Saturday, May 3, 2014

Yellow Ribbon Response to the Sewol Tragedy

A columnist in the Catholic Times remembers a song she sang often as  a high-school student: "Tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree." She liked the rhythm,  but especially the touching lyrics. The song expressed the feelings of a man who had received his freedom from prison and wanted to know from the woman he  loved whether she was willing to take him back. He would be taking a bus to the town, and if she welcomed his return, to tie a yellow ribbon on the oak tree in the  yard. As we know the tree was filled with yellow ribbons

This was based on a real-life story, she mentions, and was the motivation for using yellow ribbons to welcome back those from war and hostages who were released and returning home. In Korea, the yellow ribbons are being used to remember those who have died in the sinking of the Sewol Ferry, and hoping that among the missing, they will find some alive. We find the ribbons appearing on the social network, at schools, and  in other parts of society. The  ribbon has appeared in parishes and in religious houses as a sign of condolences and prayers for the families and  those who have died and are missing.

We are not able to deny that this tragedy was man-made. Money was  put before people, Greed was everything. To save money an old ship was bought; to carry more passengers, they unreasonably added another deck,and for the sake of money they ignored safely regulations and  overloaded the ferry. 

19 years ago, we had the  largest peacetime disaster in South Korean history  because of a poorly constructed building:  money put before people. The Sampoong Department Store collapsed  killing and injuring a large number of shoppers.  20 years ago, we had the collapse of the Seongsu Bridge over the Han River. Here was  another case where bribes,  breaking of the law and immorality was overlooked  for reasons of profit with the loss of many lives.  

The mass media and the citizens lamented the lack of a concern for  safety and urged a change in our  moral consciousness. 20 years later with the Sewol tragedy we have not seen much change. What is the reason for this failure?  The columnist wonders if it is not, our 'frying pan disposition', quickly changing from when on the fire and  when off the fire. We  Christians,  she says, have much  to reflect on. Many question marks are appearing in her thoughts.

She mentions having met an ethics professor who said: materialism, egotism, secularism are values that we have not been able to cope with. Christians have much to think about. He is overcome with  embarrassment. 

She hopes that we will not need to  use yellow ribbons in the future.She concludes the column with the condolences of the pope for the loss of so  many lives. He is quoted as saying: "Hopes the South Korean people will take the Sewol tragedy as an occasion for moral and spiritual rebirth."  This she hopes, we believers need to take to heart.

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