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Conservative Religious Leaders Worry About Liberals’ Move

Conservative Religious Leaders Worry About Liberals’ Move

Posted July. 02, 2008 08:19,   


Liberal religious groups have begun to come to the forefront of the anti-U.S. beef import protests. In response, conservative religious leaders are criticizing their liberal counterparts, showing the possibility of internal conflict.

Starting with the large-scale mass hosted by the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice on Sunday, liberal Christian and Buddhist groups will also hold their own religious services in Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall this week.

According to police, the Korea National Council of Churches will hold a prayer service in Seoul Plaza Thursday afternoon and Buddhist groups including Lotus World and the Buddhist Environmental Solidarity will hold a Buddhist service at the same location Friday afternoon.

Police suspect that the government’s recent aggressive crackdown and the arrest of the People’s Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease leaders prompted liberal religious groups to move.

Since late June, police have been responding with water cannons and police sticks to protestors’ illegal activities, as protests turned violent.

A police source said, “Judging from the current situation that the association can no longer proceed with the protests, liberal religious groups that are relatively free from police crackdown have come forward.”

Religious events do not need permission and police cannot block them.

Blocking roads and street marching after the events are illegal but as the hosts are religious groups, police cannot prevent them from doing so.

Police are somewhat relieved that with the start of the priests’ service, violent protests have turned peaceful.

A police source said, “We cannot treat those marching the street after religious events like protestors. As of now, we can only block the events hosted by the association.”

In response, conservative religious groups decided to act, saying, “Shrinking violent protests can revive.”

The Prayer Union for the President created on June 27 designated a special fasting period for the president from July 2 to July 6 and will host a prayer service at Seoul station at 3 p.m. on July 19.

Jangsan, head priest of Daegak Buddhist Temple in Seoul, said,” It does not seem genuine that those who have remained silent for a while come to the forefront. It is undesirable for the religious circle to aggravate the situation at a time when society is divided by left and right.”

A pastor also commented, “When I went to the mass, I thought the priests could revive violent protests again. They should not encourage protestors’ violence.”

In response, Jiseon, former co-chair of Lotus World, said, “It is not desirable that religious leaders participate in politics but we should not forget that the government triggered the candlelight protests.”

turtle@donga.com sukim@donga.com