In a letter to Park Geun-hye, president of South Korea, the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressed disappointment over sanctions and fines imposed on members of the National Council of Churches in (South) Korea (NCCK) after they participated in a dialogue encounter with representatives of the (North) Korean Christians Federation (KCF).
Penalties were imposed on Dr Noh Jungsun, Rev. Jeon Yongho, Rev. Cho Hungjung, Rev. Han Giyang and Rev. Shin Seungmin, all representatives of the NCCK Peace and Reunification Committee, who participated in a meeting with the KCF leadership in Shenyang, China, on 28-29 February this year.
In the letter, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit recalled that the WCC has been actively engaged in promoting peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula for more than 30 years.
“Through such national, regional and international ecumenical commitment and cooperation, the ecumenical movement seeks to witness to the peace of Jesus Christ and to make visible the unity of the Church in a divided and conflicted world,” he wrote.
Tveit referred to the recent escalation of tensions and confrontation on the Korean peninsula, and stressed that “It is especially in this situation that encounter and dialogue is even more urgently needed.” With regard to the fines imposed on the members of the NCCK delegation, he expressed a critical standpoint:
“We do not believe that penalizing encounter and dialogue between South Korean and North Korean Christians is a necessary or effective measure for reducing tensions and advancing the cause of peace; on the contrary. Moreover, such a measure impedes and undermines the longstanding inter-church relationship on the Korean peninsula that the WCC has sought to encourage over more than three decades.”
Tveit called on the South Korean government to revoke the penalties, and appealed to President Park “not to close channels of communication and encounter, but to intensify efforts to promote dialogue at all levels.”
Expressing the hope that “the cycle of threat and counter-threat can be broken, before the threshold to catastrophic conflict is one day crossed”, Tveit asked for President Park’s leadership “away from this precipice, towards peaceful co-existence and an end to the suspended state of war.”