Heart Rending Accounts of Korean Abductees

Reblogged from David Alton’s Blog

Testimonies Given At Westminster

The human consequences of the Korean War still reverberate – sixty years after the armistice was agreed. This week I encountered some of those consequences when I met with two of the families of Korean War abductees and the pain of separation was still quite evident – even after the passage of so much time. A separate group came to describe a further abduction which occurred in 1969 and a son decsribed how he has been separated from his father ever since. They were at Westminster to give their heart rending testimonies.

Lee Mi-il’s father, Lee Seong-hwan was one of an estimated 100,000 people who were abducted by the North Koreans during the course of hostilities and never allowed to return to their families.

Mr. Lee and his family had been trapped in their apartment after the North Koreans captured Seoul and blew up the Han River bridge.

On September 4th 1950 a North Korean major came for Mr.Lee, accused him of giving money to those fighting the Communists, and took him away. His wife, who was heavily pregnant with their second child, and is now in her nineties, has never seen him again or heard any news about his fate.

She has spent a lifetime waiting for him to return.

Her daughter says: “My mother says she has given up hope of seeing him before she dies, but I know she still has hope in her heart.” His daughter adds “I have promised that I will not stop my journey to find him until the end of time.”

Mr. Lee’s story, and that of his wife and daughter, is one of several testimonies contained in a short book with the well-chosen title “Ongoing Tragedy”.

The day after I met Lee Mi-I, I met Hwang In-cheol, the son of another abductee – Hwang Won. His father was abducted sixteen years after the Korean War, in December 1969. His father worked as a programme director at Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and was travelling on an internal domestic Korean Airlines flight from Gangneung to Seoul. North Korean hijacked the plane and 39 of the passengers were repatriated 66 days later. Another 11 were never returned, including Hwang’s father.

The International Red Cross tried to open lines of contact but North Korea simply said it was impossible to say whether the abductees were alive or not. Then in 2011 Pyongyang claimed that the abductees were there through their own free will. An escapee has confirmed that he has seen Hwang’s father alive. Hwang has tried to get his own Government in Seoul to raise his father’s case but says they have failed to do so – and although he has written to the North Korean authorities on three occasions he has had no reply. The last time he saw his father he was just two years of age.

Cases like Hwang’s and Lee’s graphically illustrate that walls have not only been built which separate a nation but walls have been erected within families and communities separating kith and kin; leaving a bitter legacy which both sides should address by documenting the stories of abductees, establishing as much information as can be ascertained, and enabling those who have experienced the visceral pain of separation to find some solace and some closure. If North Korea wanted to send a signal that it understands the pain of human separation it would respond to Mr. Hwang’s requests and allow Mrs. Lee to end her days knowing what happened to her husband.

Continued Inaction, Continued Killings: The Cost of Lies and Impunity

On Sunday October 28, 2012 a church in Nigeria was bombed. At least ten Christians died and over a hundred were injured. Given the time difference, right about the time that we in America were getting up and going to church, the Christians in Kaduna were counting their wounded and burying their dead.

Since 2010, when the Boko Haram re-emerged with Al Qaeda tactics and training, there have been over 275 discrete attacks against the Christian community in Nigeria. These attacks were thought out, requiring planning, moving men and materiel into position and execution. At the current rate, we will most likely break the 300 mark before the end of 2012. That means that for the last three years Christians have been attacked on average once every four days. At last count there have been at least 25 attacks on churches in 2012. That is an attack on a church at least every other week this year. Please keep in mind that these number do not include the anti-Christian mob violence in April 2011 which destroyed over 700 churches and thousands of Christian homes and businesses.

This most recent attack was against St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kaduna and the story is heartrendingly familiar to Jubilee Campaign and all who have been following the attacks in Nigeria this year. Once again, a vehicle was packed with explosives and rammed into a church before the suicide bomber detonated, killing 10 and wounding many more. This story is virtually identical to nearly every other church bombing we have reported on this year, and there is no end in sight.

