As members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) fellowship and national councils of churches gathered online on 22 June, they pledged to walk beside their sisters and brothers on the Korean Peninsula in their quest for peace.
While releasing an ecumenical message, they prayed and hoped aloud that, on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the path to peace will at last be realized.
In his opening remarks, WCC interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca looked back at the conflict that destroyed millions of lives. “It is exactly in a moment such as this, that as Christians we are called to take bold new steps for peace,” he said. “And so, we come together, from many countries around the world, to say that after 70 years, it is time to bring an end to the war that has lain always in the background of inter-Korean relations since that terrible conflict took place.”
Rev. Dr Hong-Jung Lee, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Korea, expressed gratitude for all those who are seeking a new reality of peace in the context of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War.
Lee noted how the Korean Armistice Agreement has never led to a final peaceful settlement. “People in the North and South have become antagonistic to strangers and against each other, deeply distorted by a cold war consciousness and culture,” said Lee. “The division of the Korean Peninsula was the most reckless compromise between the USA and Soviet Union based on a short term tactical expediency rather than a long term strategic vision for the suffering people under the Japanese forceful occupation.”
The division is a structural sin against God, Lee continued. “We, the people of God, cannot compromise our faith in Jesus Christ with any attempt to make any kinds of war, particularly nuclear war, which totally destroy God’s face as seen in the faces of people and nature,” he said.
In a prayer, WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri expressed the ecumenical solidarity felt across the world. “We have come together as the family of God because we believe that prayer unites us as God’s children in this uncertain time,” she said. “God of reconciliation, as this year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of Korean War, we look back to the past.”
Phiri also prayed for the future. “We ask you to comfort those who have been longing to meet their families since their separation 70 years ago,” she prayed. “Make us pilgrims together on the way to your kingdom, and strengthen us together in the mission of justice and peace to your world, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
Ecumenical Efforts for Peace on the Korean War’s 70th Anniversary was the focus of an online meeting among members of the Ecumenical Forum for Korea, the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and regional church councils that also took place on June 22.
Rev Seungmin Shin of the National Council of Churches of Korea shared with participants in the meeting that during the Global Prayer Campaign for peace on the Korean Peninsula done in collaboration between NCCK and WCC, more than 40 prayers and testimonies have been posted. Many of them have been very inspiring, including a prayer from Palestine, and a testimony from an elderly Korean pastor whose father and brother were killed in North Korea. “We sincerely appeal to all of you to keep the Korean people and the Korean Peninsula in your prayers. We encourage you to send in your prayers, so they can be shared worldwide”, said Rev Shin.
Peter Prove, director of the WCC’s CCIA commission, shared with the participants the initiative of the Joint Ecumenical Peace Message announced worldwide today. “We invite churches and church councils to provide additional endorsements for the Peace Message for Korea, that will be presented with all signatories on June 25 – the date when the Korean war broke out 70 years ago”.