Artists promote the highest values declared by the pope in condemning the evils of hatred, violence and discrimination
Famous teenage pop stars of South Korea came together to record a video to welcome Pope Francis in August 2014 on the first papal visit to the East Asian nation in 25 years. It was titled Koinonia, meaning togetherness, and composed by K-pop veteran Noh Young-shim.
The country has about 5.4 million Catholics — almost 10 percent of its population — and is known for its many pop stars and actors.
Among its most famous pop groups is BTS. While not Catholic or religious, its members have absorbed the values of the Gospel and took a stand recently at the White House in Washington DC after being invited by Catholic US President Joe Biden.
They were telling the world that racial discrimination and hatred directed against American-Asian people is morally wrong, a violation of human rights, and that respect and love for human dignity and each other is the greatest good. This is a message that has worldwide appeal and relevance.
In that one presentation repeated thousands of times around the world, a group of boys reached many people with a powerful message on human dignity.
Many youth around the world are skeptical, disbelieving and rebelling against abusive parents and a corrupt society and are suffering sexual abuse. The group echoed the message of Pope Francis in speaking for victims of abuse.
The youth today are turned off by politicians and abusive adults. The president of the United States turned to BTS to help project this message against racial discrimination in support of Asian people, including Filipinos.
It was a wise move by Biden, a devout Catholic upholding and acting to defend human rights, to invite the BTS singers to the White House.
The group is composed of seven members, remarkable singers and dancers, known by the names J-Hope, Suga, Jungkook, V, Jin, RM and Jimin. They write their own socially aware and rights-conscious songs and are a force for good.
They have hundreds of millions of young fans who can have a powerful positive influence on their parents.
Their songs are played continuously everywhere. Even though they are not outwardly religious, they do have a belief in Christian values of equality, justice and respect for all human beings despite race, status or nationality, just like Jesus of Nazareth.
They promote the highest values declared by Pope Francis in Korea and elsewhere condemning the evil of hatred, violence and discrimination against the 24 million Asian-Americans, who comprise 7.2 percent of the US population, and discrimination against Asians everywhere.
From the White House podium, they had this to say: “We were devastated by the recent surge in hate crimes, including Asian-American hate crimes. To put a stop to this and support the cause, we’d like to take this opportunity to voice ourselves once again,” Jimin said.
Suga then said: “It is not wrong to be different. I think equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences.”
And V remarked: “Everyone has their own history. We hope that today is one step closer to respecting and understanding each and everyone as a valuable person.”
J-Hope said: “We are here once again, thanks to our ‘army,’ our fans worldwide, who have different nationalities and cultures and use different languages. We are truly and always grateful.”
Jungkook added: “We are still surprised that music created by South Korean artists reaches so many people around the world, transcending language and cultural barriers. We believe music is always an amazing and wonderful unifier of all things.”
Sadly, there is also much discrimination and racism in the Philippines, where many people in the middle and upper class have been convinced that when it comes to skin color, white is right. They spend lavishly on dangerous, mercury-laced skin-whitening creams promoted by cosmetic companies to emulate and imitate sickly, bleached white-skinned celebrities and movie stars.
They wrongly reject and despise their own natural skin color and kayumanggi heritage, considering it as inferior and unworthy of them. They fail to see and appreciate the natural beauty of their own heritage. Worst of all, they are endangering their health with these racist products.
The World Health Organization lists the damage these products can cause: kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.
Racism is not only in skin-whitening products but firstly in the minds and hearts of people that grew up in a racist culture. Filipino indigenous people are treated as inferior by an elite oligarchy composed of dynastic families that devour indigenous ancestral lands to extract minerals, causing environmental destruction and greater poverty and oppression.
They have ruled with disastrous consequences for generations while one third of the Philippine population survives at various levels of poverty. Many thousands of neglected and forgotten Filipinos (until election time) survive on garbage and recycled leftover food from the plates of restaurant diners.
The rich and wealthy live in a luxurious cocoon of ignorance and apathy while millions go hungry. The ruling elite has no shame, no national pride to make the Philippines a nation of fully educated people and a prosperous, poverty-free nation in the world community. They have allowed it to become a nation owned by a few super-rich people in an ocean of beggars, slum dwellers and uneducated poor and a heavily taxed, struggling middle class.
They don’t care that hundreds of thousands of children are sexually abused in their impoverished families and sold over the internet as sex slaves by human traffickers for the satisfaction of foreign sex tourists and pedophiles. The new administration and Philippine hierarchy and clergy should heed the advice of Pope Francis when he declared that the protection of children is the top priority of the Catholic Church and the duty of everyone, especially Christians.
* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.
Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.
With thanks to Union of Catholic Asian (UCA) News and Fr Shay Cullen, where this article originally appeared.