Concurrent with the release of two of the hostages today, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, has called on the international community to strongly support the government of South Korea in its efforts to secure the safe release of the South Korean hostages still held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"This crisis should be resolved by negotiation, rather than by military or other means that might put the lives of the hostages at further risk," he writes in a statement issued today.
The general secretary calls on the Taliban "to release the remaining hostages unharmed, and to cease targeting civilians in their political and military campaign."
The group of originally 23 Christians was attacked and abducted by the fundamentalist Islamist group three weeks ago while travelling by bus from Kabul to Kandahar in Ghasni province. The Taliban is demanding the release of its imprisoned members, and two of the hostages have since been shot.
Dr Noko rejects any suggestion that reaction against proselytism might be a factor or justification in the case. "The Taliban elements that are responsible for these acts are driven by political purposes rather than religious ones. Their actions should be judged and treated accordingly, as the crimes that they are," he states.
The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of nearly 66.7 million.
The full text of the statement follows:
All people of faith and goodwill are praying for the safe release of the 21 South Korean hostages still held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Efforts by the South Korean Government to negotiate with Taliban representatives in order to secure the safe release of the hostages should be strongly supported by the international community. This crisis should be resolved by negotiation, rather than by military or other means that might put the lives of the hostages at further risk.
The peril facing the hostages has been tragically underlined by the brutal killing of two of their number. The captors of the hostages have thereby amply demonstrated their willingness to take innocent lives in pursuit of their political objectives.
I reject any suggestion, as has been made by some commentators, that reaction against proselytism is a factor*let alone a justification*in this case. The Taliban elements that are responsible for these acts are driven by political purposes rather than religious ones. Their actions should be judged and treated accordingly, as the crimes that they are.
I strongly believe that inter-faith cooperation between religious leaders following their true calling to the promotion of peace can help resolve this crisis, especially when political considerations on the part of some leading members of the international community have created obstacles to pragmatic initiatives to secure the hostages? release.
I call upon the Taliban to release the remaining hostages unharmed, and to cease targeting civilians in their political and military campaign. I call upon all members of the international community to support efforts to achieve a negotiated resolution of this crisis.
I pray for the families of the hostages whose lives have already brutally been taken, that they will be comforted and consoled in their grief. I pray that the violence and cruelty shown to these innocent people will not breed yet more violence and cruelty, but will amplify the message of peace that they proclaimed. I pray for those who perpetrated these crimes, that their hearts will be changed and that they will cease to be obstacles in the way of peace. I pray for all the people of Afghanistan, that the peace that they desire will soon be theirs and a heritage for their children.