US, September 29, 2014: It remains a mystery as to why, and how, thousands of Muslims––some of them women too––from the West, have covered such a long distance to join ISIS to fight war in Syria and Iraq, when we hardly find any example of community members from the US, UK, France etc. joining any war against Israel, or against NATO-led forces. For Muslims––cutting across sectarian lines––a war against the Jewish state should have been much more holier than taking up arms against Assad and al-Maliki, as it had occupied Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, the third holiest place after Mecca and Medina. This is so in spite of the fact that attacks by Israel on Arabs always evoke a lot of anger and street protests in Paris, London, New York etc.
Hardly any Muslim from the US and Europe, came to Iraq in 1991 and 2003 to fight against the American-led NATO attacks, even though there was a strong anti-American feeling in the entire Muslim world. Those who did show eagerness to fight for Iraq were from the Muslim countries and not the West.
Earlier in 1980s Muslim youths from around three dozen countries did converge to Afghanistan to fight against the Communist Soviet Union. Almost all of them who volunteered to fight the Communist regime in Kabul were from the Muslim world though the United States did provide material and moral support to these warriors. Many of the foreign fighters stayed there to later wage war against the West. Osama Bin Laden was one of them so was Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The big question is why is there so much enthusiasm among the fighters from the West, to go for what the international Press wrongly dub, ‘jihad’ in Syria and Iraq and not against Israel or its western allies?
When travelling, especially for the Muslims in the West, is so difficult how is it that such a large number of them from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia etc. landed up in the war-zone of Levant and Iraq. Several of them who went thousands of kilometres to be in the battlefield are White converts to Islam. Who encouraged, motivated, financed and facilitated these youths to go to the strange land?. Most of them are actually Facebook Revolutionaries with hardly any military training and any knowledge about the ground reality. Why the western intelligence and security agencies failed to make distinction between ‘tourists’ and ‘terrorists’ and, in a way, let these youths go there?
If India’s ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, and the then defence minister George Fernandes had to undergo strict security check and the country’s ambassadors to the United States, Meera Shankar, and the United Nations, Hardeep Puri, had to undergo so much harassment, while travelling within the US, for wearing sari and turban respectively, why is it that nothing could be known about the movement of so many youths to the West Asia?
The phenomenon of volunteers from one, or more country going to other to join war is not new. One finds its example in Holy Crusades between 11th and 13th century. English poet Lord Byron went to fight Greek War of Independence against Ottoman rule in 1830-31. The Spanish Civil War of 1930s drew volunteers from several European and South American countries. Novelist George Orwell was one among them.
Young comrades in the heydays of Communism would cross oceans and seas to wage war in the far away land against the capitalists. Che Guevera, an Argentine-born doctor is still considered as a hero in many parts of Latin America as he fought in three different continents against imperialism. He took part in Guatemalan struggle against US-backed capitalist; with Fidel Castro helped bring about Cuban Revolution in 1960, fought in Congo in Africa and was caught and executed in Bolivia in South America by the US-backed regime.
At the height of Sikh militancy in Punjab a reputed Indian magazine carried a story as to how a few Hindu youths embraced Sikhism and became militants and earned, what they call martyrdom, at the hands of the security forces.
Thus, ISIS is not the first outfit which comprises international warriors who are fighting in distant battlegrounds. But it is different in other ways. Its volunteers have misunderstood ‘jihad’ as they have been brainwashed and indoctrinated by those very western powers, who want to get their countries rid of radical elements.
Take the example of Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf have hardly anything to do with Islam in their own life. But in a bid to get their country rid of radical elements they encouraged them to fight war in Kashmir and Afghanistan and get killed. In the process these leaders also wanted to achieve what is called the strategic depth for Pakistan.
Similarly Saudi Arabia, at least in the initial years, tried to export the hot-heads from their own country to Syria as the ruling royal family was apprehensive of them. Checking the Iranian influence was also inherent in such move. So they wanted to hit two birds with one stone. However, it is other thing that ISIS started challenging the royal family of Riyadh too.