Now think about that for a moment. It has been almost two years since the first massive church attacks took place in Nigeria in Christmas of 2010. There have been at least 25 attacks on churches this year, and there is no end in sight. How can this be?

Several months ago, the US State Department publicly declared that Boko Haram did not deserve the label of terrorist. They decided that attacking innocent civilians, bombing churches, and calling for jihad against the West was not a big enough deal to disturb the narrative the administration was busy fabricating for US domestic consumption, which is that terrorism was something of the past. That lie allowed Boko Haram to keep on killing Christians and has made the US complicit in the air of impunity that rules Nigeria.

What makes this all so horrifically pointless is that with the recent deaths of four Americans including a US Ambassador, that narrative has been shown to be utterly false. As an American I feel the outrage that the current Administration allowed 4 men to die in order to prop up a political agenda. But as a Christian my grief, and my outrage grows to encompass the thousands of Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, and throughout the Muslim world, whose deaths have been ignored, downplayed or outright denied. Make no mistake, these hundreds of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been sacrificed to this same political agenda. The fact that this agenda has just failed in rather spectacular fashion is cold comfort to those who have buried fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children.

The truth is out now. Terrorism is alive and well, and Islamic extremist groups continue to claim thousands of victims a year. Some of those victims are Americans, but we cannot forget the many, many more victims who are not. Regardless of what happens in the election, America needs to wake up and realize that the enemies of freedom are alive and well, and the Church needs to cry out for those of her members who on the front lines of this conflict.

As this Sunday, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church draws nearer, we urge you to keep Nigeria in your prayers.

Lord Save Your People!

Jubilee Campaign Engages the International Criminal Court at The Hague

In May 2012, Jubilee Campaign undertook an advocacy visit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands. This trip was a follow up to the first visit in 2011 as well as Jubilee’s participation in the ICC’s meetings at the United Nations in December 2011.

Jubilee Campaign’s delegation met with the ICC to present our objections to five troubling mischaracterizations contained within the Nigeria Section of the Office of the Prosecutor’s Preliminary Examination Report to the Assembly of States Parties.  The misplaced emphasis of the ICC Preliminary Examination Report had dismayed victims of violence, especially in Plateau State and those forced to flee violence-prone Northern States.

The delegation included Executive Director Ann Buwalda (US); lawyers Emmanuel Ogebe (US), Gregory Lar (Nigeria); and Netherlands directors Peter Bronsveld and Deborah Voordewind. Jubilee made it clear to the preliminary examinations officers that the ICC Prosecutor’s report failed to accurately portray incidents and causes.  Instead, the report alarmed victims who had high expectations in the ICC’s first publicly released report regarding its lengthy preliminary investigation into Nigerian violence.

Jubilee Campaign pointed out that the illustrations contained within the ICC Report did not accurately reflect the nature or the causes of the violence which the ICC has been examining since 2004.  The delegation told the ICC, “By singling out ‘the Middle-Belt states’ and ‘the Plateau State specifically’ as experiencing ‘recurrent clashes,’ the impression is to downplay if not utterly disregard the violence occurring within any of the northern states.  The office of the prosecutor had failed to mention even one northern state or specific incident despite the overwhelming statistics of incidents occurring in 12 states in the north of the country in 2012 that took hundreds of lives.”

The term “clash” used by the prosecutor’s report is also problematic in that it implies a moral equivalence between sides, and Jubilee objected to this description in light of the numerous documented attacks at night while victims were asleep or otherwise utterly defenseless. “Clash” does not accurately describe the cold-blooded massacre of 2- and 3-year old children as has occurred in Plateau state.

