North and South Korean church leaders have shared bible study and agreed to seek new initiatives to work for peace on their peninsula that has been divided for the past 69 years.
The Korea Christian Federation (KCF) of North Korea, the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK) and an international group of church leaders from 34 countries met near Geneva between June 17 and 19.
The aim was to seek ways to advance reconciliation and peace on the Korean peninsula, divided since before the civil war between June 25 1950 and July 27, 1953 that ended in an armistice, but has never had a formal ceasefire.
The group agreed in a communiqué released at the end of their meeting on June 19 to seek new initiatives to advance peace, the World Council of Churches says in a statement on its website.
"Sharing in the spirit of Pentecost, we drew spiritual joy and renewed energy from our togetherness in worship, praise, Bible study (led by NCCK and KCF representatives) and from sharing the Lord's Supper together in a joint Eucharistic worship," the post conference statement said.
North Korea remains isolated from the rest of the world and is known its sensitivity to criticism of any form.
Hollywood could be testing Kim Jong Un, the Swiss-educated North Korean leader's reported infatuation with films as Columbia Pictures prepares to release a comedy movie involving a plot to assassinate Kim, the New York Times reported Thursday.
The North Koreans have called the movie an "act of war."
"If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure," a spokesman for its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
He said Washington was guilty of "provocative insanity" for mobilizing a "gangster filmmaker" to defile the country's supreme leader.
INCREASED NORTH, SOUTH KOREAN CHURCH VISITS
Meanwhile in their bid to quell hostilities, the new churches initiative would include increased visits between churches in North and South Korea.
It would invite younger people around the world to become involved in working for peace in Korea and it calls for an annual day of prayer for peace on the peninsula.
The group also recommends promoting annual ecumenical meetings and consultations involving Christians from both countries in conjunction with the day of prayer.
The meeting was sponsored by the World Council of Churches and included leaders from the North and South Korean church groupings and was held at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute.
It continued discussions held between the churches from North and South Korea that began in 1984, called the Tozanso Consultation.
The gathering was also a follow-up to a statement from the WCC 10th Assembly held in Busan, South Korea, October 30 to November 8, 2013, calling for a new era of ecumenical engagement in the search for peace and reconciliation on the Korea peninsula.
"The tragedy of division of the Korean Peninsula requires a human and spiritual fellowship and reorientation," WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said. "This Bossey Consultation has shown that the fellowship of churches can provide this."
The event was called the International Consultation on Justice, Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting included worship services, presentations and discussions on a variety of issues related to the division of the two countries and separation of churches, and the joint Eucharistic worship service.
"I believe this gathering of brothers and sisters of churches of various countries is a manifestation of the strong desire and will to pool efforts and actively contribute to the cause of peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula," said Rev. Kang Myong Chol, chairperson of the KCF in his remarks to the group.
"Since Emmanuel God will always be with us and lead us to the road of justice and peace, the ecumenical cause...will surely be achieved under the special divine protection and grace of our Lord," Kang said.
Rev Eric Foley, co-founder of Seoul USA, a ministry dedicated to supporting defected and underground Christians in North Korea, says that despite intense persecution, North Korean Christians are remaining steadfast in their faith, and even sharing it with others, the British online publication Christian Today reported Wednesday.
The communique from the WCC called for an increased role by the WCC and churches around the world promoting peace on the peninsula. A larger international ecumenical consultation is to be organized in 2015, marking the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean Peninsula.
The WCC will encourage its nearly 350 member churches around the world to observe the Sunday before August 15 each year, starting with August 10, 2014, as a "Sunday of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula."