The meeting received a report on the World Council of Churches (WCC) “We Pray, Peace Now, End the War” prayer campaign, as well as news of the humanitarian and political impacts of the economic sanctions against North Korea.
In a greeting issued to the meeting participants, Rev. Dr Hong-Jung Lee, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea, reflected on the “We Pray, Peace Now, End the War” global prayer campaign in 2020, and highlighted ongoing plans for peace initiatives in the next couple of years.
“Throughout the year 2020, I have come to the deep realization that the history, memory, and narrative of the Korean War are all interconnected with distinctive dimensions, involving various context-bound hermeneutical journeys of people who experienced the Korean War in different ways,” Lee said. “Through this hermeneutical journey, we the Korean people have identified causes and meanings within the Korean War, revealing in what way we remember and reinterpret and how we manifest the identities of our existence.”
Among other initiatives taken in 2020 in lieu of planned meetings and lobbying visits in support of initiatives for peace on the Korean Peninsula, Peter Prove, WCC director for International Affairs, highlighted the Joint Ecumenical Peace Message issued on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Prove noted that this message “was co-sponsored by churches and ecumenical councils from as many as 16 countries that participated in the Korean War.”
The National Council of Churches in Korea also shared a letter sent to the US president-elect Joe Biden. The letter expressed hopes that this change in administration will mark a return to the US leading the world in protecting democracy, human rights, and life-saving responses to the global pandemic. “As we are grateful for the long and storied relationship between the US and the Republic of Korea, we look forward to a more hopeful future of working together,” reads the letter.
The participants also received expert input on how South Korea’s ban on anti-North Korea leaflets affects the context for peace-building, and how a virtual women’s pilgrimage visit to the Korean Peninsula in 2020 helped encourage and strengthen efforts for peace and reconciliation.
Presenting on the US presidential transition, Jim Winkler, president and general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, reflected on implications of the US election outcome for ecumenical efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula. He proposed a joint meeting between the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and the National Council of Churches in Korea to further discuss this, and expressed his commitment to hosting encounters with US policymakers in Washington to advocate for engagement and dialogue as a path to peace in Korea.
Following the meeting, Prove noted that though the pandemic had prevented planned visits and deeper engagement with the Korean Christian Federation of North Korea during 2020, “this meeting demonstrated that the ecumenical commitment to working for peace and reunification in partnership with our North and South Korean sisters and brothers remains strong and resolute.”