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Korean Peace Reflections & Prayers Unites Conference Members in Hope

Posted: June 8 2023 at 12:23 AM

It was like a scene out of Acts 2: A diverse group of a few hundred people, with skin colors ranging from brown to ivory and speaking with varying accents, stood facing the same wall in a suburban Chicago convention center, arms outstretched, praying loudly in their native tongues for peace on the Korean peninsula.

A group of Korean-American pastors led the Northern Illinois Conference members on June 7 in  prayers, songs, and personal testimonies for peace in this 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice. The armistice ended the war, but an expected peaceful settlement has never been completed.

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This was perhaps the most moving part of the Northern Illinois Conference session, held June 6-8 in Schaumburg, Ill.

Signed on July 27, 1953, the armistice was designed to end armed conflict in Korea until a final peaceful settlement was achieved. It established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—the de facto new border between the two nations—put into force a cease-fire, and finalized repatriation of prisoners of war.

The division of the peninsula into two nations separated families. The hoped-for peace has yet to materialize.

For their service, the Northern Illinois Korean clergy began by leading the gathering in song and a litany that called participants to “cry with the people of Korea in hoping for peace to bring down the walls of hostility, pain, and antagonism.”

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Rosalynn Anderson of Englewood-Rust UMC, Chicago, adds her prayer for peace to the fence model.

A 35-member NIC Korean Clergy Choir sang in Korean “You Open the Morning of Peace.”

Between songs, some of the leaders spoke of their own or their family’s personal experiences of the Korean war and the waiting period of the armistice. Rev. Hwa Young Chong spoke of her father’s having lost an eye during the war and, though he was once an active church member, questioning the existence of a loving God who would allow the violence and suffering of the war years.

Rev. Martin Lee told of his mother-in-law’s hope that she would one day be reunited with her sister. She had crossed the border from North to South Korea in 1948.

Since then, his mother-in-law's family has been one of the ten million divided families in Korea.  His mother-in-law yearned all of her life to see her sister in North Korea. Unfortunately, she died before that could happen.

The tong sung prayer—in which people simultaneously speak aloud their own prayers—was the culmination of the event. All conference members were moved to join with their own prayers for a peace settlement in Korea. The sound was transcendant.

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Rev. Chong told of a former railroad bridge that had once connected north and south Korea. At the end of that bridge is borderline fence, where people have attached their written prayers for peace and unity.

Conference members had an opportunity to join this expression of prayer. The service featured a model of this fence and leaders invited conference members to write their peace prayers on fabric strips and tie them to the fence. Soon the chicken-wire model was filled with colorful strips of cloth.

In a time of anxiety and grief in the life of United Methodists, this service—though it told a sad story—inspired hope and unity around a shared longing. It was a moment that gave participants a glimpse of a church that can return to its central callings to peacemaking and transformation.

Watch a recording of the Korean Peace Reflections and Prayer

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