Editors Note: This week, Lauren Green also wrote about the terrible tragedy of the bridge collapse, which happened in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minn. Click here to read her blog entry, "Personal Reflections on the Bridge Collapse."
The South Korean hostage situation is more than a tragic and violent incident. It is, as I see it, a clash between extreme forms of two different faiths: Islam and Christianity. You could even say it's a clash between orthodox versions of each religion.
The Taliban's form of Islam teaches the justification of killing the infidel. Christianity's founder challenges followers to love your neighbor as yourself. For the Christian hostages there is no winning that equation, if by "winning" we mean staying alive. It is simple logic. If the Taliban sees Christians as infidels and deems it acceptable with God to kill them, then the result is many people will die.
For the Christian aid workers, their faith is being sorely tested as they are called to love their captors and ask for forgiveness for those who have killed and continue to threaten more killings.
It's best not to cloak these two faiths in secular humanism to try and find some middle ground of understanding. Yes, the two have some similarities. But no, they are not worshiping the same God — not if one tells them it's OK to kill in his name.
Right now, South Koreans are anxiously watching the back and forth negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban's, as officials try to secure the release of the 21 South Korean aid workers. Two male hostages have been shot and their bodies recovered, even while deadlines have been extended.
The problem with playing a diplomatic game with the Taliban is that they seem to hold all the cards. They've regained a considerable amount of power in the years following their defeat after 9/11. They're more bold and more confident. They're apparently demanding the release of rebel prisoners in exchange for the hostages. Their promise to shoot the hostages if their demands aren't met is no mere threat. They know President Hamid Karzai will cave to demands when the stakes are high, as he did in March when the Afghan government exchanged five Taliban members for the release of an Italian journalist. President Karzai said it was a one time deal, that it wouldn't happen again. But all it did was give a ravenously hungry animal an appetizer to a most delictible meal. And that meal is called revenge.
“Revenge for what,” you ask? Does it matter?
For those who feed off the subjugation of the weak and whose strength only intensifies with the desolation and desecration of the meek, revenge is simply a convenient excuse. Any cause will do. In this case, it's the cause of their extremist Islamic beliefs. And the evidence is in their conflicting statements of their demands. Some called for the release of women hostages; others demanded ransom money ... and still another demand, that South Korea withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan.
Brigitte Gabriel, author of Because They Hate, says that those who practice an extreme form of Islam do not see non-Muslims as even human beings. She says that the same way animals are slaughtered for their meat and by products, extremists see it their right to kill "infidels", or non-Muslims such as Jews and Christians. Taking it a step further, they see infidels as cursed by Allah, and that they would be rewarded for ridding the world of them.
At times like these, we wonder where are the moderate Muslims? Why don't they make their voices known? Yes, there are some. There are even some at the negotiations. Respected elders from around the Qarabagh district have joined in the talks. These men are repected by the Taliban. Also, Abdul Salaam Rocketi, a former Taliban member who is now part of the Afghan parliament, has joined the negotiating team.
And apparently more Muslim voices are coming out against the Taliban's actions. According to a Chinese website, an Indonesia Muslim leader has come forth to urge the Taliban to release the hostages. Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the country's second largest Muslim group Muhammadiyah, says kidnapping and the taking of innocent people as hostages will only harm Islam, "neither are they part of the Islamic teachings."
But there's confusion for us in the West when these two conflicting views of Islam are paraded on the world stage as the definitive voice. How are we to assess what is truly Islam and what is the work of those, as President Bush has said, who have "hijacked" a peaceful religion? I have many Muslim friends who are appalled at the Tabliban and other Islmaic extremists. They are examples of those who believe their faith is peaceful and that their lives should be a reflection of that.
But perhaps you've heard of the new controversial documentary that challenges the very notion that Islam is a peaceful religion. The producers of Islam: What the West Needs to Know (now available on DVD), contend that the problem with Muslim extremism is not in the evil hearts of a few people ... but is trenched in the core tenets of the religion itself. Producers Bryn Daly and Gregory M. Davis say that although there are many non-violent or peaceful Muslims, there is no peaceful Islam. Daly says "Islam is primarily not a religion but a political ideology, and this political ideology is not peaceful but explicitly expansionary. Allah demands that the world comes under his law and Muslims must fight to institute that law over the world." Their argument is that the Taliban are simply orthodox Muslims who have made their faith a living reality.
But if that's true, it has come face to face with the living reality of Christianity. Even though Christians have committed great acts of violence in the name of their faith throughout history, it was in opposition to the actual teachings of Jesus. Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God with all your heart and to love others as yourself. The apostle Paul elaborated on Jesus' teachings. In his writings to the Romans, he spoke of peaceful living saying, "do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
In South Korea, Christianity has grown by leaps and bounds in the last half of the 20th century. The explosive growth has given the country the moniker "The Korean Miracle," and made its neighbor to the north view the faith as a distabilizing threat. Ten of the 11 largest Christian congregations in the world are in Seoul and South Korea that sends more missionaries abroad to spread the word than any other country except the United States.
Missionary work is what the Taliban accuse the South Koreans of doing in Afghanistan and evangelizing is against the law in that country. Church officials claim the hostages were merely medical aid workers come to help those in need, which is what their faith asks them to do. Whether they were missionaries or aid workers is up for debate (some church leaders joyfully claim they have "unofficial" missionaries in Afghjanistan). But it would makes sense to assume that the South Koreans' faith is what drove them to travel to a dangerous part of the world and offer help, since living their faith in deeds is part of the doctrine, it would then be right to call them missionaries. As Dwight Moody once said, "one person will read the Bible, but a hundred people will read you and me [the Christian].”
Even for those who don't believe in a heaven or hell, or believe there is a higher power operating in this world, when we face great evil we may all need to hope that the words of 18th century poet William Cowper will ring true. That "...Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees." I hope that is true for the hostages.
Lauren Green serves as a religion correspondent for the FOX News Channel. Prior to this, Green served as a news anchor for “Fox and Friends,” where she provided daily news updates and covered arts for the network. You can read her complete bio here.
Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996.