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Buddhist-Christian Studies 20 (2000) 239-240

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News and Views

Korean Temple Burnings and Vandalism: The Response of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies

Harry L. Wells
Humboldt State University

Over the course of the last decade a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian fundamentalists. More recently, Buddhist statues have been identified as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus. Arrests are hard to effect, as the arsonists and vandals work by stealth of night. In 1998, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies announced its support for our Buddhist brothers and sisters and our disgust at such violent misuse of the name of Jesus. At the 1998 Board meeting, an ad hoc committee was set up to explore and develop strategies which would further address the situation. Below are some actions which have occurred during 1999.

A Letter from Our President:

The following letter of protest was sent on the Society's behalf on January 25, 1999 to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea and other governmental officials plus Korean church leaders and organizations. A second letter was sent to the U.S. State Department and the headquarters of various church bodies in the U.S. as well as the National Council of Churches.

The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies wishes to register its deepest sadness and most profound protest regarding the numerous acts of arson and malicious destruction done to Buddhist temples by misinformed and intolerant fundamentalist Christian groups throughout the Republic of South Korea. Professor Frank Tedesco of Sejong University first drew the attention of the Society to these incidents in an article he published in 1997 in Buddhist-Christian Studies, the journal of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies. More recently, two more Buddhist temples have been burned by fundamentalist Christians, seven hundred Buddhist images have been decapitated, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral was also burned because it contained images.

All members of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, both Christian and Buddhist, are embarrassed that such acts have been done in the name of [End Page 239] Jesus Christ, a name that demands that all persons should live in justice and peace, not sectarian stupidity and religious fanaticism. The small, but vocal, number of fundamentalist Christians in Korea who defend such actions as blows against pagan idolatry are simply wrong. Their actions are contrary to the core of Christian teaching and practice, which is that all persons are to be treated with love, justice, and respect.

There is no excuse for intra-religious violence in Buddhist or Christian teaching and practice. Accordingly, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies not only deplores fundamentalist Christian attacks against Korean Buddhist temples, images, and persons, we ask that the government of Korea actively seek out all groups and persons engaged in violent actions against our Buddhist brothers and sisters and bring them to justice according to the laws of the Republic of Korea.

May the peace at the heart of the Christian tradition and the heart of the Buddha's Dharma heal the minds of the violent so that all human beings may one day live as brothers and sisters in accord and dialogue.

Paul O. Ingram, President

A Section on the International Association for Religious Freedom Website

Robert Traer, General Secretary of the International Association for Religious Freedom, graciously agreed to allow the Society to post a section on their website about the Buddhist-Christian tensions in Korea. His hope reflects the hope of our Society, that incidents of vandalism will cease and dialogue efforts increase. This page presently includes the summary account written by a SBCS member, Dr. Frank Tedesco, photos, and an introductory statement by our Society. Visit the site! <>

A Call for Monetary Contributions

The Society initiated a contributions drive to collect funds to send to Korea as a symbolic gesture of support of our Buddhist brothers and sisters whose temples and images have been attacked by extremist Christian vandals...