August 15 is Liberation Day in both South and North Korea. It marks the date in 1945 when Korea gained independence from Japanese colonial oppression. Sadly and ironically, the 15th of August also marks the day Korea divided into two countries. The Korean Peninsula remains divided and without a formal peace agreement more than 70 years after the end of World War II.
Each year, the World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches call member churches to pray for peace and unity in Korea, and peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Romans 14:19: “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
The prayer is traditionally used on the Sunday before 15th August each year.
Following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, in 1945, the US and the Soviet Union provisionally divided the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel. However, when China, Great Britain and the US recommended a plan to reunify the peninsula in 1947, the Soviet Union that occupied the north, refused to cooperate. Soon with tension building between the divided peninsula, the north invaded the south on June 25 1950, an aggression that was repulsed by the allies. The war ended on July 27, 1953, with a truce, but not a peace treaty. Hence the two neighbours are technically still at war.
The Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) has published 100 Prayer Topics on Healing, Reconciliation, and Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Nation and invited partner churches to pray with them as they work for peace and unity. Download from this website: http://wh.pck.or.kr/pm/linkdown.htm?lid=57adaaf57cba30129d01 (it’s a large text file, with 100 excellent prayers)
The Presbyterian Church of Korea invites its church partners and all “friends of the Korean church” to join with them in prayer and have written the 100 Prayer Topics so you can be informed on the issues that face the people of North and South Korea. The Korean people long for healing, reconciliation, and peaceful reunification.
“I believe many Christians in Korea have been earnestly praying together for peace in the region,” said Rev. Lee (Chair, Korean National Conference). “They will be greatly heartened to know fellow Christians in Australia will be joining and upholding them in prayer.”
He offered the following prayer points which he says reflect the hopes of Christians in Korea.
- Peaceful leadership and co-operation across the region.
- A renewed will for reconciliation and peaceful reunification.
- Strengthen Christians across the region as they deal with complex and often difficult situations.
- Encourage prayers from around the world to uphold the people in the Korean peninsula.
The Korean National Conference provides a network for Korean congregations and members in all Synods of the Uniting Church. There are currently more than 70 Uniting Church Ministers serving across the Church.
Resources for the Day of Prayer for the Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula can be found on the World Council of Churches website and include an order of service prepared by the NCCK’s Reconciliation and Reunification Committee (scroll to end of this post for a download).
2017 North South/South North Joint Prayer for Peaceful Reunification
Mortal, take a stick and write on it, “For Judah, and the Israelites associated with it”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with it”; and join them together into one stick, so that they may become one in your hand.
(Ezekiel 37: 16-17, NRSV)
God of grace!
Once again, we greet the month of August, the month of Independence where North and South still celebrate separately and remember it differently. It has been a long, harsh period, one with cruel struggles between the two countries. No longer are we oppressed by Japanese forces, but our people are still filled with contempt for each other and our country is still challenged by neighboring forces. Lord, pity us.
God who rules history:
For the last 75 years, we dreamed of being one, but we lived like foes, not living up to our dreams. We lived separated from our family and torn apart by different ideology and systems. Lord, bring the history of our people together with your holy hands. Let us hope for unification with passionate hearts and work together so fervently that we shed the sweat of hope. For every August we encounter, help us sincerely repent with our hearts, and fill us with a strong will for unification.
God who leads peace:
Lord, we speak of one people, one sisterhood/brotherhood while filled with hatred against each other. We have violated the spirit of the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement, the June 15 Joint Declaration, and the October 4 Joint Declaration and also firmly locked the doors of the Keumkang Mt. and Gaeseong Industrial Complex. Thus, we were left with a greater danger and greater threat. Lord, listen to our desperate cries that thirst for peace.
God who gives hope:
Lord, help us to dream once more of a beautiful land where no joint-military exercise is needed. Let us welcome a new world where we are not interfered with or challenged by neighboring strong powers. Let us once again begin with the same overwhelming determination we had as of August 15, 1945. Please quickly open the doors of intercommunication and let us walk hand in hand for joint prosperity. Lord, let the North and South greet each other without prejudice. Help us newly begin a history of reconciliation and embracement on this land.
God of grace!
