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The Korean Theologians’ Response to Just Peace*

* A group of theologians teaching at different seminaries and universities of the Presbyterian Church of Korea met together from 19-20 January 2010 to reflect on the Initial Statement of Just Peace that the WCC has prepared for the International Ecumenical Convocation held in May 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica. This article appears on the Just Peace Companion, a resource document of the World Council of Churches.

1. The God in which we believe is the God of Life who desires all creation to enjoy life in all its fullness (Jn 10:10).

Therefore, the destruction of life is a destruction of peace and a blasphemy before God. Denying the right of life that is a gift for all creation is not only unfaithfulness to God but is also the cause of violence.

In the world today, however, we see the life of all creation being threatened with utter destruction by human greed. The livelihood of creation itself is at stake as the toll of human activities to manipulate creation for its own benefit and consumption. The human desire to manipulate God’s creation and God-given characteristics of life is a denial of life and a blasphemy against God.

Therefore, we reject any kind of human attempt to manipulate or distort God’s created-universe according to human greed and avarice. We also reject all theologies and doctrines that justify human domination of creation as “divinely inspired” and attempts to legitimate the corruption of creation. Such human corruption is a distortion, destruction and violation of life, the God-given right of life of all creation.

We, as Christians, once again affirm that we are part of God’s created world and are called to live in harmony and peace with all God’s creatures in God’s created world (Is 6:3).

2. The God in which we believe is the God of Reconciliation who dismantles the walls of division between individuals and communities (Eph 2:14).

In the world today, however, we see innumerable divisions which continue to threaten the life and peace of people and earth. We live in a world deeply torn apart and divided by the historical residues of colonial exploitation, the continued imposition of artificial boundaries by Empire and its militarism fuelled by greed, resulting in violence and war. The cries of the people who bear the brunt of such violence and who are constantly struck by the sharp end of the spear ring out in the regions thus divided, Palestine and the Korean peninsula providing very specific examples. The imposition of this artificial division is a sin which severs those who suffer its traumatic effects from the fullness of life, a gift from the God of Life.

Therefore we reject all ideologies, political policies, practices, theologies, religious beliefs and any other human forces which do not recognize the inherent value of the other, demonizing that which is not familiar, and seeks to justify one’s peace at the cost of the suffering of the other. Peace for oneself based on the suffering of the other is a denial of the worthiness of the other and disregards the fact that we are cohabiters on earth.

As theologians who live and bear witness to the God of life in the midst of division we adamantly reject the global and geo-political system which perpetuates the current state of division on the Korean peninsula. The division of one part affects the entire global community. As such, Christians are called to break down the walls of division and heal its pain, to overcome the legacy of colonialism and the remnants of the Cold War which still cling to our communities like the stench of death.

3. The God in which we believe is the Sovereign who reigns over all powers and principalities and yet emptied Godself to become one of us, to serve rather than be served (Mk10:45; Phil 2:5-11).

In the world in which we live, however, we see the ideologies and practices of the Empire that aspires to dethrone God and enthrones itself to extend and keep its influence over the geo-political market through military power. We hear the cries of the victims of violence, the refugees who have lost homes and livelihoods because of war.

Therefore we reject the US Empire and all other Empires which seek to usurp the sovereign authority of God. We reject the arrogance of Empire which perpetuates a life-killing civilization and even aspires to colonize Space; to subjugate entire communities of people with the threat of war based on a new concept of war which unilaterally utilizes the ideology of pre-emptive strikes.

We affirm that we are called to live in this world as God’s people, to serve and glorify God only. We have been called to listen to the cries of the victims, to empathize with their pain and to walk in solidarity with them in their quest for just peace and fullness of life. We are called to be witnesses of Jesus Christ who suffered under the violence of Empire (Jn 19:19;1 Cor 2:8).

