Can you describe a few of the details of the prayer vigil for peace?
Rev. Dr Bae: The Korean WCC Assembly Companionship Group met for a prayer vigil for peace in Ukraine on 29 April. It had three witnesses: the first from a Ukrainian man named Constantine, who has been living in Korea for more than two decades; the second from Rev. Sooil Chai, former president of Hanshin University and chairperson of Christian Academy, who in the prayer represented a humanitarian solidarity work in Korea for Ukrainian war refugees; and the third from Metropolitan Ambrosios of Korean Orthodox Church. Korean, Korean-American, and Korean-German young Christians participated in reading intercessory prayers for peace in Ukraine, Belarus, Myanmar, the Philippines, and all corners of the global village. A youth choir named “Small Flame,” led by Rev. Puha Hwang, a professional singer and pastor, graced the candlelight prayer for peace with Taize songs. This vigil was held in the spacious pedestrian zone right in front of Chungdong First Methodist Church, close to the Russian Embassy, in Seoul.
Could you reflect on other activities of the Korean WCC Assembly Companionship Group?
Rev. Dr Bae: Last year the Korean ecumenical communities created a two-track preparation process for the WCC 11th Assembly, holding a monthly prayer and reflection. One of the two tracks, called the Korean WCC Assembly Companionship Group, was initiated by grassroots groups that intend to mobilize the younger generations to the ecumenical movement. Its monthly meeting has been covering the issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, peace, climate change, discrimination and hatred, digital revolution, gender justice, hospitality, and inequalities and injustice. It has become a platform for encounters among grassroots ecumenical communities working for laborers, women, LGBT people, the disabled, illegal immigrants, refugees, and other minorities. In the case of gender justice, the discussion process now provides an opportunity to introduce ecumenism to the young people outside the walls of churches. In collaboration with this grassroots initiative, the four member churches and the National Council of Churches in Korea officially commenced a preparatory committee for the WCC 11th Assembly, and it now holds its own monthly meetings of dialogue and reflection.
What can the WCC global fellowship pray for you?
Rev. Dr Bae: The Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia are not only one of the world’s most militarized regions with risky tensions but also one of the most dangerously concentrated nuclear zones. The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in this context means an exodus from division and nuclear threats. Now the pandemic and climate crises situate this exodus in a broader all-embracing paradigm which is a green exodus towards abundant life for all human and natural communities. Peace and democracy are indispensable in this urgent paradigm shift. Our spiritual, social, and political will is to be summoned to imagine and work for a better world in which future generations can live in a society promoting people’s security in eco-justice, and flourish in an economy of life and conviviality for all.
Korean ecumenical Christians often find themselves to be a minority within the entire Korean Protestant churches. Now they invite the churches to pray together for Christ's love to move the world to reconciliation and unity. The theme of the WCC 11th Assembly is a crucial and inspirational challenge for the churches. Taking root in the Korean Peninsula that remains divided for 77 years, churches have undergone ecclesial divisions along the way. Both the churches and the country need reconciliation and unity.
Another relevance of the theme of the WCC 11th Assembly in the Korean context is a recognition that Christ's love is the ultimate spiritual source of the ecumenical movement for justice, peace, and integrity of creation. In Korea people suffer from accumulated historical traumas behind the screen of the rapid economic growth of the society, The church needs to find concrete ways to transform people's fear and despair into a source of insight, the courage to create, and the commitment to action in waiting. Christ's love is given as a promise to illuminate the way to open up people's hearts in mutual trust and choose human security based on the ultimate security of God over the protection of the nuclear umbrella. We trust that Christ's love can empower people to replace the love of power with the power of love. How to lift Christ's love, "the perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), to become a palpable reality is a profound challenge for Korean churches on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, especially in their spiritual preparation for the WCC 11th Assembly.