11 NGOs including European Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience (CAP-LC) submitted a report for “annual report for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” to the UN Secretary General at the 44th session in the UN Assembly Human Rights Council. The report is titled “scapegoating members of Shincheonji for COVID-19 in the Republic of Korea.”
By referring to the report from United States of America Commission of International Religious Freedom, the report to the UN said, “Shincheonji was suffering harassment from the South Korean government and society. Although some government measures appeared to be driven by legitimate public health concerns, others appeared to exaggerate the church’s role in the outbreak.”
“The government of Seoul locked down Shincheonji churches in the capital, and some mainline Protestant groups have accused the church of deliberately spreading the disease,” it continued.
The report stated, “The virus cannot be an excuse to violate human rights and religious liberty of hundreds of thousands of believers. Intolerance, violence, and discrimination against Shincheonji should be put to an end.”
Religious communities initiated to issue statements to advocate improvements in the unequal treatment against Shincheonji.
"The news of Chairman Lee and Shincheonji are being singled out and blamed for COVID-19 spread and sued is deeply concerning to all faith leaders who valued freedom of religion and the protection of human rights. This adverse action shall have chilling repercussions through the religious world," said Mr. Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Chairman of Islamic Cultural Center of North America.
According to a recent journal ‘Shincheonji and the COVID-19 Epidemic’ published by CESNUR, a global organization that studies religious issues, “members of Shincheonji are socially discriminated in their workplace and so on, although the vice president of Korean health authority publicly stated that Shincheonji cooperated with the government for the quarantine of COVID-19.” It added that “the virus cannot be an excuse for violating human rights and religious freedom. we urge the Korean government to respect religious freedom in Shincheonji”.
Recently, Chairman Lee of Shincheonji Church of Jesus encouraged the members who recovered from the COVID-19 to voluntarily join in donation of plasma. Around 4,000 recovered members said they are willing to donate plasma for research on a new treatment.
In response, Swami, a Hindu spiritual leader of Arya Samaj South Africa said in a recent statement in support of the Chairman Lee said “I was extremely happy to find out that irrespective of the actions taken against the Chairman, he requested those of his church membership who had recovered from the virus, to donate their blood plasma for research in developing a treatment for the COVID-19 virus.” He added that “I implore the South Korean Government and other relevant authorities to immediately drop all charges and lawsuits and rather support the efforts of the Shincheonji Church in encouraging other recoverees to donate their plasma.”
He said, “Shincheonji has long been socially discriminated against as it is defined as heresy by the conservative fundamentalist Christian group. Nevertheless, we have persevered as a religion that teaches forgiveness and love, but groundless negative perceptions of Shincheonji are repressing human rights and religious freedom of us.” He added, “Persecuting peace organizations, religious organizations, and violating human rights must be stopped in Korea.”