Still surprised by the lack of commentary and outcry concerning Aijalon Mahli Gomes–imprisoned by North Korea for the “grave offense” of being a Christian and entering the country without permission–I asked a colleague, who has direct access to the pulse of the South Korean Christian community, for his take on the situation. Here is the response:
Interestingly, the South Korean church has always been rather unfazed by what happens in North Korea. You can’t live next to a crazy neighbor for this long without learning how to tune them out in your head, I guess.
Overall, most of the human rights and religious groups are coming to a recognition that the strategy employed by Park and Gomes was quite a harmful one for the North Korean underground church and for the conduct of missionary work in China.
It may be that the church is ticked at Aijalon for acting like a Christian, the U.S. State Department is ticked at Aijalon for trying to do something about North Korea’s acts of oppression and the rest of the world either doesn’t care or is afraid to care.
Even the other recent captives of North Korea aren’t speaking out on his behalf. I note only myself and two others who have blogged, Twittered and otherwise written more than a blip or two about Aijalon Mahli Gomes. The general consensus, it seems, is that Aijalon made the choice to enter North Korea, so he can stay in North Korea.
Aijalon, if ever there was a roadturn, Buddy, you are on it. My prayer is that your work is effectual and that your mind and body can persevere. Don’t count on your country or your church to step in on your behalf. If the Creator is on your side, you don’t need them anyway.
I am SO sick of hearing this from “Christians”. First of all, HOW has he hurt the “underground” church? I guess it is as you stated, “It may be that the church is ticked at Aijalon for acting like a Christian.”
I’ve been trying to follow the case of Aijalon, but there isn’t much news on it. The Ling and Li duo are getting ready to start promoting their book about their “stay” in north Korea, so I guess they’re too busy to offer any support.
As much as I hate to admit it, his plight is not getting any attention because 1) he’s a Christian and did what he did in the name of Christianity and 2) he’s not related to anybody famous. The only reason Li and Ling drew attention was because of their connections to “Current TV”, Lisa Ling and Al Gore and the only reason Park drew attention was because… well, he was Korean and the Korean community in the USA took notice and pushed for action. Aijalon has to rely on the Christian community in the USA to champion his story and let’s face it, US Christians have allowed themselves to become voiceless.
Secret Gospel of Mark says
He’s imprisoned because he crossed the border illegally. Even the Jesus in the Secret Gospel of Mark would frown upon such behavior.
I received this in an e-mail yesterday.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Free Aijalon Gomes
Nearly five months following his release from North Korea, American Robert Park is speaking out an urgent cry for his close friend Aijalon Gomes.
Park made headlines earlier this year for crossing into North Korea to demand human rights improvements. He entered the country on Christmas, and was released after six weeks.
He’s speaking out now to send a message about Aijalon Gomes, a US citizen who’s currently being held in North Korea.
“He’s a beautiful person and a true friend,” Park said. “We used to partake in overnight prayers together – he became one of my best friends in South Korea.”
Gomes, a Boston resident, crossed into North Korea one month after Park did. Gomes who taught English in South Korea has been sentenced to eight years in a North Korean labor camp. But North Korea has recently threatened to increase that punishment, by invoking the country’s “wartime law,” citing growing tensions with the U.S.
It’s still not clear exactly why Gomes entered North Korea, but based on his relationship and communications with Gomes prior to Christmas 2009, Park believes it was at least in part because of him.
“I believe he was very concerned about me, as we were truly close friends” said Park, who added that crossing into North Korea was uncharacteristic for Gomes. Park recalls having conversations with Gomes where he learned about Gomes’ interest to teach English in an official capacity in North Korea.
Park says he “feels deeply burdened and even responsible for Gomes release.” He says this concern is behind his repeated statements of wanting to stage a suicide demonstration. These statements have lead concerned onlookers to confine Park to psychiatric hospitals on several different occasions in recent months. Robert Park is currently in a behavioral health hospital after attempting to do a suicide demonstration on Friday, July 16.
Park says he wants to urge all people to do everything they can to put pressure on the US government to send a representative to North Korea on behalf of Aijalon Gomes. This includes contacting local government leaders, organizing demonstrations, and fasting and prayer.
Park said he wants all people in South Korea to participate in the demonstrations in front of the US Embassy demanding Aijalon Gomes’ release. Park is responding to reports that South Korean activists are already planning these demonstrations.
“Aijalon truly loves the North Korean people with Christian love – I beg for his release on humanitarian grounds. If you would please contact your government leaders and plead with them, raise awareness with them concerning Aijalon Gomes’s case, and ask that they make a direct visit,” Park said.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson helped with the release of an American from North Korea in 1996. There are rumors Richardson could once again fly to the communist nation to try to negotiate a release for Gomes. There is yet no confirmation of these reports, but Park is urging all people to contact Governor Richardson’s office.
John Smith says
The Twitter short Comment was amnd is well crafted. It hits on a lot of things. It is my unfortunate thing for me is finding about people. Because I am a “John Smith” I start getting the interest in names like Aijalon Mahli. These last few month s I’ve prayed for him and am glad he is in America.