But apart from money the Saudis––or Qataris––alone do not have the wherewithal to organize and orchestrate such a prolong war. For that they had to rely on the same oncologists––Barack Obama, David Cameron and company––who are now calling ISIS a cancer. The truth is that these doctors instead of diagnosing and treating the disease on time help spread the virus.
While George Bush-II devastated Iraq and Afghanistan the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2009 supervised the systematic destruction of Syria and Libya. No doubt both Syria and Libya have dictators ruling the country and a lot of people were against them, yet the opposition within were not as powerful as to overthrow Bashaar al-Assad or Maummar Gaddafi on their own.
The surprise aspect is that though there are so many oncologists around yet the cancer of ISIS spread within no time. Till the start of 2014 hardly anyone knew about it. The news of its split from al-Qaeda came in February. The West was excited as in the process al-Qaida got weakened. This was naturally their main objective.
But by June the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria(ISIS) managed to virtually overrun the entire central Iraq threatening the very existence of the country.
The another related question is: as to how is it that the ISIS, a splintered group led by a former Baathist soldier, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, succeed in such a short time when no other terrorist outfit, including the much powerful, organized and well spread al-Qaeda could achieve.
Barack Obama is the head of a non-cricket playing country. But he knows that cancer can now be detected at the early stage and cured. Yuvraj Singh got treated in the United States itself. He came back after a few months to play some good innings.
About a quarter century back Australian all-rounder Simon O’ Donnell too was diagonized cancer. He was cured and took to the field to hit the fastest One-Day 50––in just 18 balls. It took six long years for a Sri Lankan batsman, Sanath Jayasuria to break the record.
So now cancer is not the disease which can not be cured, Dr Obama. There is no need to lament. The problem is that it is difficult to treat when the virus has deliberately been injected into the body by the oncologists themselves.
The fact is that in the name of aerial bombardment the United States and its Arab and western allies are further aggravating the disease as they are not interested in treating the patient.
Over 500 prayer vigils held on 2nd anniversary of pastor Saeed’s imprisonment; Greg Laurie’s church joins riverside vigil
Iran, September 28, 2014: More than 500 prayer vigils were held around the world this week, including one in which pastor Greg Laurie’s Harvest church participated in California, to mark the two-year anniversary of when pastor Saeed Abedini was arrested by Iranian officials for his Christian faith.
The vigils, held in 33 countries and territories, called on people to pray for Abedini’s safe release and urge their governments to act on his behalf.
The Boise, Idaho-based minister is serving out a “virtual death sentence” of eight years in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, read a statement by the Riverside Residents Rally held at Riverside City Hall on Saturday.
Abedini has faced repeated beatings, malnourishment, lack of proper medical treatment, and death threats from other prisoners and Iranian Revolutionary Guards, according to a statement released by the American Center for Law and Justice.
The imprisoned pastor was able to write a letter to his daughter, Rebekkah Grace, for her eighth birthday on Sept. 12.
“You are growing so fast and becoming more beautiful every day,” he wrote in the letter, released by the ACLJ. “I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day as I watch from a distance through the prison walls and see pictures and hear stories of how you are growing both spiritually and physically.”
He continued: “I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet. Now there is a big why in your mind you are asking: why Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family? The answer to the why is who. Who is control? Lord Jesus Christ is in control.”
“God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good,” Saeed added. “People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why? But you should know the answer of why is who. It is for Jesus …”
“But if not, we will still sing together … ‘Hallelujah,’ either separated by prison walls or together at home.”
Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence despite international efforts and numerous petitions headed by the ACLJ seeking his release. Obama also raised the issue of the pastor’s detention during his first phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last September.
He grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20. He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the U.S. to meet other members of his family and for Christian work.
During one such trip in 2009, Abedini was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.
Abedini was sentenced for allegedly endangering “national security,” but the ACLJ believes the punishment has more to do with his Christian faith.
- christian post
Washington, September 20, 2014 — Eric Metaxas compared the silence of Christians about persecution in the Middle East and religious freedom restrictions domestically to the silence of Christians in Nazi Germany.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, Metaxas reminded the audience at the In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit on Sept. 11.
Metaxas is the author of a biography of Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who spoke up about the persecution of the Jews and was put to death by the Third Reich.
