Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Religion Can't Ignore the Pain of Citizens

On Oct. 26, 1909, at 9:30 am shots rang out at Harbin station in China. Ahn Jung-geun a member of the Korean freedom for peace and the fatherland army in Siberia and Manchuria, assassinated Ito Hirobumi of Japan. An article in the Catholic Times reviews the ways Korea views the history of the Japanese war of aggression in Asia.

Japanese occupation of Korea took over half the land away from Koreans occasioning the ruin of Korean farming and causing the exodus of 400,000 Koreans to migrate to Hawaii, Siberia and Manchuria. A Korean historian expressed this as: "when a Japanese house comes, five Korean houses leave." Japan dragged the young people into the war of aggression, into the cold mines and darkness.

In the Chinese Nanking Massacre Memorial, they show the killing of one person every 12 seconds in a dripping water exhibit. Young girls were forced into sexual slavery and if they refused would be killed cruelly. From December 13, 1937, the Holocaust killed  300,000 people in six weeks.

The Nanking Memorial shows in detail the times of tension and chaos. Of the many 'comfort women' serving the military in the area, 36 were Koreans, forced into sexual slavery. The atrocities of the war of aggression remain in the memory of many Asians. Nanking is called the great massacre and leaves one shuddering thinking about what transpired at that time.

Patriot Ahn at the age of thirty was moved by the cruelty shown by Japanese imperialism trampling the peace of the East which he could not ignore. Both as a Korean citizen and as a Christian he couldn't close his eyes to what was happening in Asia. "God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person but also the social relations existing between men" (Compendium of the Social Gospel #52).

While in the Lushun prison after the assassination, he asked the Parish Foreign Missionary priest Fr. Joseph Wilhelm to hear his confession. Bishop Mutel was the eighth bishop of Seoul and refused the request of Ahn considering him a terrorist but Fr. Wilhelm disobeyed and went to the prison and heard Ahn's confession.

Japanese authorities refused to return the body to the family and the bishop supported the decision. The change in people's opinion and the way the assassination is viewed now in the church and society is far different from what it was 100 years ago.