The human rights association for victims of coercive conversion programmes (HAC) hosted a special memorial service at the Company Gardens in Cape Town to commemorate the life of Ji-in Gu, who died during a conversion programme.
The organisers hosted the service on Sunday to create awareness and educate the public about the devastating effects of human rights abuses on families and individuals. Over 500 people attended the service.
Those who attended included councillor Barbara Rass from the city of Cape Town, who was the guest speaker; high commissioner to the House of Griquas, Aaron Messelaar; chief Mbombi Mazinyo from the South African Religious Forum (SARF); and Prabhu Medhavi Das from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskon) in Cape Town.
On December 29 2017, 27-year-old Gu was killed while being held captive at a secluded recreational lodge in Hwasun, South Korea. She suffocated to death after her parents bound and gagged her.
They were held responsible for her death, but human rights bodies have blamed the pastors from the Christian Council of Korea (CCK), who uses brutal methods on victims, mostly young women, through abduction and confinement.
The parents paid the pastors for the conversion to their desired denomination.
Delivering his speech at the service, Das from Iskon said freedom to choose one’s religion is a basic human right that every constitution in the world should adhere to.
“The CCK has missed the real goal of religion. It is something that is offered to God. The love that we have is what we freely give. That is what religion is. That love is being stopped as soon as that freedom is not allowed. They are doing the world a disservice.
“The freedom to choose one’s religion is a basic human right I think in every constitution in the world that wants you to be free. And in a country like South Korea, where one thinks there is rule of law and a constitution, there should be that freedom,” Das said.
Organisers said Gu, who had in July 2016 escaped confinement at a Catholic abbey in the city of Jangseong for 40 days, had been living in constant fear of being kidnapped again and could no longer trust her family, who had colluded with the pastors of the CCK to kidnap her.
The organisers said: “Gu’s death escalated from a family matter to a national issue, with more than 120,000 people gathering in Seoul and other major cities outside of South Korea to protest against coercive conversion and fight for religious freedom and the protection of the universal human right to choose one’s religious beliefs without being persecuted for it.
“In South Africa, there are people at risk of persecution for their faith as well.
“By hosting this memorial, the HAC aims to create awareness and unite people from all religions, denominations and backgrounds to stand against these human rights violations, in any shape or form, as perpetrated by organisations like the CCK in South Korea.”
– African News Agency (ANA)