17 June 2018, Bogis-Bossey, Switzerland: Representatives of churches worldwide gathered at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute at Ch‚teau de Bossey on 17 June, for a celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. Taking place in connection with the WCC Central Committee meeting on 15-21 June, the event saw participation from a delegation from North Korea, as well as South Korea. At the end of the celebrations, North and South Koreans sang together the song "Arirang", a more than 600 year-old Korean folk song, by many considered as the unofficial national anthem of Korea. "The song is about love, about knowing that if you love me so much, even if you may go far away, we know that you will always come back, so we can be together as one, again," explained one of the South Koreans. Ri Kum Gyung beats the drum, and Rhee Hanbeet from the WCC youth commission, ECHOS, plays the piano to the song Arirang.

By Jin Yang Kim

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
– Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)

As 2019 draws to a close, conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Chile, and other places fill our prayers and grieve our hearts and minds. In my missionary role as coordinator of Korean Peninsula Dialogue and Peacebuilding of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, I grieve that the Koreas are still divided, but I also see signs of hope as I meet many, many people working together through peaceful means to bring conflicts to a close. For me, 2019 has been a “wonder-filled” year in the ministry and mission for the peace, reunification and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

In August, more than 80 young pilgrims from World Council of Churches member churches and partners visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to enhance global solidarity among the youth and inspire them to engage in the ecumenical movement for peace on the Korean Peninsula through the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

The 2019 gathering of the ECHOS Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Korea at the border that separates the two Koreas.

Along the journey, participants reflected together on what they experienced. One of the participants from the United States shared her eye-opening moments: “I didn’t fully realize that the Korean War has not ended. During our journey, North Korea even launched two ballistic missiles into the East Sea as an armed demonstration in response to ongoing military exercises. Both places of pilgrimage, to Nogeun-ri and the DMZ, gave me a special lesson that healing for wounds and victims is the key issue in Korea. I witnessed a great desire and hope for peace and reunification.”

The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace on the Korean Peninsula was followed by the ECHOS (Greek term meaning “sound,” the name for the WCC Commission on Youth in the Ecumenical Movement) Commission meeting in Seoul. “The death of division reminds us of our own need of reconciliation. Coming together has a healing effect and the sharing of stories helps heal wounds,” said ECHOS moderator, the Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecka.

The DMZ Peace Human Chain Movement, held in April 2019, formed a human chain of Korean people along the 500-kilometer border of the DMZ, reminding us that peace is the responsibility of our Korean people. Holding someone’s hands is the beginning of our journey.

In his solidarity message, Rev. Dr Olav Tveit, general secretary of the WCC said, “Transformation is an essential dimension of the Kingdom of God as you hold hands in seeking for the transformation of the DMZ into a peace zone.”

We pray for peace on the Korean peninsula. We pray to end the longstanding division that has afflicted the region, for the Armistice Agreement to be replaced as soon as possible by a peace treaty and for the establishment of a permanent and solid peace regime. We continue to uphold in prayer – and to accompany in solidarity – Korean Christians as they plan the 70 Days of Global Prayer Movement for 2020, marking the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Korean War.

May you have a “wonder-filled” Advent and Christmas!

The Rev. Dr. Jin Yang Kim is a missionary with the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries serving as the coordinator of Korean Peninsula Dialogue and Peacebuilding of the World Council of Churches, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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