What do South Koreans, Latin Americans, and South Africans have in common?
Very little culturally, but in their desire to follow Jesus, everything.
The first-ever Global Anabaptists Networks gathering brought together Kyong-Jong Kim from South Korea, Ester Bornes of Argentina, and two dozen others to share their life experiences as seen through an Anabaptist lens, on July 20–21 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
One topic discussed included the need for reconciliation ministries in a violent world. Kim, director of the Korea Anabaptist Center (KAC), has worked closely with Kyung-soo Park and others who have been imprisoned for refusing to join the military. Park was imprisoned for 18 months in 2006–2007 for declaring himself a conscientious objector.
Kim and others from KAC—in conjunction with the Korea Anabaptist Fellowship (KAF)—provided Park with support during his imprisonment. Since 2001, Mennonite Mission Network has partnered with the Center in its outreach to a culture bathed in militarism.
“South Korea is the highest jailer of conscientious objectors in the world. About 92 percent of all conscientious objectors are imprisoned here,” said Kim. “Prison is the only alternative for those whose conscience does not allow them to serve in the military.”
Park said he wished he had the opportunity to serve his country rather than sitting in jail.
“Many other conscientious objectors think this, too,” Park said. “We wish for more support from the churches, but it is a really touchy issue. Korean Christians don’t want to deal with it.”
Dealing with such touchy issues was what event participants came to do, as they shared their journeys of living out a radical faith, said Andrew Suderman, director of Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA), who helped to organize the gathering.
“[The Anabaptist] perspective provides an avenue for the church—a community or peoplehood centered around the life and teachings of Jesus—to be an active response as it seeks to embody God’s reconciling vision for the world as an alternative politic or way of being in the world,” he said.
Ester Bornes, Southern Cone coordinator for Latin American Anabaptist Women Theologians Movement (Movimiento Teólogas Anabautistas de América Latina, MTAL), said that participating in the gathering helped her to “keep dreaming and contributing so that another world is possible where love, peace and justice reign.”
In several regions, Suderman notes that Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness help to provide human and financial resources to help such groups get off the ground. “But most of the networks have taken on their own contextualized flavor and character, and it is an incredible opportunity to participate in what has emerged,” he said.
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