Providing evidence from its interviews and other reliable sources, Jubilee also told the ICC that “The report conceals the source of the violence by implying that the primary reason violent ‘clashes’ have occurred in Nigeria is due to divisions between ‘indigene’ and ‘settler’ communities and ethnic differences, rather than any other causes such as the religious motivated attacks of Boko Haram.”  Nigeria’s federal constitution makes this distinction between indigenous citizens and those who have settled into areas, and the Plateau State in particular has not only given equal parliamentary representation but in certain areas even greater representation to communities viewed as “settler.”  The implication that the cause of the violence is due to this distinction as a policy of the state ignores the Constitution of Nigeria and the reality within Plateau State.

The omissions and distortions contained within the ICC preliminary report may result from its restrictive interpretation that the preliminary examinations office cannot directly meet with state government officials.  During Jubilee Campaign’s July 2011 meeting with the ICC in The Hague, their policy not to meet with state government stakeholders was highlighted.  The subsequent December 2011 prosecutor’s report illustrates how an inquiry limited to only the federal government’s information about the violence under review distorts the facts.

At the UN in December 2011, Jubilee co-signed a letter to the Chief Prosecutor on this issue and said, “We are US- based groups focused on global human rights issues especially in Africa. Recently, we learned that while non-governmental organizations such as ours have access to share information with the Office of the Prosecutor, local officials in cities where there is conflict cannot do so without going through federal or central authorities.  We find this situation absurd and unfair if inquiries are to be properly conducted. This situation is best illustrated by the recent crisis in Libya. If a commander of a Libyan platoon had wanted to share information on crimes against humanity with the OTP, it would be counterintuitive for him to be required to first obtain permission from the indicted President Qaddafi before meeting with the court. The second concern is, of course, that for any legal system to be fair and just must by definition treat all parties equally. This is the essence of the administration of justice. Accordingly, we feel that it is manifestly unjust for any party to have limited access or denied access to the Prosecutor who is investigating matters that occur within their purview. We urge you to review your internal processes and procedures to allow equal access. State officials have not been engaged, consulted or invited to provide information for the preliminary investigation.”

While local officials confirmed to us before our May visit that they have still not been consulted by anyone from the ICC, Jubilee hopes that with the impending change in leadership at the ICC in June, these inequities can be redressed.

Jubilee Campaign’s analysis concluded, “Therefore, in view of the stated objections, we implore the Office of the Prosecutor to reword its interim report so that violence in the twelve northern most states is properly acknowledged; that the primal cause of the on-going violence in the northern states of Nigeria is acknowledged as being religiously-motivated, not ethnic tensions; that the Boko Haram be mentioned as an actor in the on-going violence across the northern states; that the post-election violence be better represented as occurring in the northern states, not the south; and that the issue of federal and state court jurisdiction in Nigeria be addressed and an acknowledgement of the efforts of both the federal and the Plateau State governments in prosecutions be made.” Any future report from the ICC prosecutor’s office must reflect the reality from all stakeholders, including victims and the state governments where the crimes occurred.

Jubilee is appreciative of the ICC’s attentiveness and kind reception and looks forward to further future engagement on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Rim Village Attacked As The U.S. Government Continues in Denial

On April 24, Rim Village was attacked by Muslims leaving five dead and two wounded. Rim village is named for its place on the rim of the large plateau for which Plateau State is named. It is on the Jos-Abuja road, and the Jubilee Campaign team passed through it four times during our trip to Nigeria early this February. The pictures we received in connection with this update are too graphic to show you, but we can tell you that these Christians died in their houses, resting on their beds. Some of the slain appear to have been preparing food for their children, who were also butchered.

Our contacts in this village are strong enough that within 24 hours we received the names of the dead and wounded. We ask that you please remember the families of the dead in prayer.
The Martyrs: Rose Ralyop, Dinatu Danbwarang, Simi Joseph, Christiana Samuel, & Japhet Samuel.

Please also pray for the wounded that they will recover physically as well as spiritually. Note from the family names that Patience lost her mother, and Jenipher lost her mother and brother.
The Suffering: Jenipher Samuel & Patience Joseph

To us at Jubilee Campaign, this story serves to illustrate the difference between the roles of the Christian and the Muslim communities in this conflict. Unfortunately, Westerners tend to presume that both sides are equally guilty in conflicts like these. This concept is called moral equivalency and more and more I am convinced that it is a lie used by evil to beget more evil.

