“I lost my family and my life has changed since the day”

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Coercive Conversion Questions the Meaning of Religion

“My grandma and uncle were there. I was kidnapped and confined to a place. I walked out of the house window and went over the wall barefoot. I lost my family and my life has changed since the day,” stated Ms. Hye Jeong Lim from South Korea during her interview with France Inter, French national general public radio station of the Radio France group.

“My mother asked me to have lunch together, so I met her. All of sudden, three strong men came out of a car, grabbed my hair, and forced me to get into the car. I reported to the police about the (Christian) pastors who manipulated all of this behind my mother. But the response was that religious issues have to be solved at home,” said Ms. Lim.

According to a Korea-based organization named Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (HAC), coercive conversion refers to forcing someone who has a different religious background from others in a community, family, or society to change his or her religion by using illegal means of violence. HAC stated that the number of victims who experienced coercive conversion has reached 12,000 in South Korea, accompanied with violation of human rights coming from assaults, forced hospitalization to psychiatric hospitals and death.

In South Korea, which guarantees freedom of religion as the constitutional law, it is argued that the backbone of such illegal actions lies behind a Christian association, one of the mainstream religions in Korea. In the case of Christian Council of Korea (CCK), an organization of Christian churches, it founded the “Heresy Research Center” to run the forced conversion programs in the name of “counseling”.

It is also stated by the HAC that religious suppression and human rights violations against denominations that do not belong to the CCK have been underway. It is revealed from the beginning of this year that the death of a woman in her twenties died after the coercive conversion, leading to protests by citizens in 70 countries around the world demanding legal protection from such religious violence.

Dr. Upasaka E. Anban, Director of Tapitaka Tamil Foundation in India, said, “The forced conversion committed by the CCK is an anti-human crime that can never be tolerated by the international community as well.” Steven Acosta, an American human rights activist, stated, “Coercive Conversion Programs and the organizations responsible must be shut down and held accountably. These protests are blowing the winds of justice.”

While the advance of “peace” attracts attention from the globe, the voice advocating changes to root out human rights violation has been increased. HAC told that “the petition for the abolition of coercive conversion has been signed by 140,000 people on a government website but it disappeared without explanations. The South Korean Government is responsible for the investigation of and making efforts to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.”

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