World Council of Churches starts 'universal campaign' for Korean peace treaty

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)The view of the North Korean sector of the demilitarized zone seen from the South Korean side on November 2, 2013.

BUSAN, South Korea - The World Council of Churches has voted to "embark on a universal campaign for a Peace Treaty" between North and South Korea as a "fresh and decisive step" in bringing an end to the state of war and military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

It has been 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.

A peace treaty has never been signed and both nations are still technically at war.

The WCC is currently meeting in the South Korean city of Busan for its 10th assembly which has brought together around 5,000 participants and visitors from 345 Christian denominations from every continent.

On the recommendation of its public issues committee the WCC said Thursday it is "committed to take action" on a raft of measures to "work towards peace, healing, reconciliation and reunification of (the Korean) people and land."

Chief amongst these is to "embark upon a universal campaign for a Peace Treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement of 1953, (thus) bringing an end to the state of war."

The WCC says it will also:

Work with governments and the United Nations Security Council to initiate new efforts for peace building;

Call for a halt to all military exercise on the Korean peninsula;

Ensure the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the region;

Encourage restoration of "human communality", especially re-uniting separated families;

Work with both Korean governments to assist in turning the current DMZ into a "zone of peace".

None of the proposals calls for the reunification of the two Koreas at this stage.

"We are convinced that it is the right time to begin a new process towards a comprehensive peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement," a report to the WCC's public issues committee said.

The report said, "We believe that a declaration to the end of the Korean Way shared by all stakeholders will accelerate the (Armistice) agreements conclusion and contribute to mutual trust and confidence building amongst them."

The WCC said the peace process should involve all parties to the original armistice.

The WCC said it would "strongly urge South and North Korea, the USA and China to ensure the keeping of (their) promise" to hold continual peace forums, as parties to the Six-Party Talks.

The report noted that the technical state of war had lead to the USA and China stockpiling nuclear weapons in the region. "This current situation proves the urgent need for a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement".

On the issue of U.N. backed economic sanctions against North Korea, the WCC said considering the "continuing economic crisis" facing the nation, these "serve primarily as instruments for punishing the people of a country, especially the poor in any society,' and should be lifted.

This year has marked the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War (1950-53) which saw 1.2 million battle deaths, some 100,000 orphans and as late as 1991 up to 7.2 million family members still separated.

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