World Council of Churches Praying for Korean Hostages

The acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches has written to the head of the National Council of Churches in Korea to express solidarity following the abduction of 23 South Korean Christians in Afghanistan.

William Temu said in his letter to the Rev. Kwon Oh-sung that WCC member churches were "praying in earnest" for the hostages, who were taken by the Taliban from the main road south from Kabul last week during a humanitarian visit to Afghanistan.

Local government official Khowja Seddiqi confirmed on Wednesday that one of the hostages, a male, had been shot dead because "Kabul's administration did not listen to [the Taliban's] demand and did not free [the militant group's] prisoners."

The Taliban threatened to kill the other 22 hostages if eight rebel prisoners were not freed by 2030 GMT on Wednesday.

In his letter to the NCCK, Temu stated: "As negotiations between the Taliban and the South Korean government continue, we pray for the immediate release of those being held, for their reunion with their families and for true peace in Afghanistan.

"We pray also for the Afghan President Hamid Karzai, that through his help, negotiations may be strengthened."

Karzai has so far refused to meet the demands of the Taliban to free their prisoners. His silence on this occasion comes after his decision to free five Taliban from jail in March in exchange for an Italian reporter proved unpopular at home and abroad.

Temu appealed for prayers to ensure the release of the South Korean hostages.

"We are calling the entire ecumenical family to join in prayer, asking God to intercede so that the hostages will be released and brought to safety," he wrote.

"We stand in solidarity with the families and churches affected, and with all the Korean people as they live through this difficult and trying time."