Choon and Yen Hee Lim (PCUSA) - December 2014 Update
Regional Liaison for East Asia
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:18
As part of World Mission’s call to address violence around the world, we invite individuals and congregations to consider engaging more deeply in God’s work of reconciliation in cultures of violence, including our own. God’s work of reconciliation is the heart of the gospel message. One of my roles is to facilitate and implement ministries of reconciliation in my East Asia area.
On April 21-25, 2014, the first Christian Forum for Reconciliation in East Asia brought together 43 Christian practitioners, church leaders and educators from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. to strengthen their work for God’s ministry of peace and reconciliation in the region. Over five remarkable days of worship, learning and friendship across divides, the forum engaged serious contextual challenges through a Christian vision for peace based on a Scriptural framework.
I was invited by the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation (CFR) through the recommendation of former moderator of the PC(USA), Rev. Dr. Syngman Rhee. Dr. Chris Rice, director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke, is the son of a former PC(USA) mission co-worker to Korea. The diverse group attending the forum in East Asia represented Methodist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Baptist, Catholic, Reformed, and Evangelical traditions. The purpose of the forum was to reflect on the challenge of nourishing a Christian vision of peace and reconciliation in an increasingly turbulent time in East Asia. There was a shared sense that God’s movement for reconciliation was calling for Christian companionship and mission far bigger than any single country, denomination or organization.
The forum opened with worship. Chris and Syngman provided an overview of how the forum came to be. Chris described the diversity of participants and welcomed them from the different countries, Christian traditions and vocations. Across many differences all those gathered could say “we”: a shared Christian belief, a shared “we” of concern for God’s reconciliation in East Asia and a shared “we” of restlessness that the way things are is not the way things should be. Syngman described the sense of oneness across historically divided countries with many wounds, and it was deeply touching for us in those short days that bound us together by the Holy Spirit. He continued by saying, “We cannot stop here; we must continue on.” This led to organizing the first Christian Forum for Reconciliation in East Asia.
There were many shared stories reflecting on journeys toward peace and reconciliation. Catholic Bishop Peter Kang shared his testimony about the people on Jeju Island, Korea in April 1948. In a time of great national unrest 30,000 people were killed by government forces due to their sympathetic support of North Korea. Another moving story was from Masatoshi Yoshimura, a member of the city council of Nagasaki, Japan, who told his story as a second-generation victim of the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on the city. In the discussion one participant said he was surprised to see a protest in the United Kingdom that said the atomic bomb was evil. He said, “We in China saw the atomic bomb as something that prevented the killing of many more Chinese.” We have to discover how we can lament together so we can then find hope and salvation together.
The group reports on Christian vision and mission for peace, reconciliation and unification of Korea recounted an image of the North Korean people being “the enemy” since the Korean War. In many wars there has been reconciliation after the wars, but in Korea the “enemy” issue has persisted. Why? When you become an “enemy” you have been dehumanized or demonized, and the idea is that the enemy must be killed. Another issue is that North and South Korea are more seriously divided today as South Korea has become closer to the U.S. in politics and economics, and North Korea has become more aligned with China. What is the church’s role in bringing reconciliation to North and South Korea? The church needs to lead the way.
What I learned from the forum is that we should face the painful past with love, humility and courage. We cannot run away from painful memories but should use memories as a launching pad to a more peaceful society. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community. Please pray for reconciliation and peace in East Asia. With your continued and faithful support, we will continue to carry the ministry of reconciliation to East Asia.
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