Group to look at history, hopes and challenges for peace
By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
All eyes have been on the Korean peninsula in recent weeks as the 2018 Winter Olympics have taken place. Presbyterians and other interested people will get a chance to see and learn about the Korean culture in person later this year.
“This is a good time for us to be in solidarity with North and South Koreans who seek peace on the peninsula,” said Carl Horton, coordinator for the Peacemaking Program. “These travel study seminars are always good opportunities for us to learn and come back and share stories. Hopefully, this will broaden the awareness and education within our congregations and presbyteries about the work of the church in Korea.”
Horton says the group will meet with mission co-workers on the ground who are working for peace as well as Young Adult Volunteers in the region. Participants will also have the opportunity to visit significant landmarks, sites and peace parks.
“It’s a study seminar, so there is a large amount of learning that happens. We ask participants to study, in advance, all of the actions by the General Assembly that have been taken and to look at the history of the Korean conflict,” Horton said. “We will learn about the work of the church and worship alongside the people there. It will be interesting to see how things have progressed in the months after the Olympics.”
The past year has seen a rise in tensions between North Korea and the U.S. as evidenced by comments from the countries’ national leaders. “One of the things I hope we do as Presbyterians is look quite carefully at the U.S. role in the conflict and learn about the history of our involvement in the Korean War,” said Horton.
The National Council of Churches in Korea is hoping to build on the opportunity of the Olympic Truce of 2018 and make continuous strides for a lasting peace in the region.
“We will visit locations significant to events leading up to, occurring during, and the time following the Korean War,” said Kurt Esslinger, a mission co-worker in Korea. “We will meet Koreans currently cultivating humanizing relationships across the boundaries of this conflict and hear about how those relationships inform their understanding of peace advocacy and their relationship to God.”
Participants will also meet with the two main Presbyterian denomination partners in the region: the Presbyterian Church of Korea and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea.
Esslinger says the history of U.S. government and U.S. church involvement in Korea can present both a blessing and a burden for life and ministry in Korea.
“You may find a great many versions or histories of the events leading up to and after World War II and the Korean War, but U.S. Presbyterians have generally only heard one version of that story, and that tends to lead to various unintended consequences for those seeking justice and peace in the region,” he said. “Part of our jobs with the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer Program is to fill in the blanks of some of that history and raise awareness around our role and responsibility in the development and perpetuation of the conflict so that we may transform our presence in the region to one of help in resolution of conflicts.”
Esslinger adds that participants will hear stories about and meet people with deep wounds from the conflict.
“It will become apparent that part of the difficulty of healing those wounds is exacerbated by attempts to hide those aspects of history that challenge the image we hold of ourselves. As painful as that can be for us, bringing that truth back to light is necessary for the healing of wounds and progression toward reconciliation,” he said. “They will also see examples of great hope and courage with Koreans seeking reconciliation.”
For more information about the seminar, including an application, click here. Applications are due July 1.
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