Korean Religious Leaders Urging Reconciliation

Using Power of Prayer to Dissolve Tensions

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SEOUL, South Korea, JUNE 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Amid tensions on the Korean peninsula that have brought fears of war, the president of the episcopal conference is affirming the supreme good of reconciliation.



"In this extremely delicate situation Korea's religious leaders continue to pronounce just one word: reconciliation. We as Christians can only keep reminding all Koreans and indeed the whole world that the supreme good is reconciliation," said Bishop Peter Kang of Cheju, president of the Korean bishops' conference, in a Friday interview with Fides.

The bishop spoke with the agency on the eve of a day of prayer for peace. "War would be a terrible tragedy, and we want to prevent it, using the most powerful of weapons: prayer," Bishop Kang explained.

Ever-tense relations between the Koreas worsened last month after North Korea was found responsible for firing a torpedo that sank one of South Korea's naval vessels and killed 46 sailors.

Bishop Kang affirmed that the Church is endeavoring to build "awareness among the people, today divided between those who realize the importance of reducing tension and making room for dialogue and those who continue to harbor feelings of hostility and refuse to 'hold out a hand to the aggressor,' as they see it."

Humanitarian

The 64-year-old prelate emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid for the North, aid that is at a standstill due to the tensions.

"Humanitarian aid to the North is beneficial and very positive, and to resume it would be a gesture of goodwill toward our brothers and sisters in North Korea suffering because of poverty and hunger: a gesture that would certainly have a positive effect on the government of North Korea," Bishop Kang contended.

And he lamented that Caritas Korea is able to do nothing since its aid activity to the North has been halted.  "This is the first such deadlock in decades," he said. "Our concern is to save innocent civilians in North Korea especially the most vulnerable categories, the children, who suffer dramatic consequences when humanitarian aid is stopped."

Talk it through

Bishop Kang said it is urgent to "stop this self-feeding spiral and identify new ways and means of reactivating dialogue."

Acknowledging that direct dialogue with the North is difficult "for various reasons: due to tension at the level of both government and society" and because "it ignores conventional norms," he encouraged "indirect dialogue" through other countries, such as China.

He added: "I would also underline the necessity of greater involvement of international institutions such as the United Nations Organization."