As the recent developments of nuclear weapons and increased tensions between United States and North Korea leaders can bring the world to the brink of war, churches around the world are calling for bilateral dialogue, expressing their commitment to peace and nonviolent resolution.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) calls for an immediate cessation of hostile acts and rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. NCCCUSA’s 10 August statement says that steps must be taken immediately to avoid the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear war.
“Increased tension and destabilizing actions and rhetoric by both sides make such a war more likely. Recent comments by the leaders of the United States and North Korea threatening hostilities are beyond alarming, only serving to bring our countries, and the world, to the brink of war”, states the NCCCUSA, urgently calling upon both leaders to tone down their “similar and mutually inflammatory rhetoric”.
“Indeed, if this rhetoric were to become a reality, it would only mean the horrifying exchange of nuclear weapons. This would not only threaten US and North Korean civilians, soldiers, and territories; nuclear and conventional war would be a complete disaster for the people of South Korea, Japan, and other countries in Asia and the Pacific.”
It is therefore essential that bilateral dialogue take place, that aggressive language be discarded, and that paths to peace be pursued, urges the NCCCUSA statement. “We will continue to urge our government to tone down its rhetoric and to utilize diplomacy and work with the many partners, both governmental and nongovernmental, who stand ready to assist both the United States and North Korea to de-escalate this crisis.”
Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) peace officer Rev. Renke Brahms stated that martial images expressed in the US president’s statements unfold a dynamic of their own which is hard to roll back. “Complicated global situations cannot be resolved with twitter comments or talking to the press while on holidays.” He told news agency EPD that the “Pacific region loaded with arms is like a gunpowder barrel - and it is irresponsible to wave a rhetorical match near it”, calling for a verbal and diplomatic de-escalation.
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, advisor to the Vatican’s office for Integral Human Development and the Vatican’s former diplomatic representative to the United Nations, called for dialogue and inclusive negotiations to resolve the current crisis between the United States and North Korea. He told Vatican Radio that such crises can only be avoided by investing in conflict prevention, rather than in military technology.
The current crisis shows how international relations can easily break down when there is a determination to violate the minimum standard of common sense in dealing with other people, said Archbishop Tomasi. He pointed to Pope Francis who regularly insists that the way forward is that of dialogue, including everyone in negotiations, in search for the common good.
The “way of conflict is always the wrong way”, says Tomasi, which is why “we need to invest time, energy, money, resources” to avoid “arriving at these boiling points of crisis”. It is vital to help societies improve the quality of life of their people “instead of building walls and creating diffidence”, he adds. But to do this, we need to change the public culture, insisting that “the way forward is not that of having the latest military technology, but of having an approach of inclusion and participation” in building the common good of the global human family.
It is important that the worldwide church plays a mutual and cooperative role in the search for peace between North and South Korea, says Christine Elliott, Director of World Church Programmes for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
Current escalation of war rhetoric from both North Korea and USA and developments of the most recent ballistic missiles are extremely worrying, and there is considerable anxiety that it will take just one foolish statement to escalate things completely out of hand.
“In the shadow of this, the Ecumenical Forum for Korea continues to stand for peace. It is important that the role the churches worldwide play is one of mutuality and cooperation”, says Christine Elliott.
She adds at the recent peace meeting in Leipzig churches were challenged by the North Koreans to call for the sanctions on North Korea to be lifted. “They claim that they have a profoundly negative effect on the work for peace and moreover, they affect the poorest of the poor in North Korea the most.”
“It is during times like these when we must join together in a call for the exhaustion of all diplomatic efforts before turning to military action”, states Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe of the United Methodist Church in the US. The UMC believes war to be “incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ”, and the church “insists that the first moral duty of all nations is to work together to resolve by peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them”.
At this time of heightened tension around the Korean peninsula, United Church of Canada stands with its global partners in their calls for dialogue to reduce tensions and renew international efforts to promote peace and reconciliation.
“The United Church of Canada has a long history of mission relationships in Korea spanning well over 100 years”, says Patti Talbot, who is responsible for United Church Partnerships in Northeast Asia. “When peace is threatened, Christians and other people of faith need to be present and active.” The United Church affirms the courageous witness of its global partner, The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK), which continues to urge the South Korean and other governments to engage in dialogue, de-escalation, and disarmament, rather than taking steps toward military action.
In an emergency letter to South Korean president Moon Jae-In, the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) urged immediate dialogue to ease military tension in the Korean Peninsula. NCCK reiterated its hope to see a peaceful reunification of South and North Korea, also stating that the recent tension has caused grave concern.
The lives of the people in South Korea should not be threatened by the provocative acts of the US and North Korea, said the letter. “The road to peace is a difficult one, but the harder it gets the more important it is that we keep the principle,” the letter states. “We cannot start sincere dialogues when we place blame for the opponent’s extreme actions or when we insist various pre-conditions for dialogue.”
In the wake of new sanctions on North Korea that could reduce the country’s annual export revenues by one third, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed concern over whether those sanctions demonstrate any positive impact in bringing a return to negotiations or preventing its development of nuclear weapons. Sanctions have, instead, clearly contributed to impeding humanitarian access to North Korea for disaster relief and other aid, Tveit noted.
“It is not at all clear how the new sanctions can be expected to make any more positive contribution to this extremely delicate and dangerous situation,” Tveit said. “We call for a sea-change in the international community’s approach to North Korea, in favour of dialogue and engagement rather than military and political confrontation.”
At the WCC General Assembly held in Busan, South Korea, in 2013, the National Council of Churches of Korea embarked on a campaign of action to raise awareness about the lack of a credible peace process and challenged the global ecumenical community to pursue it together. Since then the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) has worked closely with the Ecumenical Forum for Korea (EFK), which represents churches from both North Korea (Korean Christian Federation, KCF) and South Korea (National Council of Churches in Korea, NCCK), calling for the dialogue on peace in Korean peninsula.
World Council of Churches has designated this Sunday, 13 August, as the Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The WCC, World Communion of Reformed Churches and World Evangelical Alliance are inviting parishes and individuals across the world to pray for the peace, reconciliation and healing of the divided Korean Peninsula this Sunday.