Monday, February 20, 2017

What Kind of Persons will be Born Among us This Year?

A parish priest writing in  Bible & Life magazine, begins with the sad reflection that none of the signers of the Proclamation of Korean Independence from Japan, during the Japanese Colonial rule, were Catholic. The only Catholic freedom fighter he knew as a child was An Jung-geun. Hearing all about the Protestants and their large number of freedom fighters, left him with sadness and embarrassment.

Both Protestants and Catholics were followers of Jesus but we had different positions on the way we looked on independence from Japan. Why did we see the love of country and Jesus so differently? What made for the division?

The writer admits that he is simplifying the issue but not beyond reason. In the South, Catholicism was spreading and in the North, Protestants were doing well. We had Catholics in the North and Protestants in the South but Catholicism seemed to find it easier in the South. Catholics were more at home with the elite while the Protestants with the commoners and their concerns.

North Korea was the center of the Goguryeo Kingdom and when it collapsed after a thousand years they were alienated from power, resentment increased because of the continual enjoyment of power by the elite in the South. 

Even though you have the same seed when it is planted in a different soil the taste and texture of the fruit will be different. At the time of Jesus, we see the same reality. Those born and raised in the North, the Galilee area of Israel, were far removed from Jerusalem and the elite of the South and close contact and influence of the Romans. The South were content not to rock the boat and enjoy what they had.

Similar was the situation in Korea. The South were willing to accept the Status Quo while those in the North, like the Galileans of Israel, wanted freedom. Protestants in the North were forming freedom fighters to fight the oppression and exploitation of Japan. Up until liberation of the country, Catholics as a group did not fight against oppression and lived peacefully with the colonial rule.

They remembered the martyrs of the past and not willing to fight for their country. The Church during this time did not give any formal witnessing in desiring liberation.They were not involved in the March 1st  Movement also called Sam-il. One of the first displays of resistance to Japanese rule.

This all changed as we know with the end of the Korean War. He concludes the article with the hope: "freedom and concern for the weak in society will always have a place among us."

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