Thursday, November 7, 2013

Building Peace in Today's World Theme of Thursday at Assembly

The Most Rev. Dr. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, moderated the morning plenary at the World Council of Churches' 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea today, challenging all those assembled to become true peacemakers. In his introduction he said that this was to be peace based on hope in spite of injustices. Then he invited the audience to observe a "café table discussion" with two speakers, Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Dr. Chang Yoon Jae of South Korea, a professor of theology at Ewha Women's University in Seoul, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Korea and a former officer of the Christian Conference of Asia.
The two told stories of the past and present in their work for peace in two very distinct parts of the world.
Ms. Gbowee spoke of the trauma of the Liberian civil war. She pointed to the fact that Liberian women were the ones who pressed Charles Taylor to the peace table. A film was shown documenting the event. She shared that she herself had a transformation from anger into peacemaking. She said, "Peacemaking is a vocation, not social work."
Dr. Chang spoke of the need for an exodus among the Korean people. First, there was the exodus journey into peace into a divided Korea. But after 60 years there is still no treaty. Koreans don't want to live forever in anxiety. So, there is the second exodus to peace in a reunified Korea that is eschatological in its dimensions. Finally, there is an exodus into the light; away from nuclear weapons and nuclear power. To demonstrate this, Dr. Chang had all the lights turned off in the auditorium, lit a candle, and was joined by all in singing This Little Light of Mine.
Archbishop Makgoba then asked the two of them what challenges they would set forth for the WCC and the world.
Ms. Gbowee said in Liberia they must righten history, end their ethnic divisions and begin to find a place, "where we're not waiting for someone to apologize." To the world and the churches she said we can no longer be bystanders. If we are, "we might as well be with those who are shooting people."
Dr. Chang stayed with the theme of journey or pilgrimage. He noted we need to make peace with the earth and turn away from our dependence on fossil fuels. "We need civilization change, not climate change," he said.
This was followed by three members of an audience that had been set up on the stage: Mr. Stanley J. Noffsinger of the United States of America, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, a peace church, Ms. Agata Abrahamian, from Iran, an Armenian Orthodox and Mr. Fabian Corrales of Costa Rica, a Baptist. Being deaf, he both signed and spoke his presentation. The three spoke of the struggles of being peace makers, of living in their different societies and of hopes for peace.
The plenary came to a close with those on the stage holding up banners for peace and singing a hymn for peace. The challenge remains: can the churches together demand peace in our world?

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