The threat of military escalation in Korea and Japan was one of many topics discussed by the Second Worldwide Anglican Peace Conference, held in Okinawa, Japan 16-22 April
A total of 80 delegates – from Anglican/Episcopal Churches in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, Canada, the United States, the UK and Ireland – discussed how they could respond amid signs that governments were moving towards a war-footing.
As an example that peace is possible, the conference commended an initiative of the Anglican Church of Korea – titled Towards Peace in Korea (TOPIK) – which is promoting peace dialogue in the region and providing humanitarian assistance to North Koreans.
An official statement issued by delegates at the peace conference reads: "We commend the Anglican Church of Korea and its ministry for the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula and humanitarian assistance to North Koreans in need."
Rachel Parry, United Society (Us) Programme Manager for Asia, said the fact the conference was jointly hosted by the Anglican Churches of Korea and Japan was itself another powerful demonstration of the regional Anglican commitment to reconciliation, trust-building and hope.
She explained: "The joint hosting of this peace conference by these two churches puts into perspective how far these churches have come in terms of trust and relationship building, and in terms of their desire to share their learning and aims for peace with other countries in Asia, and indeed the world. The witness of this reconciling ministry and its implications and consequences beyond these borders is important for the Anglican Communion to understand."
Hosting the conference in Okinawa was similarly significant, she said given the trials the island has faced over the last decades – first colonisation by Japan in the nineteenth century, then the traumas of the Pacific War, and the occupation of land by the United States’ military bases.
"The situation in Okinawa presents us with a critical example of the power dynamics and realities in the north-east Asia region. Getting at the heart of why there continues to be United States’ military bases on Asian islands has been a fundamental part of the conference."
The conference concluded with the agreement of a seven-point ‘call to action’ for addressing peace issues in the Pacific region, including advocacy on behalf of those whose voices are rarely heard, especially women and children.
Rachel Parry added: "Our presence indicates the importance with which we see the issues in this part of the world, and our solidarity with churches and people whose voice is not often heard."
Paul Keun Sang Kim, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church of Korea, said: "A hard journey toward peace lies before us. Today, as we face this long and hard journey, Jesus is telling us, 'It is time to go'. Now we must respond."
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, concluded her keynote address with the rallying words: "Peace and harmony in every part of the world depend on discovering our common humanity, our shared yearning for a meaningful place in this life, the hopes we have for our children and the world around us."
In a message to the conference,Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said: ‘This conference has come at the most needful time… May the initiatives you pursue contribute to the breaking down of enmities and to the establishment of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula."
The Archbishop also offered a message of support for Anglicans in Japan "as you face the continuing anxiety of nuclear fallout and address the issues of nuclear power policies, as well as questions around the military industry."