A special memorial service to commemorate 27-year-old Ji-in Gu, who died in South Korea as a result of forced religious conversion. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency.
Cape Town - A special memorial service to commemorate 27-year-old Ji-in Gu, who died in South Korea as a result of forced religious conversion, was held in the Company’s Garden in the city.

She died last January at a resort in Hwasun after being kidnapped and throttled by her own parents.

The Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs hosted the service. “What happens with coercive programmes in South Korea is that there is a Christian council that was established and all churches were forced to join the organisation. However, Gu came from a small church and her church did not want to become a member.

“The reason was because the organisation dictates everything that the church does,” said Siyabuka Thunyisa, the organiser of the event.

Before Gu’s death, she had written a petition to the president of South Korea requesting for the coercive conversion pastors to be subject to penalty by law. Gu’s family belonged to a church that joined the council.

The modus operandi to coercive conversion is that the pastors of the church use the family members to convince them that their relatives are part of a cult. They then abduct their own relatives.

“Gu managed to escape after 44 days of confinement, but her family members abducted her again and through trying to escape it was through strangulation that she actually died.”

Thunyisa said the parents had not been charged. “We are pleading with the South Korean government to revise their laws on coercive conversion.”

The Human Rights Association said it believed 147 people had become victim to the conversion process.

The Muslim Judicial Council was also present at the service. “We are here because we hold the view that each individual has the right to practise their religion and abide by their beliefs without being pressured, killed or victimised,” MJC representative Shuaib Appleby said.

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