LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Rallies against the latest ongoing attacks against religious freedom, in the form of coercive conversion, have sprung up in Los Angeles to South Africa, France, Philippines, Washington D.C.and San Francisco. Initiated in Gwanghwamoon and Gwangju in South Korea, the movement has gathered over 200,000 participants. The organization leading the protests, Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs, or HAC, has also taken to pen and ink, releasing an advocacy ad.
Wednesday's New York Times A5 donned a black and white sketch of a wolf draped in loosely worn skin of a sheep, his left hand holding a lock and chain while his right clenches a fistful of hundred dollar bills. Behind him, a woman burns on a steak in the center of a modern day witch hunt.
"Ban Coercive Conversion," the ad reads, shunning a little known illegal practice that has been hiding behind the doors of billion dollar mega churches for over a decade.
In the early 2000s, "coercive conversion" programs swept through many churches in South Korea, particularly, ones tied to the Christian Council of Korea (CCK). Within the programs, pastors play the role of conversion trainers.
For a large fee, "trainers" guide the victims' families through advising various physically, psychologically and emotionally violent methods to convince victims into converting from their own respective (and often lesser known) faiths to a more socially acceptable mainstream creed. Families are coached to forcefully bind, or sedate victims before taking them to an isolated location where they will meet conversion trainers to begin the process.
"The consequences are destructive: mental trauma, fear, strained family relationships, divorce, job loss, school dropout and even death," said Ms. Ji Hye Choi, HAC Co-President.
"The problem is that conversion program leaders call the program 'counseling,' masking their true intent for the opportunity of financial profit," said Ms. Choi.
Through the illicit program, one CCK minister even received up to $894,425 USD, for their guidance.
In January 2018, a 25 year old woman, Ji-In Gu, died during coercive conversion through suffocation by her own parents led by a program's trainer.
This fatal event, however, was not Gu's first time in the program. In 2016, she was kidnapped by her family for 44 days. Before her death, Gu pleaded to the presidential office of South Korea on its petition website, calling for legal protection from religious persecution. No official response from the government has been issued.
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