President Lee Myung-bak said Thursday that he hopes Christian churches will play greater roles in bridging social divisions and promoting national unity in South Korea.
His remark came as local churches have protested the government's push for a bill calling for tax benefits to holders of Islamic bonds, or "sukuk," in an effort to encourage local companies to issue such debts and lure more Middle Eastern oil dollars.
Christian groups say it is unfair to give tax benefits to a certain religion.
On Thursday, Lee made no mention of the issue during an address to an annual gathering of South Korean church leaders, known as "Korea National Prayer Breakfast," held at COEX in southern Seoul, only calling for churches to help promote social unity.
"I believe it is essential for us to understand and respect others in order to get our society to unite and mature," Lee said at the meeting.
Churches in South Korea have "always taken the lead in changing society in a positive way," Lee said, expressing hope that they "practice sharing more actively and take the lead in taking care of those in the shady parts of our society."
Lee also said the world economy is facing uncertainties amid political unrest in the Middle East, but he believes South Korea can overcome difficulties if the country pulls together in meeting those challenges.
Lee also wished North Korean people blessings and said he will try to be a "president who listens to the people in a more humble manner and devotes himself to the country." (Yonhap)