The evil acts of Nazi Germany were partly enabled by the conflation of national identity with the Church, Metaxas said. He compared it to his own experience of growing up in a Greek family where he was led to believe that being Greek meant that you belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, which meant that you are a Christian. Similarly, Germans believed that being German meant being Lutheran, which meant that you are a Christian.
“Well this is nonsense,” he explained. “You can’t be born Christian. You can only be born-again as a Christian. We’re born in sin.”
National identity, he said, is not the same as being a follower of Jesus, and believing they are the same can lead to some serious consequences, such as what happened in Germany. The Church must always be “the conscience of the state,” but the Church cannot do this if its identity is aligned with the state.
“It’s not appropriate to conflate nationalism, our national identity, with our faith in Jesus Christ,” Metaxas said.
Since a Christian’s allegiance is first to the Church of Jesus Christ, he continued, rather than to a national or ethnic identity, this means Christians must speak out about the persecution of their fellow believers in Christ, regardless of any national, racial or ethnic differences they may have.
“If your allegiance is not first and foremost to Jesus, you are not a Christian,” he said. “If your allegiance is to a political entity or to a national entity or to a tribal entity before you have your allegiance to Jesus, you are not a Christian.”
Metaxas also compared the silence of Christians on the issue of persecution to the silence of Christians on the issues of the Obama administration’s birth control mandate and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in some states.
“If you do not speak out, when religious freedom is threatened,” he said, “when there is persecution of Christians, if you do not speak out, you are being silent, you are participating in evil. And when American Christians keep their mouths shut, as typically we have done, with terrible persecutions around the world, God will not hold us guiltless.”
- christian post
China, September 23, 2014: Electric-shock stun batons, metal-spiked truncheons and rigid restraint chairs. These are just some of the products sold by more than 130 Chinese companies in several Asian and African nations, “in intrinsically cruel” tools of torture that represent a good chunk of the exports of the sector. The complaint comes from Amnesty International, in a report published today which charges Beijing with helping the torture trade to prosper worldwide.
Some tools sold by Chinese industries, says the group, “while some of the exports are no doubt used in legitimate law enforcement operations, China has also exported equipment that has inhumane effects, or poses a substantial risk of fuelling human rights violations by foreign law enforcement agencies”. The largest importers are countries such as Senegal, Egypt, Ghana, Cambodia and Nepal; one company that sells restraint chairs and batons has business relations with more than 40 African nations.
According to Amnesty, 10 years ago there were only 28 Chinese companies operating in the sector, today there are more than 130. Patrick Wilcken, a researcher into trade and human rights, charges: ” China’s flawed export system has allowed the trade in torture and repression to prosper. China should “fundamentally reform its trade regulations to end the irresponsible transfer of law enforcement equipment to agencies who will likely use it to violate human rights”.
In November 2013, the Chinese Supreme People’s Court banned the use of torture in prisons or labor camps in the country. However, as denounced by human rights activists, the practice has never disappeared: each year there are “hundreds” of cases of physical abuse committed against detainees and those who are arrested throughout China.
Vatican, September 17, 2014: Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals has begun creating the first draft of a new apostolic constitution that would implement a major reform of the Vatican bureaucracy.
The so-called C9, a papally appointed group of nine cardinal members, held its sixth meeting Sept 15-17 with Pope Francis at the Vatican to help advise him on the reform of the Vatican’s organization and church governance.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Sept. 17 that the series of discussions have now begun a more “concrete” phase with “putting ink on paper” in the form of a draft for the introduction to a new constitution.
“It may be assumed that, with the next two meetings of the council — Dec. 9-11, 2014, and Feb. 9-11, 2015 — the draft constitution will reach an advanced stage of preparation, making it possible for the pope to proceed with further consultations,” the priest said in a written statement.
In a first step toward reorganizing the Roman Curia, Pope Francis created the Secretariat for the Economy in February as a way to begin universal oversight and standards for all of the Vatican’s financial assets and activities.
Father Lombardi told reporters that the cardinals’ discussions concerning financial issues have concluded, and that they now resumed looking at the different pontifical councils of the curia, as part of a bigger strategy of finding the most effective and efficient way to reorganize the large bureaucracy.