4. The God in which we believe is the God of the Basics; who feeds all God’s creation (Mk 6:30-44; Rom 8; Is 65:17-27).

In the world we live in today, however, we see the evils of the current global economic system which is exclusionary in nature. It thrives on the monopoly of capital and market by the rich few and worships the god of development at the expense of the erosion of earth’s ecological health. It colonizes the consciousness of the people through media and the promotion of consumerism, forcing us to worship Mammon in the place of God. It perpetuates the growing disparity between the rich and the poor, exploitation of human labour, enforced poverty due to underemployment and holds people hostage with the constant threat of unemployment as more and more people are demoted to cogs in the wheel, disposable labour at the mercy of the global economic machine. Many are degraded to economic refugees in spite of the fact that many work, albeit partially. The tyranny of multinational corporations has created an environment in which people no longer receive their rightful fruits for their labour. The current economic injustice and inequality shatter peace among individuals and within communities. Peace is economic justice for all—equalizing the distribution and sharing of grain to each mouth. The exclusion of any from basic economic activities is a denial of the blessing and peace of life together.

Therefore we reject the current dominant capitalist economic system which denies the rights of the majority to work for the benefit of a few, erodes ecology, promotes greed and the false belief that unlimited economic growth is possible, and places Mammon on the throne of worship instead of God.

We are called, in a context where the multitude are excluded and the ninety nine sheep are lost, to “re-member” them into their rightful place of life; to work for and accompany the economically disenfranchised of society who constitute the majority of contemporary global society (Mk 8:1-10; Lk 14:21; 16:19-31).

5. The God we believe is the God of Creation. The Created world is not ours to own but that of the Creator God. The Psalmist declares “The earth is the Lord’s and in it, and all who live in it.” (Ps 24:1)

The world in which we live today is a world in which this creation is threatened by climate change and the ensuing ecological crises (Is 24:5). We have reached a critical point where not only the life of humankind but all of creation is at risk. The effects of the ecological crises which we face today can be felt all around us. It is no longer mere scientific prediction but a daily experience in our everyday lives. We are fast approaching the irreversible point where the extinction of species and the greatest violence is that perpetuated by humans against all creatures.

Therefore we reject the mistaken belief which regards creation as the possession of humankind refusing to acknowledge that it is God’s creation. We reject the dogma of developmentalism and its false ideals of unlimited growth. We reject the lies of science which promises wealth and health as it is based on the basis of tampering with the ecosystem. We reject the current monopolization of agriculture by multinational corporations who regard the earth and agriculture as the objects of economic exploitation. We call into question the governments and corporations who claim to be “eco-friendly” by promoting “green growth” as this in itself is self-contradictory and merely a façade attempting to camouflage their unswerving adherence to the dogma of developmentalism and unlimited growth. As Christians we are called to promote not only peace on earth but also peace with earth.

Therefore we repent our ecological sin and confess that we are called to repay our ecological debt. Humankind must embrace a fundamental shift from the current fossil fuel based civilization; transform the current consumerist life-style; reduce its appetite for consumption of material resources and practice a frugal life-style which seeks to consider the needs of neighbours as well as the livelihood of future generations (Mk 1:15; Joel 2:12-13).

6. The God we believe is the God of all people created in God’s image. We re-affirm that the raison d’être of all religions is to give fullness of life, compassion and comfort; to practice mercy, love of neighbour and self-denial; and to promote peace and harmony. Religion in itself is not violent in nature (Lk 10:27; Acts 17:23-27).

The world in which we live today, however, is one in which religion has lost its basic character and is corrupt, often becoming an instrument of violence in the service of political ideologies and secular interests, justifying its sins through distorted fundamentalist theologies. Religion is sometimes abused for political ends and has become a source of violence. Conflicts between religions are threatening global peace and endangering the lives of individuals and entire communities.

Therefore, we reject exclusivist fundamentalism, patriarchy in all religions, religion subverting itself to secular interests, any political manipulation of religion and distortion of its values. All religions must be free from being abused by politics and liberated from fundamentalism.

