In a first meeting since 2009 and since the 2013 appointment of a new leader for the Korea Christian Federation (KCF) of North Korea, an international group of church leaders from 34 countries, including North and South Korea, met near Geneva, Switzerland, to seek ways to advance reconciliation and peace on the peninsula.
The group agreed in a communiqué released at the end of their meeting on Thursday to seek new initiatives to advance peace, such as increasing visits between churches in North and South Korea, inviting younger people around the world to become involved in working for peace on the peninsula and calling for an annual day of prayer for peace on the peninsula.
The group also recommends promoting annual ecumenical meetings and consultations involving Christians from both countries in conjunction with the day of prayer.
The meeting was sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and included leaders from the KCF and the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK) in South Korea. It was held at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute.
The meeting was a continuation of discussions held between the churches from North and South Korea that began in 1984, called the Tozanso Consultation, and a follow up to a statement from the WCC 10th Assembly held in Busan, South Korea, 30 October - 8 November, 2013, calling for a new era of ecumenical engagement in the search for peace and reconciliation on the Korea peninsula.
"The tragedy of division of the Korean Peninsula requires a human and spiritual fellowship and reorientation," Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said. "This Bossey Consultation has shown that the fellowship of churches (WCC) can provide this."
"We are ready to follow up the mandate from the 10th Assembly to work together for peace and for reconciliation," he said.
The event, called the International Consultation on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula, 17-19 June, was convened on the 30th anniversary of the Tozanso Consultation and included worship services, presentations and discussions on a variety of issues related to the division of the two countries and separation of churches, and a joint eucharistic worship service.
"I believe this gathering of brothers and sisters of churches of various countries is a manifestation of the strong desire and will to pool efforts and actively contribute to the cause of peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula," said Rev. Kang Myong Chol, chairperson of the KCF in his remarks to the group.
"Since Emmanuel God will always be with us and lead us to the road of justice and peace, the ecumenical cause...will surely be achieved under the special divine protection and grace of our Lord," Kang said.
The communique called for an increased role by the WCC and churches around the world promoting peace on the peninsula. A larger international ecumenical consultation is to be organized in 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula.
One element of the communiqué is the recommendation that the WCC encourage its nearly 350 member churches around the world to observe the Sunday before 15 August each year, starting with 10 August 2014, as a "Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula."
The WCC will be releasing in multiple languages a joint prayer from the KCF and NCCK for peace and reconciliation of the Korean Peninsula that can be used for the Sunday of Prayer. The WCC will also be promoting annual ecumenical meetings and consultations in conjunction with the day of prayer.
The communiqué also asks for the creation of opportunities for young people and women, as well as leaders and decision makers from all parts of the world, to visit both parts of Korea.
"We gather here because this year is the 30th anniversary of Tozanso consultation," said NCCK general secretary, Rev Kim Young Ju. "It means one generation has passed with the Tozanso consultation, which was a pioneer of the peaceful reunification movement."
"Now a younger generation of South and North Korea, as the successor of this movement, has to show the vision of the future," he continued. "We have to provide theological background, a training programme and spiritual resources for a younger generation."
A testimony by Gil Won-Ok, a surviving victim of the Japanese military sexual slavery during World War II, set an important context for the group's quest for justice and peace not only on the Korean Peninsula but in the region, and for the role of women in building peace for Korean and the region.
Gil’s testimony reminded the group "of the importance of recognizing and affirming the role of women as active participants in peacemaking, as all too often they are the ones who suffer the most during wars. True peace cannot be realized without their participation and contribution," the communiqué said.
The group also underlined the need for developing resources to counter the current discourse of "hate generated in the media which perpetuate enemy images and division."
Communiqué of the Bossey Consultation
WCC Assembly Statement on Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula
WCC member churches in the Republic of Korea