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Statement on Ecumenical Engagement for Peace, Reconciliation and Reunification on the Korean Peninsula

11 June 2017

World Council of Churches

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Bossey, Switzerland

7-12 June 2017

Doc. No. 12 (final)

Public Issues Statements

The document is available in Arabic.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

The World Council of Churches has long been engaged in efforts for peace, reconciliation, reunification and development cooperation on the Korean peninsula. Especially since the ‘Tozanso Consultation’ in 1984, the WCC – in partnership with the National Council of Churches in [South] Korea (NCCK), the Korean Christians Federation in North Korea (KCF), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and several other ecumenical partners – has encouraged and facilitated encounters between Christians from North and South Korea, and together with Christians from a wide spectrum of member churches around the world. This ecumenical channel for mutual visits, inter-church relations, people-to-people encounter, dialogue and cooperation has remained open through even the periods of greatest tension in the region when almost all other such channels have been closed. And since 2006 the WCC, through the Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, has convened and moderated the Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula (EFK) – a network of churches, national and regional councils of churches, mission organizations and church-related development agencies – to help strengthen and coordinate ecumenical efforts in these areas.

At the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, South Korea, member churches renewed their support for and commitment to renewed and strengthened ecumenical efforts for peace, reconciliation and reunification of the divided Korean people, in the face of escalating confrontation and heightened risks of catastrophic conflict in the region. The Assembly identified the Korean Peninsula as one of the key stations on our shared ecumenical Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

The WCC executive committee acknowledges the numerous initiatives taken since the Busan assembly in pursuit of these commitments, including especially:

-          the Bossey conference on the 30th anniversary of the ‘Tozanso Process’, held on 17-19 June 2014. This conference brought together representatives of 34 churches and related organizations from 15 countries, including delegations from the KCF in North Korea and the NCCK in South Korea, seeking new ways to advance reconciliation and peace on the peninsula;

-          the international ecumenical delegation visit to North Korea on 23-30 October 2015, comprising 12 representatives of EFK members and observers. This visit also included a formal meeting of the EFK in Pyongyang on 28 October 2015 – the historic first occasion on which an international ecumenical gathering of this nature was able to be convened anywhere on the Korean peninsula, either North or South, with the participation of both North and South Koreans;

-          the International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty for the Korean Peninsula convened by the WCC in Hong Kong on 14-16 November 2016, with 58 participants from churches and related organizations from both North and South Korea and 11 other countries, which proposed that future ecumenical initiatives with regard to the Korean peninsula be purposefully and explicitly configured so as to model and exercise leadership towards a process for a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement; and

-          most recently, the WCC general secretary’s meeting with newly-elected South Korean President Mr Moon Jae-in in Seoul on 30 May 2017, to offer the ecumenical movement’s support for and engagement in new initiatives for dialogue and peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula.

The executive committee, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 7-12 June 2017, commends and endorses the purposes and direction of these initiatives, and:

-          Affirms that in this complex and dangerous context confrontation by military or other means carries far higher risks of conflict – with catastrophic consequences for all people of the peninsula and the region – than prospects of leading to peace. Consequently, a paradigm shift in approaches to the resolution of the geopolitical challenges of the region is urgently needed. In this regard, we strongly encourage the new South Korean President Mr Moon Jae-in in his stated commitment to engaging in dialogue with North Korea.

-          Appeals urgently to all states engaged in the perilously escalating military confrontation in the region to refrain from further escalation and to pursue instead initiatives to reduce tensions and to create a window for new dialogue initiatives. In particular, we call for a freeze on both the annual joint US-South Korean military exercises and further missile or nuclear weapon tests by North Korea, in order to enable such a window for dialogue to be opened.

-          Calls also, again in the interests of reducing tensions and encouraging dialogue, for the suspension of the most recent and most stringent economic sanctions against North Korea. Such sanctions have not proven effective in promoting the interests of peace, but rather have contributed greatly to the exacerbation of tensions and the risk of conflict in the region.

-          Requests the WCC general secretary, especially in light of the outcomes of the November 2016 Hong Kong conference and his recent meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to pursue ecumenical efforts to promote progress towards a peace treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement of 1953. As affirmed by the 10th assembly, such a treaty is urgently needed in order to bring a formal end to the long suspended Korean War, to help reduce tensions and to build the mutual trust conducive to addressing the current challenges to peaceful coexistence and human rights for all Koreans.

-          Affirms the WCC’s abiding concern for the human rights and dignity of all people, in North Korea as in every country of the world, and in this regard welcomes the recent visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, to North Korea on 3 to 8 May 2017 – the first ever visit to the country by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council. We pray that this visit may help lead to a more constructive form of engagement with North Korea on human rights, that may lead to actual improvements in the human rights situation rather than to more confrontation and risk of conflict.

-          Stresses the importance of the governments of both South and North Korea not obstructing but enabling encounter, exchange and dialogue between North and South Korean Christians, in the interests both of inter-church relations and of people-to-people encounter to help reduce tensions and as a contribution to opening new windows for dialogue.

-          As proposed by the 10th assembly, invites all WCC member churches and ecumenical partners around the world to join with Christians in both North and South Korea in a common Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula, on Sunday 13 August 2017, and each year on the Sunday before 15 August.