“It is time to shout: The era of peace is coming."
We echoed the cry of KoEun KwangSoon of Peace Mothers of Korea last week, as we walked alongside 1,200 South Korean women mobilizing for a peaceful resolution to the Korean conflict. I was representing the United Church as part of an international women peacemakers delegation of 30 peace activists. Led by Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire and WomenCrossDMZ founder Christine Ahn, we were in South Korea to support the historic peace process between the two Koreas. The high point of our solidarity was our participation in the second historic DMZ Peace Walk and Festival on May 26 in Paju, South Korea.
“No matter which way the winds in the White House are blowing, we women are moving forward with our Korean sisters who are determined to put an end to this disastrous 70-year-old conflict,” said delegation member Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK.
The day after President Trump's abrupt cancellation of the US-North Korea summit, President Moon and Chairman Kim were at Panmunjom in an attempt to bring inter-Korean relations back on track. And over 1,200 women—internationals and Korean—were just a few miles away crossing the Tongil-daegyo (Unification Bridge) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The opening ceremonies for our event included encouragement from Young-Soo Han, President of the National YWCA of Korea, who spoke about the significance of our witness. We would cross the bridge as the first civilians ever to do so by foot, and walk six kilometres through the DMZ. We ended in Dorasan Peace Park, celebrating action for peace with Korean drumming and music, and a recommitment to the 2018 International Women Peace Walk Declaration.
We experienced the powerful momentum for peace in Korea.
"The peace train has left the station," said Christine Ahn. “This is a conflict that has lasted seven decades. The DMZ is a strip of land that is the most symbolic manifestation of a long-term division. Let the Korean people see peace on the Korean peninsula. That’s what they want. And the international community should support it.”
“Peace can only come if the people build it,” said Mairead Maguire. “But peace also needs political leaders. We call on Kim, Moon, and Trump to sign a peace treaty for the people of Korea and for the world.”
I walked with colleagues of United Church partner the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK). In March, at the NCCK-sponsored International Conference in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the 1988 Declaration of the Churches of Korea on National Reunification and Peace, we had agreed that peaceful resolution to the continuing crisis on the Korean peninsula can only come through authentic dialogue at the table. Both South and North Korea remain “at the table.” More than ever, partners in Korea call “on the United States of America to join them at the table of dialogue, so that hope for peace may be strengthened. We also call on China, Russia and Japan to work together with them for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and to develop a Northeast Asian common peace and security system.”
Our delegation called for women to be included in all phases and parts of the Korea peace process. It is a call made in solidarity with Korean women, because we know that the participation of women will make a difference. In Korea, and from other global contexts, evidence from peace processes shows that when women are involved, peace when reached will be more stable and enduring. Women think beyond "who wins." Women know and experience the impact of prolonged conflict and violence on families, communities, the economy and infrastructure, as well as nations.
Join me and many others around the world in praying, acting, and speaking for peace in Korea. The prayer, "For Peaceful Coexistence and Prosperity on Korean Peninsula," has been provided by a group of Korean ministers in The United Church of Canada. Join in the prayer for the end of prolonged hostility, for peaceful coexistence, and the prosperity for all people in Korea.
—Patti Talbot leads the Global Partnership staff team in the General Council’s Church in Mission Unit