The leader of the World Council of Churches has joined the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea in denouncing the killing of a second Korean Christian hostage in Afghanistan, while the Korean denomination has called on the US and Afghanistan to negotiate the freeing of the hostages with the Taliban.
"The entire ecumenical community weeps at the senseless loss of life taking place in Afghanistan," said the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in response to a letter he received from the South Korean Presbyterian church.
Kobia, who is scheduled to visit South Korea later this year, said in his 31 July letter, "We invite our member churches to pray with our brothers and sister in Korea for a peaceful end to this crisis, and that the hostages will be freed". A Kenyan Methodist, Kobia heads the world's largest grouping of Christian denominations. He wrote that he also wanted to emphasise the need for "a speedy and peaceful end to the violence in Afghanistan".
Earlier, the general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Rev Yoon Kil Soo, sent a letter to churches around the world. In it, he said, "We are in deep sorrow and pain after we heard today the shocking news that the Taliban have killed a second Korean hostage, Mr Shim Sung-Min, early this morning.
"This terrible news came to us only a few days after the Rev. Bae Hyung-Kyu was killed by the Taliban. Moreover, the threat of further executions of the hostages is driving not only the affected families but the whole Korean society into the most painful situation."
Soo added, "We urge the global community to work for true peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Particularly, we sincerely request the governments of both Afghanistan and the US to lead the negotiations with the Taliban for the sake of the safe return of the hostages."
On 19 July 2007, the Taliban kidnapped 23 South Korean Christians travelling as part of an aid mission on a bus through the central Ghazni province between Kabul and Kandahar. The Koreans are the biggest group of foreign hostages taken since the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Hee-yung told journalists on 31 July that his country was unable to hide its anger against the Taliban for this "merciless killing".
With acknowledgements to the WCC and www.eni.ch