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Last 7 hostages freed by Taliban

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (BP)–The Taliban released the final seven South Korean Christian hostages Aug. 30, capping a six-week ordeal in Afghanistan that saw two hostages killed and ended only when the South Korean government agreed to a controversial deal.

The crisis began July 19 with the kidnapping of 23 men and women who were on an Afghan mission trip sponsored by Saemmul Presbyterian Church just outside Seoul. Two of them were killed in late July and the Taliban threatened to kill more, placing pressure on the South Korean government to take action. South Korean officials began meeting with Taliban representatives in face-to-face negotiations Aug. 10.

Finally, on Aug. 28, a South Korean presidential spokesman announced that a deal had been reached: The Taliban would free the remaining 19 hostages — two had been released in mid-August — if South Korean banned Christian missionaries from Afghanistan and kept its promise to pull its troops out of the country.

Critics said the deal would endanger other foreigners — both Christians and non-Christians — and such fears apparently were legitimate: Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi promised to attempt more kidnappings.

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful,” he told the Associated Press via cell phone.

All 19 hostages are in Dubai, UAE, and are scheduled to arrive back in South Korea Sunday, BBC News reported. One of the hostages, Yu Kyeong-sik, said she was “very sorry” for the ordeal.

“I’ve had sleepless nights, thinking of what we have caused to the country,” she said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Two prominent Southern Baptists — including SBC President Frank Page — criticized the deal when it was announced.

“While I rejoice that terrorists are releasing innocent victims, I am truly saddened by the conditions to which the government of South Korea has agreed,” said Daniel R. Heimbach, who worked in the first Bush administration and currently serves as professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. “Matters of international justice should not be dictated by those who threaten the lives of aid workers motivated only by love.

“Christian aid workers and missionaries put their lives on the line every day and, while Christians believe that physical life is precious, we also believe that sharing the Good News of eternal life is worth vastly more,” Heimbach said. “The government of South Korea has acquiesced to terms no Christian can accept and no one called of Jesus Christ can obey.”
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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