In their three days of talks and study, the nine cardinals “focused on two principle hotspots,” the Vatican spokesman said in his written statement.
The first topic included the laity, the family, “the role of women in society and the church, youth, childhood, or matters related to lay associations and movements and so on,” he wrote.
The second topic combined the issues of “justice and peace, charity, migrants and refugees, health, and the protection of life and ecology, especially human ecology,” the written statement said.
The way the different issues were divided into two major areas seemed to lend credence to some news reports predicting the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family would be merged into one new congregation, and that the pontifical councils for Justice and Peace, Cor Unum and Migrants and Travelers could be combined, since their areas of focus are closely related and often overlap.
Pope Francis would make the final decisions, Father Lombardi said, based on input from the Council of Cardinals and regular talks with the heads of the curia, other cardinals and bishops.
The Vatican spokesman said the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors will meet Oct. 4-5, and any announcements or clarifications concerning new members and the group’s statutes would be made around that time.
Since its inception in July, the Commission on Vatican media was set to hold its first meeting Sept. 22-24 in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives.
The 11-member body has been asked to review and recommend ways Vatican communications structures could be streamlined and modernized.
The commission president is British Lord (Chris) Patten, former governor of Hong Kong, former chairman of the BBC Trust and former chancellor of the University of Oxford. The commission secretary is Irish Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The car drove past Our Lady of Lebanon Church at Harris Park on Tuesday and witnesses claim it had a flag similar to those brandished by Islamic State jihadists hanging out the window.
A priest from the church told AAP the people in the car threatened to “kill the Christians” and slaughter their children.
“They were strong words and people were scared of what they saw,” he said.
Witnesses told police there was a small triangular flag placed out the window with Arabic words similar to “there is only one god and Muhammad is the prophet”.
Rosehill police Inspector Brian Jackson confirmed “some threats were made in regard to some people” near the church.
Maronite Catholic parish priest Monsignor Shora Maree contacted police ahead of the church’s 7pm mass on Wednesday night.
Officers were sent down to patrol the Harris Park church while hundreds took part in mass inside.
It’s understood detectives are looking into who is behind the threats.
- 7 news
US, August 22, 2014: When it comes to the use of military force, Americans tend to be in two camps: those who want to use overwhelming force to defeat our enemies and those who oppose the use of force for one reason or another.
Conservative hawks and Hollywood are in the first camp — the bigger the bomb, the better. These folks would support President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call for unconditional surrender during World War II, even though the Vatican feared it would prolong the war.
In the second camp are those opposed to any killing (pacifists) and those who feel that no American should ever die helping a foreigner (isolationists). Both do not trust the government to use force well.
The limited use of force is denigrated by both sides. Foreign policy realists, on the other hand, see the use of military force as simply one among many tools of foreign policy. Thus, President John F. Kennedy could threaten the Russians during the Cuban missile crisis but at the same time secretly negotiate the withdrawal of our missiles from Turkey in exchange for removing the Russian missiles from Cuba.
Hawks criticized President George H.W. Bush, another realist, for not letting our troops take Baghdad. The hawks wanted total victory, and the pacifists opposed any fighting. Bush, on the other hand, had limited goals — getting Iraq out of Kuwait.
The limited use of force is a hard sell in a democracy. People don’t want their children to die for limited foreign policy goals. Their deaths have meaning only if they are defending our country or dying for the highest principles (freedom, etc.).
The French solved this problem by having the French Foreign Legion, an army made up of expendable foreigners. The U.S. tried to solve this problem by eliminating the draft and staffing the military with poor, undereducated minorities.
It is this context that makes it so difficult for Americans to understand the Vatican’s position on the use of military force, which is based on the just war theory.
The Vatican begins with a presumption against war. War can only be a last resort after all other avenues have been exhausted. Diplomacy and reconciliation must be tried first. But “last resort” does not mean “never.”
Waging war requires a just cause, such as defending oneself or another from unjust aggression. But not every just cause is an excuse for the use of military might. Besides a just cause, the military intervention must cause less harm than not intervening. You do not destroy a village to save it. The use of military force must be proportionate, and everything possible should be done to avoid civilian casualties.
