TOKYO (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Church Canada Witness) — Seven months ago, a Japanese Mennonite delegation called on Jesus Village Church, an Anabaptist faith community in Chun Chon, South Korea to exchange greetings, pray together, and spend time getting to know one another. From October 20-23, a six-member delegation from Jesus Village Church returned the visit.
Anabaptist leaders from Seoul and Tokyo are working to heal a wound caused by Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910–1945. Many Koreans consider the Japanese mortal enemies, JVC members said, but closer connections with their Christian brothers and sisters can help heal wounds.
Peace, church and South Korea
By Dan Dyck
WINNIPEG, Man. ― Staff of the Korea Anabaptist Center recently signed, with 19 other organizations in the Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict, a letter condemning North Korea’s nuclear testing. The statement also called for the United States to immediately engage in bilateral talks with the North Korea.
Mainline South Korean churches, however, tend to respond quite differently.
Since 1953, North and South Korea have lived in the tension of a cease fire – not a peace agreement – signed between the North Koreans and the United States. In part due to this tension, peace theology is not a popular perspective or topic of discussion for mainline organized churches in South Korea, said Tim Froese, executive director for international ministries of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and one of the founders of the Korea Anabaptist Center in Seoul.
Rather than offering a Christian alternative to war, Froese said Korean leaders invoke Old Testament wars and the just war theory to justify the need for national defense.
KAC, which celebrated its fifth anniversary November 4, is working with churches to help them “understand themselves with a peace identity,” said Cheryl Woelk, who coordinates education programs at KAC and serves as head teacher at KAC’s English teaching ministry, Connexus, through Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.
Woelk and Jae-Young Lee, KAC peace program director, say there is something everyone can do: Pray for the situation. In particular, they ask for prayers that “both governments and citizens refrain from responding in a sharp, reactionary way to the nuclear testing issue, that both governments and people learn more about the complexity of the issue from different perspectives before reacting in ways that increase the threat of violence and division among people, and ask that people not de-humanize the ‘enemy.’”
Kyong-Jung Kim, director of the Korea Anabaptist Center in Seoul, which is supported by Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness, and a member of Jesus Village Church, helped to host the Japanese contingent during their visit to Korea. He was part of the Korean group that visited Tokyo.
“It is my confession that we have not tried hard enough to develop our relationship further with Japanese churches. So I was thankful to rediscover that we were actually doing something meaningful together for God's Kingdom, and it was the body of Christ that we were working through,” he said.
Kaz and Lois Enomoto, who serve in Tokyo through Mennonite Mission Network, wrote in an e-mail that the visit was a continued attempt “to share God’s love and grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. We seek to experience in ourselves through this exchange program the power of Jesus’ cross that broke down the dividing wall of hostility resulting from the Japanese occupation of Korea over sixty years ago.”
In Tokyo, the Koreans visited sites, museums, and places of cultural interest that define the Japanese context and gave the Korean’s insight into their neighbor’s history. They also met with a Brethren in Christ and Mennonite congregation as part of their tour.
Kim spoke at Yayoidai Brethren in Christ Church and Sanguk Nham of Jesus Village Church preached at Honancho Church; both emphasized commonality in Christ and the importance of fellowship and partnership in Asia.
“If churches try to make peace in relationships like this, especially in conflict areas, the world may want to learn from us how to bring peace instead of mocking us for not doing anything for good,” said Kim.
The Korean believers presented a JVC banner to the Honancho church. The banner reads, “Where there is a sharing of love, God is present.”
The Enomotos added, “We believe that God has been present with us as we enjoyed the fellowship this last week. We hope that the first step that we took will continue to expand and bear fruit for the glory of God’s kingdom.”