Ghosts in the North Korea rescue

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter crosses the military demarcation line in Panmunjom from North to South Korea in this June 18, 1994 file photo. Carter will travel to isolated North Korea within days to win the release of an American prisoner there, media reports said on August 24, 2010. Picture taken June 18, 1994. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/Files (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The Associated press reports that former President Jimmy Carter has secured the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes:

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter flew out of North Korea on a private jet Friday after securing a special pardon for an American who had been jailed in the communist country since January.

There are lots of details about the rescue mission and it’s a nice long story. Is there a religion angle to this story? Not according to the Associated Press, which devotes not one word — not a single word to a discussion of religion.

And that’s surprising. If you read the BBC report that includes multiple paragraphs about the key role religion played in this story:

One-man mission

Mr Gomes, a devout Christian who had entered North Korea in January, had been teaching English in South Korea.

He reportedly crossed into North Korea in January. He is thought to have gone there on a one-man peace mission.

Pastor Simon Suh at the Every Nation Church of Korea which Mr Gomes attended in Seoul said he had no idea he was planning the trip.

“He was a gentle and spiritual man,” Pastor Suh told the BBC’s World Today programme, adding that North Korean refugees Mr Gomes met at the church would have given him reports of the lack of religious freedom in the North.

Pastor Suh said members of church “felt like their prayers were answered” when they heard about Mr Gomes release.

It’s not like the BBC has some special in on this story about an American president rescuing an American citizen. Gomes’ religion is and has been well-known to Christians and other human rights activists.

A GetReligion reader noted that Christianity Today had been updating a story about releasing Christian activist Aijalon Mahli Gomes to former President Jimmy Carter so she was surprised when AP totally whiffed the religion angle. They’ve done it on this story before, too.

While we’re talking Christianity Today, our own Sarah Pulliam has had some great stories there this week. She had an exclusive with her “Wallis Apologizes to Olasky after Sojourners Funding Flap” and with a look at the surprising news that Dinesh D’Souza was appointed head of King’s College: “Appointment of author and speaker prompts the questions: How Catholic is he? And how Protestant is the Campus Crusade-affiliated school?” They’re worth checking out.

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  • http://www.seay.us Sandy O’Seay

    “Dinesh D’Souza was appointed head of King’s College: “Appointment of author and speaker prompts the questions: How Catholic is he?”

    And the answer is, he is not Catholic at all. If this article is correct, he has renounced his Catholic identity and adopted Reformation theology. I am surprised and disappointed in Mr. D’Souza.

  • kristy

    I read the BBC version last night online, and was really pleased to see the religion angle covered – and in a low key appropriate way. It does puzzle me that the AP didn’t even mention the religious angle, especially since it seems that religion may have been an inspiration in why he went to North Korea in the first place. It just seems like incomplete journalism. (The kind where you look on page 2 of the paper to finish the article, and there’s nothing there.)

  • Julia

    Interesting that D’Souza and Gomes in the throat slashing story each have Portuguese last names. As per an earlier thread they each may have Indian Goan Catholic ancestry.

  • http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/ Ted Olsen

    Thanks for noting Christianity Today’s work on this. At the risk of totally overloading this post on CT stuff, can I point out that we also this week ran an interview with Robert Park about Gomes? It was not an easy interview to get, so I’m eager to commend the work of our reporter, C.L. Lopez.

  • http://knapsack.blogspot.com Jeff

    I’ve looked about a bit, and haven’t found anything that would fill in my question, but Rev. Peter Gomes, the Harvard chaplain, professor, and author, is born & raised in the Boston area with East Indian roots. Are they any relation? The name and locality and faith commitment seem to point to the possibility.


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