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI opposed both Gulf Wars and Pope Francis opposed any American intervention in Syria because they did not think those actions fulfilled the criteria demanded by the just war doctrine. They called for cease-fires, negotiations, diplomacy and reconciliation. They believed military intervention would only make matters worse.
The popes were clearly right with regards to the second invasion of Iraq. It is hard to argue that the thousands of deaths and billions of dollars spent have made Iraq better.
As for Syria, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she would have given more support to the “moderates” than President Barack Obama did, while the pope opposed any outside military intervention. I agree with the pope and Obama. There is no evidence that we would have done better in Syria than we did in Iraq, especially with a much smaller investment of resources. The moderates would have failed no matter how many weapons we gave them. The just war theory says you should not wage a war you cannot win.
Because the popes and the Vatican have so ardently opposed war, many were surprised when the Vatican supported intervention to stop the slaughter of religious minorities by the Islamic State. They should not have been surprised. The Vatican also supported international intervention in the early 1990s to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Last week, Catholic News Service reported that when asked about the U.S. military airstrikes, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio, “This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped.”
Likewise, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva, said, “When all other means have been exhausted, to save human beings the international community must act. This can include disarming the aggressor.”
For Tomasi, this was a case of “humanitarian intervention,” but it should be done by the international community and not unilaterally by one nation.
The pope said something similar during his press conference on his way home from South Korea. In response to a journalist’s question, he said:
In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb “stop”; I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: “Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?” But only that, nothing more.
Francis was very careful in what he said and what he did not say. In saying, “It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said “stop,” not “destroy,” “conquer,” “push back” or “defeat.” Stop, “only that, nothing more.” This limited goal will not please the hawks.
Nor did he say how to stop the unjust aggressor, but he did say, “I don’t say bomb, make war.” Rather, “the means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated.” And like Tomasi, he argues that this should be done by the international community, the United Nations.
Here, foreign policy realists will say that the pope is naive. The only way that the Islamic State was stopped was with force, including bombs. And if we had waited until the U.N. acted, it would have been too late to save anyone.
For more on humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect, see the excellent analysis by my colleague Jesuit Fr. Drew Christiansen.
I would guess that the pope’s diplomats (Lingua and Tomasi) are more closely articulating the Vatican’s position than the pope. The pope is being extremely cautious because he does not want American hawks to say he is blessing American military intervention to destroy the Islamic State. Nor does he want Muslim extremists to say he is calling a crusade against Islam. He prudently errs on the side of caution and lets his diplomats fill in the blanks.
What the pope really did at his news conference was stress the word “stop.” He is not giving the American military a blank check. Stopping the advance of the Islamic State allows for diplomacy and negotiations to take place. He understands that the use of American might to take back Mosul would be a disaster. Rockets and bombs can only liberate a city by destroying it.
From Obama’s point of view, limited military intervention provides time for the new Iraqi government to get its act together, especially by bringing the Sunnis on board. He understands, as the hawks do not, that there is no American military solution to the conflict in Iraq. Only the Sunnis can defeat the Islamic State. After all, it was the Sunni awakening that defeated al-Qaida, not the American surge.
Here, the pope and the president agree: Only Iraqi negotiations and compromise can bring peace to the people of Iraq.
“There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation,” the spokesman told CNA Aug. 26.
The rumors spread following an Aug. 25 article published in Italian newspaper “Il Tempo,” which said the number of jihadists in Italy is on the rise due to the influx of unidentified immigrants in the country.
According to the article, Islamic fundamentalists led by Al-Baghdadi plan to “raise the level of confrontation” in Europe and alluded to Israeli sources who said that Pope Francis is “also in the crosshairs of ISIS” as “the greatest exponent of the Christian religions” and the “bearer of false truth.”
Al-Baghdadi has been named as Caliph – the head of state and absolute monarch – of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in western Iraq and north-eastern Syria, and is the former head of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the reports regarding the threat of attacks in Europe and on the Pope appear to be unfounded, an Aug. 20 article published by Italian news agency Rai reveals that Italy is tightening its security.
