United for peace on the Korean Peninsula
Church representatives from the ROK and DPRK share Holy Communion at a WCC event in Leipzig, Germany, July 2017.
The Uniting Church in Australia has joined global churches and ecumenical bodies calling for immediate steps to formalising peace on the Korean Peninsula.
In a statement issued by the World Council of Churches on the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953), churches and councils of churches from countries that played a role in the conflict have urged a formal declaration of the end of that War and the adoption of a peace treaty.
The statement reads:
"Seven decades after this war began, it is time to acknowledge that it ended long ago. New challenges to peace and stability in the region have arisen in the meantime, but we do not believe that the resolution of those challenges will be facilitated by keeping that 70-year-old conflict open.”
“On the contrary, we believe that the conditions for pragmatic dialogue and negotiation on current realities on the Peninsula could be greatly enhanced by recognising the end of the war.
"We expect that this long overdue recognition of historical reality, and a peace treaty to document it, would be a pivotal contribution to reducing tensions and hostility in the region."
Historically the Uniting Church has been recognised as one of three churches in the world contributed to the establishment of modern Christianity in Korea.
The Uniting Church through its Korean communities has been part of the WCC Ecumenical Fellowship of Korea and has maintained a dialogue with the Korean Christian Federation from North Korea.
Assembly President Dr Deidre Palmer has asked UCA members to pray for the people of the Korean Peninsula, recognising their feelings of loss and dislocation spanning generations of Korean people around the world.
“We pray especially for members of our Korean National Conference in the Uniting Church at this time of remembrance for them,” said Dr Palmer.
"We also pray for our partner churches in Korea, as they seek to be peacemakers in the way of Jesus.
"At the Uniting Church 15th Assembly we resolved to support the World Council of Churches in their ongoing involvement in work towards a Peace Treaty between the two Koreas; and to encourage the Australian Government in their work towards a peaceful Korean Peninsula."
The WCC has described the division of the Korean peninsula as “one of the great political and spiritual challenges of our time.”
The joint ecumenical statement also calls for:
- Suspension and cancellation of any further military exercises in the region;
- Resumption of dialogue between the Republic of Korea and the DPRK, and between the USA and the DPRK, with the encouragement and support of other states who were involved in the Korean War;
- the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the USA;
- the realisation of the vision of the Korean Peninsula as a nuclear-free zone, and a world completely free from the threat of nuclear weapons.
The statement concludes:
"The history of the Korean War has taught us that the reunification of Korea cannot be pursued by armed force and coercive means, given the tragic consequences of that conflict. It can only be achieved by peaceful means, through dialogue and cooperation"
"We pray that through dialogue and cooperation the long-divided Korean people may heal the wounds of division and conflict, find again their common identity and shared future, and provide leadership and inspiration for peace in the north-east Asian region and throughout the world."
Annual Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula
Every year the World Council of Churches invites member churches to observe a Sunday of Prayer on the Sunday before 15 August - Korean National Liberation Day - a day which is observed in both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The prayers for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula are prepared by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Korean Christian Federation.
This is a great opportunity for shared prayer and solidarity for Uniting Church congregations, particularly those who share property with Korean-speaking congregations.
Another anniversary date to keep in mind is the date of the Korean Armistice Agreement which was signed on 27 July 1953.
In reminding UCA members of this date, Secretary of the UCA Korean National Conference Rev Seung Jae Yeon notes that the Royal Australian Regiment was in battle at Samichon River up until 26 July 1953, just a day before the signing of the Armistice Agreement.
The Chairperson of Korea Christian Federation (KCF) from Pyongyang and past General Secretary of National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) from Seoul share a communion at the WCC Ecumenical Fellowship of Korea event in Leipzig, Germany July 2017. (Photo: Rev Dr Ji Zhang)