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WCC leaders express concern over situation on the Korean peninsula

08 January 2016

Following the recent nuclear test conducted by North Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is calling on all parties involved in the current situation on the Korean peninsula – especially South Korea, North Korea, the USA, Japan and China – to “invest in initiatives to reduce tensions, to promote dialogue and to encourage negotiations for an end to the suspended state of war, and for peaceful co-existence on the Korean peninsula, rather than measures that increase the risk of catastrophic conflict“, according to WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

“As a global fellowship of churches committed to a pilgrimage of justice and peace, we seek hope-inspiring alternatives to the deadly cycle of provocation and military confrontation,” he stressed.

For more than 30 years the World Council of Churches (WCC) has been engaged in opening doors for encounter and dialogue between North and South Koreans, and in promoting international ecumenical accompaniment of this relationship. The WCC’s 10th Assembly – held in Busan, Republic of Korea, in 2013 – affirmed that “It is our prayer that the vision and dream of all Koreans, their common aspiration for healing, reconciliation, peace and reunification may be fulfilled.” But, as described by Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), “more than 70 years after the division of the peninsula, Korean people continue to be separated by the most highly militarized confrontation in the world. The vision and dream of peace is threatened by any and all measures that heighten rather than reduce tensions in this dangerous situation.”

WCC general secretary Tveit observed, “The WCC also has a long history of principled opposition to nuclear arms, and supports the recent ‘humanitarian initiative’ towards a global legal ban on such unconscionable weapons of mass destruction.”

In the context of the Korean peninsula, the threat of nuclear conflict jeopardizes the lives and future not only of the people of the peninsula but of the wider region and the globe.

“Therefore”, stressed Tveit, “the WCC condemns initiatives to scale up the destructive potential of nuclear weapons on or in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula”, noting that WCC governing bodies have repeatedly called for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, for the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons in North East Asia, and for a global humanitarian ban on nuclear weapons.

“We note with dismay and great concern”, added CCIA director Prove, “that current or envisaged responses to the recent nuclear test by North Korea do not lead in the direction of de-escalation and dialogue. Such troubling responses include today’s resumption of loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts by South Korea, the possible strengthening of economic sanctions, and increased international military presence (including nuclear-armed forces) in the region.”

General secretary Tveit stressed that “provocation does not offer a path to peace. In this situation, dialogue is more important and more urgently required than ever. I invite all churches and all people of good will to pray with and for the people of both Koreas, and to redouble our efforts for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula and throughout the world.”

Read also:

Peace cannot be done by bullets, just by encounters (WCC news release of 10 December 2015)

Ecumenical forum delegation convenes for first time on Korean peninsula to discuss peace, reconciliation (WCC news release of 13 November 2015)

Ecumenical forum strengthens churches’ commitment to peace in Northeast Asia (WCC news release of 22 September 2015)

WCC expresses concern over escalating tensions on Korean peninsula (WCC news release of 21 August 2015)

WCC member churches in the Republic of Korea