Peacemaking and practice: the risk in building bridges
By Rev. Kurt Esslinger
“What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you.”
Reflection: Communities, like the early church, that work on traversing boundaries must look for ways to navigate the anxiety of those who seek to maintain those borders. Paul’s friends gave him suggestions to calm the angry reaction in the community and to manage the risk. Rev. Moon Ik-hwan grew up north of the 1945 division that separated Koreans from each other, but ended up on the southern side during the Korean War. In 1989, inspired by his work of translating the Bible into Korean, he decided to travel into North Korea. There he preached at an Easter worship in Pyongyang about hope for reunification and famously embraced Chairman Kim Il-sung as a brother rather than an enemy. Rev. Moon was arrested when he returned to South Korea — just as Paul was eventually arrested for his efforts. Still his visit helped to inspire the work that continues today building bridges to end the conflict that led to the Korean War. Koreans now hope government dialogues this year will accomplish a peace treaty to end the state of war.
Action: What can you do to navigate the risks of building bridges across conflicts? In what ways are we hindering the Spirit’s work of building those bridges? Add your voice to our Korean Church partners’ campaign for a peace treaty in Korea: koreapeacetreaty.com.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, give us the strength to cross the boundaries of conflict and meet our supposed “enemies” as fellow humans and children of God. Amen.
Rev. Kurt Esslinger is a PC(USA) mission co-worker in South Korea and assigned to the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) to assist their Reconciliation and Unification Department. He has also been proposed as the new coordinator of the Ecumenical Forum for Korea (EFK).
This year’s A Season of Peace resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues like human trafficking and sustainable development, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the days of this year’s A Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect on:
- Peace that passes understanding: personal testimonies of faith and peace within self, within families, within communities
- Partners in peace: interfaith work for peace and justice, building peace between us while witnessing to peace in our wider world
- Go and see: reflections from travel study seminar participants
- The church and its witness: reflections on addressing trafficking in its varied forms
- Peacemaking and practice: stories and reflections on building bridges and crossing divides
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 2, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 7.