We as Christians are called to be advocates of God’s peace, bearing witness to each religion’s basic teachings and tenets, conducting ourselves in a spirit of mutual respect, and solidarity and cooperation.

7. The God we believe is God, the Spirit. God renews our spirits and provides us with new energy. God provides us with the spirituality of peace which seeks repentance of sins and forgiveness of faults. This spirituality is expressed in action which is non-violent. This spirituality is more than the deepening of individual faith but is a public spirituality, a social spirituality. It seeks to establish peace, refusing to utilize means and methods which are themselves violent and therefore “un-peaceful” (Jn 4:24; 2 Cor 3:17).

The world in which we live today, however, is one in which the acts of resistance by the victims is labelled “terrorism” and the violence of the perpetrators is called “the norm”, “social order” and “governance”. We live in a world where Mammon rules and the spirit of consumerism shackles the souls of people and enslaves them as commodities of the neoliberal global economic order. Within this spirit only the machinations of Darwinian competitiveness dominates the hearts of individuals who are pitted against each other, forced to market themselves as commodities.

We reject the culture of violence which pervades our society. We reject the violence of governments and politicians as a means of extending their power. We reject the structural violence so prevalent in our societies. We reject all cultures, educational systems and structures which justify unlimited competition in the name of progress and development. We reject the violence of dehumanizing cultural mechanisms, such as patriarchy and racism, which degrade differences into discrimination.

We are called to develop a spirituality of resistance which empowers the marginalized and weak. This spirituality is different from the nonviolence advocated by the traditional peace churches. It is the spirituality of transformation that leads to action, such as that embodied by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. It is a spirituality which not only resists against what is wrong but also presents an alternative. It is a world transforming spirituality, not an other-worldly spirituality. The spirituality which we are called to embody is a spirituality of poverty. It is following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, emptying our self and giving of ourselves to voluntary poverty as an act of prophetic witness and solidarity (Mt 5:3-12; Gal 3:28).

8. The God we believe is the God of the Faithful, and at the same time is a faithful God. Our God is the God who presents all creation with Shalom, Salaam, peace based on justice. However, the Church must confess that throughout its history it has failed to establish the peace to which it has been called by God, excluding the other, justifying war and aligning ourselves to the exploitations of colonialism and imperialism. Far too often the Church has stood as the vanguard of violence as it sided with the powerful. Rather than living out the peace of God it has justified the false “peace” of Empire.

The time has come for the Church to repent of its sins, especially the sin of murder and pillage committed during the Crusades, the sin of theologically justifying the burning of innocents during its witch hunts, legitimizing the slave trade and the annihilation of the native residents of America, Australia, Africa and other regions. The Spirit of repentance to which the Church is called must include an in-depth and serious study of Christian Scripture. Far too often the violence within Scripture has been overlooked or interpreted as a means of legitimizing the domination of the other. The Church is also called to repent of its divisions which express itself in violence, verbal and physical, against the other.

The in-fighting of the Church is one of the primary reasons for violence which disrupts and destroys peace all around the world. Although the Church is called to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of Peace it has lived and acted according to precepts which contradict it, such as triumphalism and the prosperity gospel. The world does not believe because of our divisions and because of our self-contradictory lives. The divisions which plague the church, and to which we must confess, are not only historical. They also exist within congregations between men and women, the strong and weak, the powerful and the marginalized.

Therefore, as we confess our sins of the past and renew ourselves for the future we reject all theologies, doctrines or narratives that justify violence, war and the unjust invasion of sovereign territory. We also reject any theology or discourse which justifies the logic of power and destroys peace.

We acknowledge that the Church is called once again to take up its prophetic role in society. The Church has been called to be the ambassador of reconciliation in a world of division and conflict. The Church is called to be the salt and light of this world, existing as an alternative society and distinctive community transforming the world as the Body of Christ, filling everything with the fullness of Christ (Eph 1:23). The Church exists not to extend itself but as a sign and symbol of the Kingdom of God in the world.