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Researchers urge Asian churches to promote peace

Symposium told that human rights are violated by authoritarian governments in the name of development and security

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 19, 2021 09:46 AM GMT

Updated: October 19, 2021 09:56 AM GMT

Researchers urge Asian churches to promote peace

Cheonjinam Shrine is known as the birthplace of Korean Catholicism. (Photo supplied)

Catholic academics and researchers have urged church leaders in Asia to make better and proactive efforts to promote peace and Christianity in the region.

The East Asia Evangelization Center based at Cheonjinam Shrine, known as the birthplace of Korean Catholicism, organized the 14th academic symposium at Yongin in Gyeonggi-do province on Oct. 16, jointly with Catholic Times, the oldest Korean Catholic weekly.

Catholic Times reported that the symposium brought together Catholic scholars and researchers for discussion and deliberation on the theme “Peace in East Asia and Promotion of Christianity.”

Professor Shim Hyung-ju, a senior researcher at the Institute of Life and Culture at Sogang University in capital Seoul, made a presentation on the topic “Exploring the role of the Catholic Church for the formation of a peaceful community in Asia: referring to the European Union model.”

He argued that Asian Christians need to be in solidarity and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference (FABC) should play a major role for promotion of peace and Christianity in the region.

He pointed to situations in Asian countries where human rights are frequently violated by authoritarian governments in the name of development and security.

The Church should recognize that peace is a human rights issue, not just a national issue

“In order to build peace in Asia, it is necessary to pursue development based on equality and human rights in accordance with international justice. We need to work hard to implement human rights law,” Shim said.

The researcher said that the FABC leadership should make efforts to present the views of the Church to Asian governments on their “sense of human rights and to pursue a common policy of peace.”

“The Church should recognize that peace is a human rights issue, not just a national issue, and church leaders need to take the lead in laying the foundation for peace in Asia through the protection and promotion of human rights,” he added.

Andrew Lee Min-suk, a researcher from the Korean Institute of Church History, made a presentation on the life and works of American Maryknoll missionary Father Joseph A. Sweeney, who pioneered the Church’s services to lepers in China and Korea.

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The priest paved the way for public awareness and capacity building in East Asia to tackle the once-dreaded Hansen’s disease named after Norwegian scientist Dr. G.H.A. Hansen, who first discovered mycobacterium leprae, the causative bacterial agent of the disease.   

Lee said Father Sweeney was ordained a priest in 1920 and was assigned to China. He worked in both China and Korea and raised awareness about leprosy.

The priest was arrested, imprisoned and expelled after the communists took over China. He returned to Korea in 1955 and founded Naidong Medical Team to provide treatment for lepers. Father Sweeny worked in Korea until his death at church-run St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul in 1966 at the age of 71.  

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