South Korea's national church council is marking the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War with a week of national reconciliation that has included a prayer meeting for peace with North Korea on 17 June - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.
The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 and an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, although the two sides have never agreed a peace treaty.
Currently, a period of tension exists between North and South Korea following the sinking of a South Korean navy ship in March. The Seoul government says the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack but Pyongyang denies this.
Prayers in Seoul will be said for national reconciliation, the National Council of Churches in Korea said on 16 June.
The council added that its president, the Rev Byung-Ho Jeon, would also preach on the theme of "just peace", and the council would issue, "The Declaration of South Korean Churches for the Peace and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula" on 17 June.
"Today, the North and South are once again heading toward the path of distrust and confrontation by abandoning the fruits of reconciliation and cooperation brought about through long and hard work," the already prepared text says. "To make thing worse, the crossfire of vilification and demonstrations of strength are threatening not only the peace and security of the Korean peninsula but also [the rest of] Northeast Asia.
"South Korean churches reaffirm their mission to let justice roll … and peace spread to all nations … by proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom of God to the Korean peninsula and the world," says the declaration, alluding, in part, to a biblical verse from Amos 5.24 in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The statement adds that the churches look forward to the time when they can, "welcome the day of peace and reunification, when the barbed wire and the wall that divides the North and South will be dismantled".
The council has also announced that the Korean Christian Federation, the council's North Korean counterpart, has sent it a letter saying that the federation is preparing a special worship service to pray for the implementation of an October 2007 joint pledge by the leaders of the two Korean states to bring peace to their countries.
The council adds that in its letter, the North Korean federation expressed full support for the South Korean council's decision to hold its Week of National Reconciliation and the special prayer service.
On 3 June, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, had expressed "concern" over the "precarious" situation in the Korean peninsula. This was echoed in a 7 June statement by Prawate Khid-arn, General Decretary of the Christian Conference of Asia based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The Korean War was fought between South Korea, supported by Western powers and the United Nations, and North Korea and China, with air support from the Soviet Union.
In 1984, the WCC initiated efforts to help bring peace and reconciliation to the region through the "Tozanso Process", which brings together Christians from the two Koreas and other nations.
[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.]