The Coronavirus Spreads the Virus of Human Rights Violation and Intolerance

Published in World
Saturday, 29 February 2020 11:07

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus infections in South Korea with many cases found among members of a Christian denomination named the Shincheonji Church of Jesus is raising concerns that hatred and animosity targeted to the specific religious organization increase human rights violations.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), an organization under the Ministry of Welfare and Health, stated that 123 additional cases have been confirmed with the total of 556 as of February 23. Many of confirmed cases were found in the city of Daegu and the North Gyeongsang Province.

South Korean prime minister Chung Sye-Kyun in his public statement asked citizens to cooperate with the government and avoid large-scale gatherings and the virus has low fatality rate and can be cured sufficiently by early isolation and treatment.

But the South Korean government did not mention prohibition of entry from China, which has constantly been raised by Korean Medical Association and opposition parties. For the online national petition to the executive office for the President of South Korea on the prohibition of entry, no official responses have been made by the government despite 760,000 supports. The South Korean public news agency, Yonhap News, introduced the possible relationship between the influx of 1,000 Chinese school trips to Daegu last month.

The Shincheonji Church, which has gained main attention for the virus proliferation and counteraction, released a statement on the same day that the church is in close cooperation with the health authorities, including offering the full list of members the Shincheonji Church in Daegu to the KCDC, as many members of the church have been exposed to the virus after the 31st confirmed case from a member of the church was found.

With the fear of increasing infection cases, major newspaper reports and social media posts in South Korea turn their eyes on the Shincheonji Church, many of which are speculative information. Some South Korean media owned by the conservative and fundamentalist Protestant groups that have denounced Shincheonji released an article saying that Shincheonji ordered its members to participate in other church services so that the Coronavirus is not solely the Shincheonji problem.

“As a scholar who has studied Shincheonji, I am concerned with the fact that international media that obviously know nothing about it have “discovered” this church overnight because of the coronavirus incidents in Korea, and have repeated inaccurate information they found on low-level Internet sources,” said Prof. Massimo Intovigne, a well-known Italian sociologist of religion and the managing director of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions).

“Even of more concern is the fact that Shincheonji members who have contracted the virus, who are the victims in this story, are being treated unfairly by the Korean media and described as “cultists.” Worse still, some Shincheonji members have been insulted, discriminated and forced out of their jobs, as scapegoats for what has become a national and international hysteria about the virus,” added Prof. Intovigne.

The negative attitude against the new Christian denomination is on the ground of decades-long confrontation with the conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups whose political activism raised controversies on corruption, which triggered breakaway from these groups and joining the new Christian movement led by Shincheonji.

“Turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the illegal activities of the conservative church in South Korea, such as kidnapping and confinement for forced conversion, resulted in violence against the rapid increase of Shincheonji members. Intensifying the degree of indiscriminate hatred promoted by unfounded information in media and communication platforms poses a continuing, grave concern for the already gross violation of human rights against them,” said Willey Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF).

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  • Ukrainian Culture Held At Gunpoint Amidst Coronavirus Crisis

    In its fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country, the Ukrainian government may sacrifice one of the country’s biggest assets since the Euromaidan Revolution, its culture. While the Ministry of Finance plans to cut funding in 2020 by 7 billion hryvnias, UkraineWorld sums up why representatives of the country’s creative industries believe it might lead to a disaster.

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    JULIA SINKEVYCH, GENERAL PRODUCER OF THE ODESA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

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    MYKOLA KNIAZHYTSKIY, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON HUMANITARIAN AND INFORMATION POLICY

    Our Committee has stood unanimously against the budget cuts for Ukrainian culture, regardless of the party that each member belongs to. People who are quarantined should have something to watch and read, besides the fact that other essential sectors need support.

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    1) breaking of creative industry enterprises;

    2) decrease in export of creative industry goods;

    3) increasing unemployment in the field of film production, tourism, book publishing;

    4) loss of human potential.

    5) reduction of the general level of culture of the population of Ukraine > increase in crime rates and "social" diseases;

    6) the lack of perception of the policultural nature of Ukrainian society and a general decline in the level of patriotism;

    7) slowing down the processes of development of civil society institutions, etc.

    IRMA VITOVSKA, UKRAINIAN ACTRESS

    It is like a nightmare from the 90-s. I am an expert of the Ukrainian Cultural Fund, where many projects are now suspended in uncertainty. But cinematography is a difficult sphere in terms of technical assets, which we had grown.

    We should look for ways to compromise. Culture creates a moral code, which is important in times of challenge like the coronavirus pandemic. This is a challenge and a marker that will detect many things in society.

    We do not know what the atmosphere outside will be, so the moral code that culture gives is important so as not to allow people to fall into despair.

    One year of downtime can count for ten for those people working in cinema. It is a question of information security, creativity, and competitiveness. For me, as an actress, the downtime is very critical. We might lose everything we have been acquiring for so long.

     
     
    IRYNA MATVIYISHYN
    Analyst and journalist at UkraineWorld and Internews Ukraine

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