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Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

Letter to Churches and the National Council of Churches in South Korea

03 June 2010

Letter to the churches and the National Council of Churches in South Korea

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

It is with deep concern that I write this to you as the people of the Korean peninsula face, yet again, another precarious situation, that is, the recent tragedy of the sinking of the Cheonan in which forty-six sailors lost their lives. We pray that the Lord almighty will console the bereaved families and friends and give them hope and strength to withstand the challenges ahead.

While we join with the people and the churches in South Korea in their national grief, we also share your common concern that the unfolding events have endangered the prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula and also in the entire North East Asia region. The recent events confirm the fears expressed earlier by the World Council of Churches that the Korean peninsula remains a flashpoint in the North East Asia region and has the potential to ignite a major conflagration, unless the international community, especially the six-party talk nations, try to ensure lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

Experience has shown us that violence can never be the way to settle disputes either on the Korean peninsula or anywhere else. Therefore, the World Council of Churches reiterates its strong condemnation of all sorts of violence.

As you know that the World Council of Churches has been playing a pioneering role in initiating and supporting peace, reconciliation and reunification of the Korean peninsula. In this regard the WCC has been accompanying the Korean churches for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the Tozanso process was initiated by the Churches Commission on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches.

The Tsuen Wan / Hong Kong Consultation in 2009 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tozanso process strongly affirmed that “the gospel of Jesus Christ commits Christians to work against evil, injustice and suffering in all its forms, and to pray and work for God’s justice, peace and unity in the world. The Korean people have suffered for too long from their forced division. They are one people, one culture, one nation, yet they remain divided. Justice demands that they be reunited in peace and in common commitment to one another.”

The World Council of Churches appreciates and commends the role of the Korean churches in their efforts to continue and strengthen their advocacy for a peaceful resolution even at this time of crisis. In this context, we welcome the statement of the National Council of Churches in Korea, which calls upon all who wield powers to remember that “even in this difficult time, authorities should not give up an effort of mutual dialogue and of opening a way of reconciliation and co-existence on the Korean peninsula.” We also take this opportunity to reiterate the global ecumenical family’s commitment for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula. As the Tsuen Wan Communiqué stated, the need for today is to encourage “the international community to allow space and time for direct negotiations between North and South Korea towards a lessening of tensions between them and towards peace, reconciliation and reunification.” The WCC, as it has in the past, will continue to extend its solidarity to the people of Korea, North and South, and accompany them in their quest for peace, reconciliation and reunification of Korea.

The present situation presents the churches and Christians in Korea with enormous challenges. As the churches in Korea continue to be engaged in a mission of peace and reconciliation, I assure WCC’s member constituencies in Korea that the World Council of Churches will continue to pray and accompany you and work together with all of you while you patiently persevere in your struggles for justice, peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula.

May the Prince of Peace further empower and equip us in our journey together.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary