Terrorism: The Persecution Against Human Dignity and God

By: Mincheol Kim

March 2, 2015

Responding to: Violent Extremism, Integral Development, and Catholic Social Thought

Terrorism: The Persecution Against Human Dignity and God

Last January, I had a chance to go on a pilgrimage visiting the holy lands around the city of Nagasaki, Japan, which is known not just for the tragedy of the atomic bombing during World War II, but also for the historic sites related to Japanese church history. I realized that the history of the early church of Japan is that of martyrdom, as we can see in the cases of other missionary churches throughout the history of Christianity. Of the many places that I visited, a seaside village named Sotome where Christians hid from persecution, still lingers in my mind. At Sotome, I saw the monumental stone of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence which depicts the martyrdom, apostasy, and torture that occurred in the village in the seventeenth century. The author’s quote carved on it seemed to pierce my heart: “Lord, humans are in such grief, while the sea is too brilliantly blue.”

As I reflect on this brutal anguish, it does not seem to remain only in the past tense: the "persecution," or systematic violence along with the pain it causes, continues today. The international society shudders at the sheer acts of evil inflicted by terrorist groups such as ISIS (the Islamic State), Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, etc. Among the many attacks that have happened recently, I would like to mention the one committed  by ISIS against Goto Kenji, a Japanese journalist who went to the ISIS stronghold in Syria to save his friend. As I was in Japan during that period I remember vividly how the whole society of Japan sincerely cared for him and prayed for his safe return. The hope, however, was shattered after the horrible video of his beheading had been publicized online by the group. They claimed that it was intended as a warning against the Japanese government, who they think supports an unjust war in Syria led by the United States. Whatever purpose they claim to have, they killed in a heinous way a rigorous peace-lover, a veteran journalist who cared for the children of the war-stricken region, and the loving father of three children. I would never expect to see this act from people who consider themselves ‘religious’ in the twenty-first century.

You may rightly question the connection I make above between religious persecution and the sheer violence of terrorism today for the difference of ages and contexts. Moreover, when we look up the word "terrorism" in the dictionary, it is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” That might make us unjustified to simply see religious persecution as a kind of terrorism, because the religion itself doesn’t necessarily have to do with a political goal, although in many cases it does. Here I don’t mean to discuss the sociology of religion, but I’d like to show how inhumane humans can become to get their own will done. Regardless of the self-claimed goals, both the persecution and terrorism aforementioned are not just crimes where there are perpetrators on the one side, and victims on the other; it’s the crime of human beings against themselves. In other words, it’s human dignity, and eventually God that is persecuted.

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