Letter of Appeal from Shincheonji Church of Jesus
in Regards to COVID-19
We would like to express a word of comfort to fellow citizens, who are striving to overcome these difficult times together. To contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Shincheonji Church of Jesus provided accurate information about all congregants, affiliated locations, and trainees in Korea and abroad, and we are cooperating with all measures of the South Korean authorities by utilizing all of our capabilities, making utmost efforts for prevention and cure.
First of all, we will explain about the situation so far.
Shincheonji Church of Jesus provided the list of all 245,605 congregants to the health authorities at their request. We provided the list of 212,324 congregants in Korea on the 25th and the list of 33,281 congregants abroad on the 26th. As for trainees, they have not been registered officially as members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, so the church could not provide the list of trainees indiscreetly. But on the 27th, the health authorities requested the list on condition that they will take legal responsibility in case it is leaked, so we checked and provided the list of 65,127 trainees (54,176 in Korea and 10,951 abroad) promptly.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) sent this list to local governments on the condition of confidentiality. On the 26th, 17 cities and provinces started conducting telephone surveys with the congregants of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and those with symptoms have been tested for infection first.
In regards to COVID-19, the allegation that Shincheonji Church of Jesus is intentionally hiding the number of its congregants is absolutely not true. Shincheonji is aware of the present health crisis and, considering the health and safety of citizens and congregants as the highest priority, has submitted information based on facts.
A member of an organization that has been slandering Shincheonji Church of Jesus sued Shincheonji for violating the Infection Disease Control and Prevention Act by refusing to submit data or providing false data, but this is not true as we are cooperating and providing information requested by the health authorities. As for the recent charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, an organization and its members who had been slandering Shincheonji Church of Jesus filed charges against the chairman of Shincheonji for embezzlement and breach of trust in 2019, leading to an investigation by the Gwacheon Police, who concluded the case as “cleared of suspicion” and sent it to Anyang Branch of Suwon District Public Prosecutor’s Office. This case overlaps with the recent charges.
However, the witch hunt against Shincheonji Church of Jesus is carried to an extreme, and now that this has incited domestic violence and persecution, leading to the death of one of our congregants, we cannot but express our position. This is our earnest request. Please stop the curse and hatred towards Shincheonji. And we ask some media outlets that are slandering and suppressing Shincheonji using unconfirmed information and fake news to stop immediately.
Just for the reason that they belong to Shincheonji, two congregants have been killed already, one in 2007 and the other in 2018, both by a family member. For this same reason, another congregant in Ulsan faced violence and persecution by her husband, driving her into taking her own life on 26 February.
This congregant of the Ulsan Church had been suffering from domestic violence because of her affiliation with Shincheonji, and shortly before her death, she was assaulted for religious reasons and reported it to the police. Eight days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a death was caused by religious persecution.
Is not belonging to mainline churches in Korea a reason to die? We call for the truth regarding this case. Please do not dismiss it as a mere issue related to religion or family, but please look into the fundamental nature of the issue. Shincheonji Church of Jesus did not create COVID-19. We are citizens, who have followed the instructions of the authorities, and we are victims.
We make it clear once again that we did not intend to delay providing the list of congregants or hide it. But it is true that providing such a list was not an easy decision for Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Among our congregants, there are many who suffer from domestic violence, persecution, and even life-threatening situations because of their faith. This is backed by the number of congregants who are taken to so-called Cult Counseling Offices and face confinement, violence, and illegal acts, and the number amounts to more than 100 congregants per year. In the midst of such persecution, two female congregants lost their lives, one killed by her husband and the other by her father, and there was the third victim on the 26th.
We are deeply sorry for infections caused by some congregants who were hesitant to reveal their affiliation with Shincheonji at first. But as big-name politicians and media outlets were criticizing Shincheonji severely day after day, even calling it the epicenter of the virus, there must have been many who were afraid to say that they are Shincheonji members. We ask for your understanding once again.
Shincheonji congregants are ordinary Korean citizens who followed the instructions of the government and local authorities faithfully before a confirmed case. Shincheonji Church of Jesus accepts your rebuke seriously. But please do know that our congregants are your ordinary neighbors who fear such rebuke and cold eyes.
Since the situation occurred, some 4,000 cases of injustice against Shincheonji congregants have been reported already, which include notices of termination of employment, workplace bullying, domestic persecution, labeling, and slandering.
Please stop the curse and persecution against Shincheonji congregants now. And we ask media outlets that are reporting fake, speculative, or one-sided news based on the claims of slanderers to stop immediately. Please stop framing Shincheonji as the main culprit of the COVID-19 outbreak by turning passive attitudes of congregants, caused by fear, into actions intended to spread the virus. We will take all measures possible to protect our congregants. Also, as usual, we will fight to the end against fake news and the “cult” framing that mainline churches are doing to protect their vested interests.
There have been two coronavirus-linked deaths of Shincheonji congregants, and severe persecution led to the death of one congregant. Please remember that we, Shincheonji Church of Jesus, are also victims of COVID-19.
The Shincheonji headquarters and church workers across Korea are cooperating with local governments and making phone calls to congregants, including those who cannot be reached at the moment. We promise to exert our utmost efforts in cooperating with the health authorities and local governments to bring the COVID-19 epidemic to an end as soon as possible.