These Christians had nothing against Muslims. They had not attacked anyone. They were sitting peacefully in their homes, unaware that death was coming for them. Their only crime was to be Christian, and to be near a major highway giving the killers easy access to their village. In the future, I am sure that the Christians in this area will set guards. If Muslims come to kill them again, they will defend their homes and families and some of the Muslim attackers may die.

The concept of Moral Equivalency, which is clearly one of the core dogmas of the U.S. State Department, will claim that the deaths of the Muslim attackers are in some way equivalent to the deaths of these innocents who died in their homes!

It makes me ashamed to be an American to say this, but the U.S. State Department has denied the self-evident fact that this conflict is religious, as they have done in other conflicts between radical Muslims and their victims. They have asserted that the problem is poverty and their self-proclaimed intent is to give millions of U.S. aid money into the hands of the very Muslim communal leaders who are fostering this strategy of hate. Meanwhile, they have sabotaged every effort by the Government of Nigeria, or the Christians living in the Middle Belt to accurately and effectively address this violence.

I want to be clear, the looming religious war with genocidal overtones which will splinter Nigeria, destabilizing West Africa, and polarize the continent along religious lines is not inevitable. Yet every day that our nation continues on this foolish and false policy of denial, empowering the aggressors and punishing the victims, we make war and even genocide that much more likely. I pray that we recognize our errors soon and change course before it is too late.

Recognizing Reality: The Slaughter of Nigerian Christians is Religious

Jubilee Campaign and other human rights groups gravely concerned with the US State Department’s ill-informed statements

A group of human rights and religious liberty organizations in Washington condemn the barbaric multi-city Easter Sunday bombings in Kaduna and Plateau state that claimed dozens of lives. Attacks on northern and central Nigeria’s Christian community come as no surprise in light of Boko Haram’s genocidal declarations to kill Christians in the North, yet sadly they were avoidable. Despite the fact that the world has been on notice about religiously motivated terrorism in Nigeria due to sustained terrorist activity occurring against perceived “Western” concepts including churches, schools and even the United Nations, governments at home and abroad have largely ignored or underestimated the growing problem of interreligious strife and terrorism within Nigeria.

In the past few years violent groups like Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the equally deadly multi-city Christmas church bombings, have increased attacks on Christians as a way of destabilizing the country. As US officials continue to ignore the threat to religious liberty posed by religiously motivated terrorism within Nigeria we should expect more gloomy religious holidays to threaten the country’s fragile democracy as well as our own national security.

We particularly denounce the Assistant Secretary for Africa, Ambassador Johnnie Carson’s ill-informed and exceedingly insensitive remarks that the crisis in Nigeria is not “religious.” How the senseless serial killings of innocent worshippers during church services by a group whose publicly stated mission is to islamize the nation and abolish democracy can be anything but religious is to willfully blind oneself to objective reality. It goes against all available evidence and even the pleas of the Nigerian government.

It is deplorable that the US has neither offered humanitarian assistance nor pressed the Government of Nigeria to provide compensation to the hundreds of families who lost loved ones in Nigeria’s post-election violence that targeted faith communities in 12 states. Rather one year later, victims remain without succour while the US glosses over the massive human losses sustained during the 2011 elections.

We believe that the US should be more forthright in its assessment of the facts. With the largest political section in Africa, it is bewildering that there is such a huge disconnect between the realities on the ground and the conclusions coming out of the US Department of State. The US Department of State must declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization and place the Boko Haram and related organizations on its terrorist list. International travel by anyone associated with Boko Haram must be banned.

Nigeria is today closer to a civil war along religious lines than ever before in its history. The US government cannot afford to be asleep at the wheel as Africa’s most important country totters on the verge of implosion.