Peace initiatives and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula will be the foci of a worldwide Anglican peace conference November 14-20 when more than 150 Anglican leaders, ecumenical guests and other participants will travel to South Korea for TOPIK (Towards Peace in Korea).
The conference will begin with a three-day peace trip to Geumgangsan in North Korea, where delegates will meet employees of the Hyundai Asan Company and hear about its programs of development and economic support for projects in North Korea, including flood-relief aid. The visit to North Korea will be followed by a four-day forum in Paju, near Seoul, South Korea. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will preach at the November 16 opening Eucharist, which is expected to draw more than 400 worshippers.
The forum will introduce and summarize Korean experiences of war and forgiveness, conflict and reconciliation, and explore ways to contribute to establishing a permanent peace in Northeast Asia.
"This gathering promises to produce some lasting changes in the relationships with North Korea," Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori said. "It seems especially timely given recent progress in talks with the North Korean government."
About 100 South Koreans will be joined by 40 overseas delegates from 20 countries, including Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori; Japan Primate Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu; Taiwan Bishop David Lai; Archbishop Roger Herft of Perth (Australia); Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe of Kurunagala (Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka); Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita (Solomon Islands); and Archbishop Francis Kyung Jo Park (Anglican Church of Korea). Peter Ng, partnership officer for Asia and the Pacific, and the Revd Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice Ministries, will travel to Asia as part of an Episcopal Church delegation.
"The joint participation of Japanese and American representatives in a place of former warfare and occupation may provide opportunities for apology, forgiveness and the beginnings of reconciliation," said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.
Recently retired Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Robin Eames will attend TOPIK as special emissary of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who has offered his full support for the conference. "The conference aims to further develop the mutual understanding necessary for successful peacemaking efforts and the church's role in them," Archbishop Williams said in a letter of commendation.
Mission and development agencies represented will include the Church Mission Society, United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Anglican Board of Mission, Episcopal Relief and Development and the Partnerships Department of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The forum venue in Paju, although close to Seoul, is also near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the heavily fortified zone which runs the width of Korea, dividing the Peninsula into two halves. In 2005, former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold prayed at the DMZ and met with South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun as part of a two-week visit to Asia.
The TOPIK conference was first envisioned in response to a 2005 resolution from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Communion's chief legislative body, which called for peace, reconciliation and reunification between North and South Korea. Organizers hope the conference will support and encourage others working for peace in areas of conflict. The Anglican Church of Korea wishes to begin a longer-term program of aid to the north, continuing beyond the end of the conference.
"Although an armistice agreement ending hostilities was signed in 1953, no peace treaty has yet been signed to end the Korean War. It is only in this last year that the railway lines between North and South Korea have been rejoined, even if only for a trial run," a news release announcing the TOPIK conference reports. "More than 50 years of almost total separation has broken apart families and cut all the normal lines of communication. While this conference began in response to an ACC resolution, it now also represents a growing spirit among South Koreans (eager) to breach the division and heal the pain of separation over such a long period."
Canon Grieves commended the Anglican Church in Korea's long tradition of witnessing for human rights and reconciliation on the peninsula.
"During the days of dictatorship in the south, it was a beacon of hope for its courageous call for democracy," he said. "It continues that tradition in its call for reunification with the north, and I think this conference will be a major building block in that direction. We in the U.S. church will have to do our part to advocate that our government's policy is consistent with the goal of reunification."
Article from: Episcopal News Service by Matthew Davies
A letter from Archbishop Francis K Park of the Anglican Church of Korea
To All Those Attending the Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference on Korea
Greetings in the Name of the Lord:
Firstly, I would like to say thanks to all of you, our brothers and sisters, who are coming to attend the Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference, Seoul 2007 joining in this expression of the Anglican Communion throughout the world in seeking a role to make efforts for peace on the Korean peninsula and throughout all of North East Asia.
As you will know already from media sources, the summit meeting of the leaders of South and North Korea from October 2-4, 2007 was indeed an historic occasion. The Summit declaration outlined the order for dealing with the necessary and important issues relating to peace between South and North Korea. We believe all these things are attributed to God's grace working in the world and are the fruits of the fervent prayers of peace loving Christian people. It will require much interest and prayer for the decisions announced at the South North Korea Leaders Summit to be actualized.
I can assure you that the Peace Conference Preparation Committee is doing all that it can to ensure the success of the Peace Conference. We are endeavoring to enable all those participating in the Conference from November 14 through 20 to have a deep and meaningful experience through the process of the Conference. Unfortunately the visit to Pyongyang has proved too difficult to realize at this stage but we have arranged a visit to a significant location which symbolizes the relationship between South and North Korea. From Wednesday November 14 to Friday November 16 we will make our peace journey to the Geumgang Mountain area of North Korea. Then from 4 pm on the afternoon of Friday November 16 we will have the official opening ceremony of the Peace Conference. The Peace Forum will continue through Saturday November 16 to Tuesday November 20. Also the Peace Conference Preparation Committee is currently doing all that it can to arrange the details for the departure of overseas Conference participants by Wednesday November 21.
In order to facilitate the smooth operation of the Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference, the
Preparation Committee requires the cooperation of the Conference participants in various matters. Because the Geumgang Mountain area is part of North Korea there are various procedures which have to be completed in advance of our visit. Above all each visitor to the Geumgang Mountain area will require documentation similar to an entry visa. To this end we need a photograph of each participant and a copy of the picture page of their passport.
Also through this upcoming Peace Conference we hope to take the opportunity to establish a worldwide Anglican network for peace in North East Asia. With this in mind we are compiling the profiles of the different Conference participants. Conference participants at the Worldwide Peace Conference will be able to obtain mutual understanding and much material that will be of value to themselves in their own work as well.
Finally, we expect positive participation from those attending the Peace Forum. I believe that all Conference participants, not just those giving presentations, can bring very valuable material from the depths of their experience in their fields of activity. Those participants scheduled to give presentations at the peace forum should submit their material to the Preparatory Committee before October 26, 2007. Please refer to our official Conference website www.topik2007.org for full details regarding the Peace Conference.
Let us portray in our hearts and prayers our passion to cultivate peace in Korea and throughout North East Asia.
Remaining united together as one in the Holy Spirit.
The Most Revd Francis K Park
Primate Bishop of the Anglican Church of Korea
Chairman of the Peace Conference