Yesterday, the 10th ecumenical consultation, hosted by the National Council of Churches in Korea and the Evangelical Church in Germany, ended in Seoul. The consultation was supposed to take place in October 2021 but had to be postponed several times due to Covid 19.
The theme of the consultation was „Transforming Division and Making Peace on the Korean Peninsula: Role of the Ecumenical Community“. The first consultation took place in Düsseldorf in 1974 and the last – the 9th consultation – in Wittenberg in 2011. Initially, the consultations focused on pastoral and spiritual care of Koreans in Germany. These were the years when Koreans came to Germany as miners and nurses. Between 1963 and 1977 alone, 8,000 miners and 10,000 nurses came to Germany. Currently, about 40,000 Koreans live in Germany (as of 31 October 2022). Frankfurt is home to the largest business community with about 7,500 Koreans. The close ties between Korean congregations and protestant regional churches have grown out of these initial consultations. This also includes the Korean Congregation Rhine-Main, which became a congregation of the EKHN a few years ago.
With the 4th consultation, the issues of peace, reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula, as well as issues of sustainability and the integrity of creation, increasingly became the focus of the consultations. The centrality of the issue of peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula is made clear by North Korea’s renewed testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles during the days of our consultation. Already in January 2023, the NCCK (National Council of Churches) had expressed in a public statement the hope to come „from the heat of war to coexistence with the warm breeze of peace“.
In this consultation, issues of dealing with refugees and the role of diakonia in society were on the agenda, as well as a follow-up to the WCC Assembly in Karlsruhe.
Deputy Church President Ulrike Scherf underlined how important it was for Christians in both countries to promote humane treatment of refugees and to find ways to make a good life possible for both the refugees and the host societies. „Dialogue, understanding and respect play an important role in this,“ said Scherf. The common hope for peace and reconciliation also binds us together. The special contribution of the churches is to point out the importance of civil conflict resolution and to promote peace building. The common prayer for peace and justice strengthens us not to give up.
In the first drafts of a final statement – the final version is still pending – the participants agreed to campaign for a peace treaty between the two Korean states within the framework of a current NCCK campaign and to support the partners in their commitment to a nuclear-free zone on the Korean peninsula. To this end, there is a proposal from the Korean side to celebrate the Sunday before 15 August (Korean Independence Day from Japanese occupation in 1945) in the ecumenical community as the „Sunday of Prayer for Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula“. The issues of sustainability, responsible stewardship of creation, intergenerational justice and open interaction with people from the LGTBQ+ community were brought up, especially by the younger generation. Furthermore, closer cooperation in the area of diakonia and the diaconal responsibility of church action was agreed upon.
The consultation ended with the words of the General Secretary Rev. Dr. Lee: „For the continuing Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace for the Korean Peninsula, let us deepen our spirituality of reconciliation and unity and develop our strategy and expertise for enhancing social reconciliation and visible unity between the North and the south.“