Listen to this! It is from the final statement from the “International Ecumenical Conference on a Peace Treaty in the Korean Peninsula”: “We call for intensified visits to the churches and Christians of North and South Korea. We call for expanded ecumenical platforms for encounter and exchange between North and South Koreans and between Korean Christians and the wider ecumenical movement, especially including women and young people.”
To my left Rev Dr Jae Woong Ahn, Chair of Board of Trustees, National Council of YMCAs of Korea, to my right Rev Myong Chol Kang, leader of the delegation from North Korea. Then Nam Boo-Won, General Secretary APAY, and both a good friend and an excellent colleague!
“The participation of major global ecumenical organizations representing women and youth (World Alliance of YMCAs, World YWCA and WSCF) in this conference was very welcome, and we invite closer collaboration in ensuring women and youth are better represented in future ecumenical visits and platforms.”
This was first time World YMCA was represented in this particular process in search for a Peace Treaty between North Korea (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)) and the USA. “…it is the right time to begin a new process towards a comprehensive peace treaty that will replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement”.(2013 WCC 10th Assembly’s statement).
Peter Prove, WCC and Korean member of WCC ExCom, and President of Asia area of WCC, Rev Dr Sang Chang, former acting Prime Minister of Korea and President Emeritus of Ewha Woman’s University. Powerful lady!
Professor Jong-Sun Noh from Peace Research Institute was an outspoken man with clear and strong messages – really refreshing to listen to! And he is a YMCA – volunteer, he told me. Many of the leaders present were born before the Korean war, some of them were first generation refugees from North Korea. They had scars and wounds and traumatized memories and for this generation Koreans it is not easy to engage in peace work. I was deeply impressed with the encounter of these elderly leaders and the four leaders from Christian Churches from the North. They treated one another with the deepest respect and love, they had met several times earlier and many of them were obviously close friends.
The conversation was respectful. We listened to one another. It was time to reflect, to think, to ask questions again, and then again.
Here again the North Korean leader Rev Myong Chol Kang giving the final remarks. I cannot say how stimulating and enlightening it was to listen to a genuine North Korean perspective. He was listened to with respect and the South and North agreed to mutually try to respect and understand one another’s differences.
At the end it was not difficult to come to unanimous agreement. All foreign military forces out, nuclear weapons and power plants to be eradicated all over the world, lifting of all sanctions and no THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons system on the Korean Peninsula. In consultation with American member churches the WCC is to contact the US administration to appeal to renounce any first use of nuclear weapons anywhere.
The problems exist strongly on the South Korean side as well, as citizens now are fined by their own government with US $ 2000 for just meeting with anyone from the North. There were two excellentop young people at the meeting. Here Nam Ki-pyung, General Secretary of the Ecumenical Youth Council in Korea. He was used to distribute microfones.OThis is one of my new friends – Ambassador and Professor Dr Kyung-seo Park, Ambassador at large for Human Rights in Korea. He was both charming and very, very smart. Such leaders are able to move mountains! I asked repeatedly for improved communication material to use for training purposes and to motivate more young people to get engaged in the peace work. Dr Park has written a book about this process and next time he is in Geneva he will bring the book to my office.
Tomorrow onwards to Manilla and the Philippines!