Germany's senior Protestant bishop has urged Christians in officially atheist North Korea to obey God "rather than human beings". Issues of nuclear weapons and the division of Korea into north and south face the isolated nation.
Anli Serfontein writes for ENI: Bishop Wolfgang Huber, the council chairperson of Germany's Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), spoke during a service in the Bongsun Church in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, according to a statement made available to Ecumenical News International.
Without alluding to Kim Jong-il, who in 1997 succeeded his father as leader of North Korea, Huber quoted from the Bible's book of Acts of the Apostles (5.29), when he said, "We ought to obey God rather than human beings."
Huber told those assembled his delegation's visit to North and South Korea should be seen as an attempt "to better understand how we, as Christians can contribute so that here in Korea, all people in the North and in the South can live in peace without borders separating them".
A delegation from Germany's Protestant Church led by Huber spent four days in North Korea as guests of the country's state-sanctioned Korean Christian Federation before they travelled to South Korea on 15 September.
During his visit to North Korea Huber held talks with the chairperson of the KCF, Kang Yong-Sop. Kang thanked the EKD delegation for its co-operation and solidarity in the reconciliation process between Christians from the two Korean states. Christians from both countries have been meeting at church conferences on German soil over the last two decades.
Huber told those at the meeting the visit was taking place during a time of commemorations celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall that divided Germany into East and West in the manner that Korea is divided into North and South.
Huber said the German people have a special interest and understanding of the fate of the Korean people due to Germany's division for so long after the end of the Second World War. It was for this reason that Germans could not remain cold to the fate of millions of Korean families forcibly separated already for more than 50 years, he stated.
The German church leader noted that 20 years ago, "We Germans were thankful for the solidarity and support of our neighbouring countries and that of the whole European continent, to overcome the tragedy of our divided country."
Huber added, "As Christians we therefore call on all governments and politicians all over the world to seriously prepare the way so that peace, unity, prosperity and liberty can also be achieved on the Korean peninsula."
The Korean peninsula has been divided since 1950 when South Korea and a US-led United Nations force fought against North Koreans backed by Chinese ground troops and aided by the Soviet Union.
Hostilities came to a halt in an armistice signed at Panmunjom on 27 July 1953, but a formal ceasefire has yet to be signed.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]