North and South Korean churches are likely to take part in a June international peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula conference in Geneva, the World Council of Churches has announced.
Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches announced the meeting at an April 9 press conference in the Korea Christian Building on Daehak-no, Jongno-gu, Seoul.
He said the WCC along with the churches of South and North Korea, will hold an "International Conference for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula" in Geneva, Switzerland, from June 16 to 19.
It has been more than 60 years since the cessation of fighting between the two Koreas, but that was due an armistice signed on 27 July 1953 thus bringing an end to the Korean conflict, but never resulting in a peace treaty.
The situations for Christians in divided North and South Korea are markedly different.
Of South Korea's 49 million people nearly 32 percent are Christian, making it the Asian country with the largest proportion of Christians after the Philippines.
A United Nations report released in February said, "Apart from the few organized state-controlled churches, Christians are prohibited from practising their religion" in North Korea.
The report said that based on figures provided by North Korea to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, it is estimated that only 0.16 percent of the population followed a religious belief in 2002.
"Christians caught practising their religion are subject to severe punishment in violation of the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of religious discrimination."
The U.N. report said that North Korean leaders use murder, torture, slavery, sexual violence and starvation to hold their grip noting that the Communist State considers the spread of Christianity a particularly "serious threat."
This is because "it ideologically challenges the official personality cult and provides a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the State realm," said the report, which was rejected by North Korea.
The WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christians worldwide held the meeting of its highest governing body, its assembly in South Korea in November 2014.
'PILGRIMAGE FOR JUSTICE'
"Following the Busan Assembly last year, the WCC decided to begin a pilgrimage for justice and peace," Tveit said, South Korea's daily Christian newspaper Kukmin reported on April 10.
"The June meeting in Geneva is one of the follow-up projects that the Busan Assembly resolved to implement for peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula."
At its Busan meeting the WCC passed a statement saying, "Division, war and the suffering contradict God's will for the fullness of life.
"Therefore, we call upon the churches of the world, and upon those holding social, economic, political and governmental power, to pursue a lasting and sustainable peace with justice that will reunify and reconcile the people of Korea."
The WCC said that visits to North Korea by WCC general secretaries in 1999, 2009 and 2013 "have lent credence to the commitment of the WCC and its member churches in supporting the churches in North and South Korea seeking peace and reunification."
The man who will become director of the WCC Churches' Commission on International Affairs (CCIA) on May 1, Peter Prove said, the meeting would be done "together with persons who have been working with us for peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, but also inviting many other partners with diverse experiences and abilities from around the world."
He noted, "For this, we will cooperate closely with the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) [from South Korea] and the Joseon Christian Federation (JCF) [the only Christian grouping in North Korea]"
NCCK general secretary, Kim Young-ju, announced that from this year, the week before August 15 will be designated as the "Week of Prayer for Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula,"
During that week churches of the world will join Koreans in prayer.
"The June meeting will discuss how the churches of South and North Korea and the world church can implement the Declaration for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, which came out of the WCC Busan Assembly," said Kim.
The results of the June conference will be reported to the main governing body of the WCC, its central committee in mid-July
"We will cooperate ever more closely for peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula."