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ASIA/SOUTH KOREA – Dancing “the tango of peace”: an invitation to the youth of North Korea for WYD 2027 in Seoul

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ASIA/SOUTH KOREA – Dancing “the tango of peace”: an invitation to the youth of North Korea for WYD 2027 in Seoul

Seoul (Agenzia Fides) – Building bridges for peace from youth was the focus of a special forum organized by the Reconciliation Committee of the Archdiocese of Seoul. More than 100 religious leaders, diplomats, academics and civil leaders gathered in Seoul to discuss innovative solutions for peace on the Korean Peninsula. This Forum, in its eighth edition since it began in 2016 with a focus on practical solutions, was held on November 18 at the Songsin Theological Campus of the Catholic University of Korea. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, focusing on the specific theme “Paths to reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula.” The key message that emerged from the deliberations was the need to “overcome the conflicts of the past and move toward a shared future of coexistence and prosperity,” according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Seoul. In his keynote address, Archbishop of Seoul Peter Soon-taick Chung OCD stated: “The culture of division, characterized by mistrust and doubt, prevails in the current atmosphere. “Inter-Korean relations must change course, and it is time to put 70 years of past conflicts behind us.” The archbishop encouraged participants to reflect on the “necessary commitment of the Catholic Church as a mediator and promoter of reconciliation, with the aim of achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The Forum received greetings, blessings and best wishes from Pope Francis, reported by Fernando Duarte Barros Reis, Chargé d’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Korea. Duarte Barros Reis recalled: “On September 16, Pope Francis received a group of pilgrims from the Catholic Church in Korea in Rome, urging them to entrust to Saint Andrew Kim Taegon the dream of peace for the Korean peninsula, which is always in always in his thoughts and prayers”. He expressed the hope that the Forum would serve as a platform to explore “new and creative ways” to bridge the gap between warring parties. During the opening ceremony, Peace Institute Director Hong Yong-Pyo, professor of political science at Hanyang University and former Unification Minister, highlighted that this year’s key word is “reconciliation.” “We must not and cannot give up reconciliation if we want peace,” he stressed. Father Park Dong-ho, former president of the “Justice and Peace” Commission of the Archdiocese, participated in the talk on “Teachings and imprints of the Catholic Church on reconciliation and peace.” When reviewing the Social Doctrine of the Church and recalling the Church’s position regarding violence, the priest criticized the theory of the “just war”, emphasizing the importance of “movements for peace arising from common people” as a way to raise public opinion. Kim Sun-pil, a researcher at the Institute of Theology at Sogang University, was responsible for tracing the historical context and the work of the Korean Church in favor of forgiveness and reconciliation between North and South Korea. He recalled that after the Korean War, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Korea renewed interest in the issue and in the 1980s, the Korean Church established “North Korea Missionary Committee”, later became the “Reconciliation Committee”, called to always work, in various political and geopolitical conditions, in accordance with the perspective of the Holy See. “The first step towards reconciliation should be the determination to fully understand why the other side sees things differently: to achieve this, we must first listen, and listen very carefully,” observed Professor Emilia Heo Seunghoon of the “Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University” in Japan, comparing the reconciliation process to tango dancing, maintaining that “only if political and social actors are arranged in a reciprocal relationship to dance a tango, in full harmony, can they achieve true peace.” Another lecturer, Professor Kim Ji Eun of Eastern Mennonite University in the United States, highlighted: “When we talk about truth, justice and human rights, we must be wise enough not to allow ourselves to be absorbed by the Cold War mentality and logic, always remembering the spirit of coexistence and mutual prosperity, to distance ourselves from extreme points of view.” Professor Kim also urged the Catholic Church to always choose positions that “serve as a bridge between civil society and the government, as well as between Korean society and the international community,” pointing out the important role the Church can play in both senses. : both in “bottom-up” and “top-down” processes. Professor Love Maryann Cusimano of the UniverThe Catholic Church of America, when delving into “the duties of the Catholic Church for peace,” first emphasized the concept of “just peace,” as opposed to “just war,” pointing out that “peacebuilding is not limited to the activities of governments or states alone”, and therefore requires an extended period of time with the participation of various actors, such as citizen associations, international networks or “moral entities” such as the Catholic Church. In this context, as highlighted in the assembly deliberations, the active participation of young people emerges as a crucial factor. They will be called during the design and planning phase of next year’s Forum, since the building of a future based on peace will depend on their commitment. The final words were entrusted to the Archbishop of Seoul, : “Missionary work in North Korea – he said – is not only my vocation, as Apostolic Administrator of Pyongyang, but also my responsibility as a Korean citizen.” In addition to emphasizing his commitment to the “mission of peace and reconciliation with North Korea.” In this context, and with youth in mind, Archbishop Chung proposed the idea of inviting a delegation of young North Koreans to the World Youth Day scheduled for 2027 in Korea. This invitation, which will be sent to the North Korean government through the appropriate channels, aims to be a gesture of opening and a significant step to reactivate dialogue and relationship. It should be noted that the Forum initiative is an integral part of the activities of the “Committee for Reconciliation” of the Archdiocese of Seoul, officially established on March 1, 1995 by Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, who began by celebrating a Eucharist for reconciliation and unity of the Korean people, every Tuesday at 7.00 pm in Seoul Cathedral. Guided by the motto “As long as we remember them, they are alive. If we pray for them, our prayer will be heard.” In addition, the Committee has carried out humanitarian initiatives to assist the population of the North, as well as cultural activities aimed at educating and raising awareness about the search for peace. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/11/2023)



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