From 1 March through 15 August, the National Council of Churches in Korea and the World Council of Churches organized the prayer campaign “We Pray, Peace Now, End the War,” that raised awareness and accelerated the push for peace on the Korean Peninsula. Churches and Christians across the world prayed for the formal end to the Korean War and the replacement of the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty.
“The global prayer campaign illustrated that we Christians live by the power of prayers—from those who held large prayer services, to those who prayed quietly at home,” said Rev. Shin Seung-min.
Part of the campaign also involved sharing personal stories that inspired others to work for peace. “Especially, some stories of separated families and their transforming actions of forgiveness have touched the soul and spirit of people, cultivating the spirituality of peace,” he said. “The prayers and stories highlighted the modern history of the Korean Peninsula including colonialism, liberation, war and division, showing the pain and suffering—but also transforming grace and hope for peace and reconciliation for many generations.”
The campaign, which also included a Joint Ecumenical Peace Message for the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War publicly delivered on 22 June, acknowledged current tensions as well as the urgent need for new initiatives for peace.
“We firmly believe that our earnest prayers will end the division and the Cold War, and will bring abundance of life to all people who are desperately seeking peace and reconciliation,” said Rev. Shin Seung-min.
One hundred million strong
As he looks to the future, Rev. Shin Seung-min and the National Council of Churches in Korea have an ambitious agenda to keep working for peace. “The main focus of 2021 will be a Korea Peace Appeal Campaign in which we plan to collect one million signatures from the global ecumenical fellowship, and one hundred million from the world,” he explained. “We are cooperating with more than 350 civil society groups in Korea and abroad to show our commitment and dedication.”
That campaign will last until 27 July 2023—the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement.
And this work will go on—as did the efforts in 2020—amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to spike in many countries even as the vaccine becomes available to a few. In South Korea, said Rev. Shin Seung-min, Korean churches have largely been very cooperative with government quarantine policies, and churches have helped one another to comply.
“The church has developed many brilliant ways of organizing worship and meetings online,” he said. “We want to create hope, not despair.”
There have also been setbacks, he acknowledged: “Due to the pandemic there has been prohibition of worship and religious meetings and it has not been possible for the National Council of Churches in Korea and Korean Christian Federation to meet, which has been very disappointing.” The Korean Christian Federation is based in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and dialogue between the two groups has advanced peace initiatives in significant ways over the past decade.
During the Advent season, Rev. Shin Seung-min believes that the birth of Jesus is the ultimate example of reconciliation and peace. “Let us walk the path Jesus has shown us and dedicate ourselves to reconciliation and peace,” he said. “Let us show hospitality to others who may be different from us because the difference is a blessing, not a curse.”
When we embrace others, Rev. Shin Seung-min believes that peace and reconciliation will come true, and unity with diversity will be realized. “The key Advent message is that healing and reconciliation are only possible when we empty ourselves and embrace others,” he said. “I hope that this Advent message will touch the minds of the people in North and South Korea, and people all over the world who are experiencing confrontation and enmity.”