other religions.” Should conscientious religious leaders and followers maintain this attitude, this religious friction will surely be cured.

Still, the plea by certain Buddhist leaders for immunity for socialist fugitives hiding in the Buddhist temple of Jogye in Seoul is unacceptable. The fugitives organized illegal and violent protests against American beef imports and are simply using the temple as a haven from authorities.

The Korean Peninsula is already divided. If the southern half is further separated along religious lines, it will pose a grave threat to our future. The government should sincerely apologize for its past religious bias and act to maintain religious neutrality.