Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A recently published novel, Independence's Righteous Army, a retelling of the independence movement in Korea, focuses on the participation of the Church in the movement, and its official position of maintaining the separation of church and state. This position prompted the Church, which was administered at that time by foreign missioners, to see things  differently than most Catholics of the country, including Patriot Thomas Ahn, who was a victim of this misunderstanding, receiving no official sympathy from the Catholic Church for his acts against the Japanese.

Patriot Ahn died in 1910 at the hands of the Japanese, but his spirit continued to inspire Catholics in a small parish of Korean nationals, in the Gando district of China. Lee Yeong-ho (Barnaba), the author of the historical novel, reveals the ongoing efforts of this group of Catholics to free themselves from Japanese occupation.

During the Japanese occupation, there were many who moved to China and became involved in the liberation movement established in Gando. This movement, Ulmindan (righteous army), not only was an aid to understanding modern church history, but continues to shed light on the complex history of that time.

The novel begins with the kidnapping of Fr. Choi Mun-sik, pastor of the Paltogu parish, by the Manchukyuo Imperial Army. Though the scene-elements surrounding the facts have been fictionalized, the facts are all in place, making this novel close to a non-fiction account of the events, according to the book review in the Catholic Times. As an added bonus, the author has made reading the book easy, for those who have difficulty with church terminology, by explaining many of the terms used. 

Lee Barnaba has made it known that he wants to  help in recruiting and help in the formation of  priests for this area of China, an area that is close to the Korean peninsular. Priests who are sent there should therefore have a knowledge of Korean. In the future, he feels it will be a beachhead for the evangelization of northeast Asia. To do this successfully, he feels it will be necessary to have a correct understanding of our history. The book is his attempt to accomplish that objective.

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