According to the agency, there have been no targeted threats or specific indications of attacks on Italy. However, a nationwide alert has been issued.
US, August 26, 2014: The man behind the controversial “Jesus Tattoo” movement will launch a new campaign “Death Row Jesus” on Wednesday to spread the message that God was the “worse criminal” while on earth.
David L. Miller of the Little Pencil organization is known for his thought-provoking marketing campaigns that promote the Gospel. Last year, he erected 59 billboards throughout Lubbock, Texas, depicting the image of Jesus Christ clad in tattoos. But this time, he is opting for digital video advertisements that will launch in major cities throughout the U.S.
“When people think about Jesus, they don’t think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that’s really the experience he had,” Miller told Lubbock’s NBC affiliate KBCD 11.
He continued, “We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are all equally undeserving of God’s grace.”
Part of the video depicts Jesus in an orange prison jumpsuit as He is beaten to the ground. Another part transitions to the scene of the crucifixion where He is dying at the same time that other inmates in prison are being set free.
Miller says the funding for the video advertisements was raised through merchandise sales from the previous campaign, while adding that he is not out to make a profit.
“Corporations spend an enormous amount of money marketing whatever their product is and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Miller. “We just think in this case we have a much better product and one that’s everlasting, life-changing, and so it’s certainly worthy of whatever we invest in it.”
Last year, Miller’s campaign garnered controversy after he filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Lubbock’s largest school district of allegedly violating his right of free speech after they refused to display his ad showing a tattooed Jesus on a jumbotron during high school football games.
The tattoos were the words “addicted” and “depressed,” among other negative descriptions on Jesus’ chest and arms, but the message behind them was that Jesus’ love can change people despite their labels.
At the time, the school district said it denied Miller’s request because by their own policies and practices they were prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property, based on the Establishment Clause.
A federal judge eventually sided with the school district this past May saying that the district was right to reject a Christian company.
Miller’s Little Pencil organization was founded about a year ago. Its name comes from a quote by Mother Teresa, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
- christian post
South Korea, August 15, 2014: Pope Francis will travel to South Korea this week for Asian Youth Day, making his third international trip as pontiff. He’ll be visiting a country that has experienced considerable religious change in recent decades. Here are six facts about Christianity in South Korea:
1. South Korea has no majority religious group. Its population includes a plurality of people with no religious affiliation (46%) and significant shares of Christians (29%) and Buddhists (23%). South Korea’s current president, Park Geun-hye, is an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
2. In 1900, only 1% of the country’s population was Christian, but largely through the efforts of missionaries and churches, Christianity has grown rapidly in South Korea over the past century. In 2010, roughly three-in-ten South Koreans were Christian, including members of the world’s largest Pentecostal church,Yoido Full Gospel Church, in Seoul.
3. The majority of Christians in South Korea belong to Protestant denominations, including mainline churches such as Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches as well as various Pentecostal churches. Since the 1980s, however, the share of South Korea’s population belonging to Protestant denominations and churches has remained relatively unchanged at slightly less than 1-in-5. Catholics have grown as a share of the population, from 5% in 1985 to 11% as of 2005, according to the South Korean census. The growth of Catholics has occurred across all age groups, among men and women and across all education levels.
4. Only about 11% of South Koreans are Catholic, but a survey we conducted in March found that the population has a positive view of Pope Francis. More than eight-in-ten South Koreans (86%) said they have a favorable opinion of the pope, higher than the share of Americans (66%) who had a favorable view of him in February. (Among U.S. Catholics, 85% said they have a favorable view of the pontiff.)
5. The share of Christians in South Korea (29%) is much smaller than the share of Christians among Korean Americans living in the U.S. Nearly three-quarters of Korean Americans (71%) say they are Christian, including 61% who are Protestant and 10% who are Catholic.
6. As of 2012, South Korea had low levels of government restrictions on religion and social hostilities toward or among religious groups, based on our most recent analysis. In fact, religious restrictions in South Korea are lower than in the U.S., and significantly lower than the median level of religious restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region.
- pew research