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'History and memory' connect with Korean reconciliation process, say churches

'History and memory' connect with Korean reconciliation process, say churches

Peace convocation and march at the DMZ between the North and South Koreas. Photo: Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, 2020.

17 August 2020

The war that erupted on the Korean Peninsula 70 years ago to divide Korea has yet to end, so more prayers and discussion are needed to raise awareness for the path to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in the divided nation, churches believe.

On 14 August, the World Council of Churches (WCC) published The Light of Peace: Churches in Solidarity with the Korean Peninsula, a collection of resources that member churches can use to recognize 70 years of unresolved conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

It notes that, “The division of Korea was followed by the Korean War. Some of the soldiers who served are still alive.”

"History, memory, and narrative are all interconnected with distinctive dimensions, involving a context-bound hermeneutical journey of the processes and events that have occurred for a people over an extended period," said Rev. Dr Hong-Jung Lee, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea.

Reconciliation and peaceful coexistence

"As peacemakers, we remember and interpret the period as a period of enhancing the people's capacity for healing, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence."

In the book’s preface, Rev. Dr Sang Chang, WCC Asia president, reflects that it is time for the Korean Peninsula to embrace the life of reconciliation and unification.

"This book traces the 70 years of modern Korean history, offering historical and geopolitical background on the division of Korea," writes Chang. She says this includes, "the spiritual and theological meanings of the global ecumenical initiatives for the peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula."

"Each chapter will foster an awareness of the pain and suffering caused by the 70 years of Korean War, enlivened by personal stories, interviews, and prayers, beginning with a spiritual reflection that serves as a theological introduction to the chapter."

The Korean War was fought from 1950 to 1953, but fighting ceased only with an armistice, and a peace treaty is yet to be signed. At least three million people are thought to have died in the fighting and families were wrenched apart by the division of the country.

Lee asked for continued prayers to arrive at a final peaceful settlement on the Korean Peninsula. "We are trying to develop a people's hermeneutics of peace so that we may testify God's sovereignty of history: we confess that God will recreate a healed and reconciled Korean Peninsula with the fullness of life for all."

Practical steps to remove threat

In the introduction, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, WCC interim general secretary, urges Christians to take bold new steps for peace. "It is time to find ways of taking real practical steps toward removing the permanent threat of war, toward peaceful coexistence on the Korean Peninsula, and ultimately toward reunification of the long-divided Korean people," he writes.

The book notes, “People in the North and South have become antagonistic strangers toward each other, deeply distorted by a Cold War consciousness and culture. As result the Korean Peninsula has now been sunk into the quagmire of the global military industrial complex of mass destruction on an apocalyptic scale.”

South African church leader Rev. Frank Chikane, moderator of the WCC Commission of the Churches

on International Affairs, says in the book, “It is important to recognize that places like the Korean Peninsula are victims of history, of the geopolitics of the world and different interests that have nothing to do with the interests of Koreans both in the North and South.

“If the global players continue to pursue their interests at the expense of the Koreans in the peninsula, we must support the Koreans to agree on their own peace agreement, ending the war between them,” he said.

Following an ecumenical consultation initiated by the WCC in Tozanso, Japan, in 1984, the ecumenical movement has played an important role through prayer, cooperation for reconciliation, dialogue, and peaceful reunification.

From 1 March to 15 August 2020, the WCC, together with the National Council of Churches in Korea, has been observing a Global Prayer Campaign, "We Pray, Peace Now, End the War." As part of the campaign, the WCC has been sharing prayers and stories commemorating 70 years since the start of the Korean War, inviting churches worldwide to join in prayers for Korea.

The Light of Peace will be translated it into Korean by the National Council of Churches in Korea.

Global prayer campaign for peace on the Korean Peninsula

Publication “The Light of Peace: Churches in Solidarity with the Korean Peninsula”

Churches say that peace treaty is essential next step for the Korean Peninsula (WCC press release 25 June 2020)