Churches plead for dialogue and nonviolent resolution of conflict with North Korea

(Photo: Reuters / KCNA)North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency on Friday. North Korea put its rocket units on standby on Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force. Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a midnight meeting of top generals and "judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation", the official KCNA news agency said. The sign on the left reads, "Strategic force's plan to hit the mainland of the U.S.".

U.S. President Donald Trump's utterances on North Korea's nuclear threats and that country's missile launches have scared many political leaders and people that the world could be on the brink of a nuclear-driven war.

The stridency has spurred global church leaders to unite in prayer to ratchet down tensions and encourage bilateral dialogue as Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un try to outdo one another in aggression.

The World Council of Churches, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Catholic Church have joined forces in prayers for peace.

The World Evangelical Alliance issued an August 11 statement together with the World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches, calling on churches to observe Sunday August 13 as "Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula."

It marks the Sunday before Liberation Day when Koreans in the North and South celebrate their independence from Japan on August 15, 1945. Yet at the same time it was also the day when the peninsula was divided.

The churches around the world are calling for bilateral dialogue, expressing their commitment to peace and nonviolent resolution of the tensions.

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is calling for an immediate cessation of hostile acts and rhetoric between the leaders of North Korea and the United States.

NCCCUSA's August 10 statement says that steps must be taken immediately to avoid the possibility of a cataclysmic nuclear war.

"Increased tension and destabilizing actions and rhetoric by both sides make such a war more likely.

"Recent comments by the leaders of the United States and North Korea threatening hostilities are beyond alarming, only serving to bring our countries, and the world, to the brink of war", states the NCCCUSA.

The U.S. churches are urgently calling upon both leaders to tone down their "similar and mutually inflammatory rhetoric".

"Indeed, if this rhetoric were to become a reality, it would only mean the horrifying exchange of nuclear weapons.

"This would not only threaten U.S. and North Korean civilians, soldiers, and territories; nuclear and conventional war would be a complete disaster for the people of South Korea, Japan, and other countries in Asia and the Pacific."


It is therefore essential that bilateral dialogue take place, that aggressive language be discarded, and that paths to peace be pursued, urges the NCCCUSA statement.

"We will continue to urge our government to tone down its rhetoric and to utilize diplomacy and work with the many partners, both governmental and nongovernmental, who stand ready to assist both the United States and North Korea to de-escalate this crisis."

The Evangelical Church in Germany's peace officer Rev. Renke Brahms stated that martial images expressed in the U.S. president's statements unfold a dynamic of their own which is hard to roll back.

"Complicated global situations cannot be resolved with twitter comments or talking to the press while on holidays."

He told the EPD news agency that the "Pacific region loaded with arms is like a gunpowder barrel - and it is irresponsible to wave a rhetorical match near it", calling for a verbal and diplomatic de-escalation.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, advisor to the Vatican's office for Integral Human Development and the Vatican's former diplomatic representative to the U.N. in Geneva called for dialogue and inclusive negotiations to resolve the current crisis between the United States and North Korea.

He told Vatican Radio that such crises can only be avoided by investing in conflict prevention, rather than in military technology.

The current crisis shows how international relations can easily break down when there is a determination to violate the minimum standard of common sense in dealing with other people, said Archbishop Tomasi.

He pointed to Pope Francis who regularly insists that the way forward is that of dialogue, including everyone in negotiations, in search for the common good.

The "way of conflict is always the wrong way", says Tomasi, which is why "we need to invest time, energy, money, resources" to avoid "arriving at these boiling points of crisis."

It is vital to help societies improve the quality of life of their people "instead of building walls and creating diffidence", he noted.

But to do this, we need to change the public culture, insisting that "the way forward is not that of having the latest military technology, but of having an approach of inclusion and participation" in building the common good of the global human family.

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