(PNS) A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) peace delegation will travel to South Korea in November in response to Overture 12-01 and Committee Referral 12-13 that focus on the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and the need to build upon the increasing momentum toward peace. They were adopted at General Assembly 222 (2016) in Portland.
Leading the delegation is the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. He is joined by the Rev. Jose Luis Casal, director of Presbyterian World Mission, the Rev. Robina Winbush, assistant stated clerk and director of the Office of General Assembly’s (OGA) ecumenical relations and the Rev. Mienda Uriarte, coordinator of World Mission’s Asia-Pacific office. The Rev. Ed Arnold and The Rev. Ed Kang, members of Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery, originators of the overture, will also attend, as well as several Office of the General Assembly and Presbyterian Mission Agency representatives.
“Our delegation to Korea is a witness to our common faith and abiding love for our longstanding relationship as Christians,” said Nelson. “As we continue to advocate for the reunification of North and South Korea, it is important that we witness to our belief that God is still active in the causes that bring people together. It is also important that we give rise to our active engagement to challenge the indifference expressed by governmental leaders of North Korea and the United States.”
While in Korea, the group will meet with three PC(USA) global partners: the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea and the National Council of Churches in Korea. Two mission co-workers live and work in Korea as well as two regional liaisons. The work of the partners includes ministry in higher education and youth ministries, theological education, health ministries, women and children’s ministries and peace education, reconciliation and unification.
The delegation’s itinerary includes a visit to No Gun Ri Peace Park and a formal presentation by Nelson about the denomination’s desire for the U.S. to acknowledge its responsibility in the deaths of those Korean civilians. The overture encourages appropriate compensation be given to the surviving victims and to the families of those killed or wounded in the incident to begin resolving resentments and feelings of guilt, and move toward forgiveness and reconciliation.
The massacre in No Gun Ri happened in July 1950, early in the Korean War, when South Korean refugees, mostly women and children and elderly men, were machine-gunned by American troops under a railroad bridge. The actual number of civilians killed varies, but the peace foundation estimates it was between 250-300.
Plans also include a visit to the DMZ Border Peace School located in the divided town of Cheorwon. The North-South Korea border runs directly through the middle of what used to be one community. The school was founded by the Rev. Ji-seok, Jung, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), although the school is not officially affiliated with any denomination. Jung’s vision was to create peace schools along both sides of the border that would one day bring together North and South Koreans to study peace and build relationships across lines of conflict. The students pray daily for peaceful reconciliation and reunification from a hilltop looking into North Korea. The school will be an international placement for the 2018-2019 Young Adult Volunteer program.
For educational background and context, the delegation will also stop at the War & Women’s Human Rights Museum which remembers the survivors of sexual slavery — known as ‘comfort women’ — by the Japanese military during WWII. Everyone who visits the museum receives a card with a story about one of these women. Protests still occur every Wednesday outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The Japanese government has never apologized.
Visits are also planned to global partner churches and seminaries.
by Kathy Melvin, Presbyterian News Service