Bestow your grace upon the whole of Korea. Shine down pure rays of peace from Baekdu to Halla, and wet the entire land with showers of joy. Give happiness to the 80 million fellow Koreans throughout this land and this world, and guide them to be leaders of their own lives. Bring our strengthened community to be servants of the world.
God of Peace, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
God of Peace,
Who created this world and saw that it was good,
We acknowledge before you now that we are part of a world that has as much conflict and tension as it does peace.
Revive in all people, we pray, a sense of your peace, which passes our understanding, but lifts our eyes and hearts above competition to cooperation,
above petty disputes to compromise,
above tension to harmony.
Let your Holy Spirit, breath of all creatures,
purifier of all souls and
healer of all wounds;
be fire to our heart,
light to our path and
friend for our journey as we seek to rebuild peace in your world.
We pray particularly for peace in the whole of Korea,
for efforts to agree a Peace Treaty,
for attempts to reduce the worst of our armaments,
for talks about cooperation.
We give thanks for all who work for peace
and aspire in your strength to add to their efforts,
In the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace.
(Source: Steve Pearce, based on words of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) as used on Day 21 of the Methodist Church in Britain Prayer Handbook, the day of the month devoted to prayer for Korea)
Lord, we were once one country. We were one 100 years ago when we cried out for Korean independence against the tyranny of Japanese imperialism. We were one when we broke the 36-year-old chain and cried for freedom at every corner of the Korean Peninsula. We had been one for 5,000 years. Thank you Lord for your grace that led us into one.
Lord, we were divided by foreign forces. Although we have struggled to create a world where one could freely move around without erecting barriers or division, yet even in the excitement of liberation from Japanese colonial rule, there is division behind great wounds. We did not want a disconnected relationship. However, the surrounding foreign powers turned a blind eye to our aspirations in pursuit of their own interests. The excitement of Korea’s independence soon became a painful part of our history.
O Lord, listen to our prayers that we may become one again.
Lord, we beseech you. Let us never again attempt war on this land, and let us establish our own permanent and peaceful regime that no foreign powers can avail. Even if the strong nations are indifferent to our peace and security, preferring their own interests, no forces can stop us from marching toward peace if we keep our hearts, our wills, and our strength united. Let us remind ourselves that we must carve out our own destiny. Lord, make us one.
Lord, we pray that the South and the North, the North and the South will live leaning on each other. We pray that if the South is in need, then the North can provide, and if the North is in need, then the South can provide, so that we may live helping each other. The South and the North, the North and South, want to build a happy and prosperous world. In a world of fierce global competition, we believe that promoting common prosperity between North-South/South-North is the only way to live, and believe in the wisdom of co-prosperity that promises future stability and abundance. With this wisdom, let us resume the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which has been closed for too long, and allow us to revisit the scenic beauty of Mt. Kumgang that it may no longer be neglected. Do not let us fall into the folly of misgauging either our ability or our obligation, and give us the courage to boldly carry them out for the sake of the co-prosperity of South and North/North and South.
Lord, hear the prayers of the beloved Christians throughout the world for peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula. May the people of the North and South/South and North meet each other with a smile, and may North Korea and the U.S. establish a peace treaty by ending the hostilities. Peace is what the South and North/North and South wish to share in accordance with our own will. Lord, give us peace. May there be no power able to block the grace of the Lord of Peace. Let us not shirk our obligation or delay for any reason. Now in this moment, give us faith with the ability to love. Let the fervent prayers of Christians all over the world bloom in our hearts, and in every corner of the Korean Peninsula as a flower of hope.
Lord, may this prayer on this day, flowing from Baekdu to Halla, resonate from every point throughout the world, so that the breath of Christians of the North and South/South and North will be restored with the energy of peace and reunification.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we pray. Amen.
Order of service (2017) 2017-8-15-prayer-order-NCCKRRC
2018 North-South Joint Prayer for Peaceful Reunification
We thank you Lord that Christians in North and South Korea who live in the same land, under the same heavens once again greet this year’s Liberation Day. Though August visits us every year, we have long forgotten that overwhelming moment of the past. For the last 73 years of separation, while in constant conflict with each other, we have failed to embrace each other with love. Lord, have mercy on us.
God of history!
We greet this year’s Liberation Day with new hope. The period of separation, war and hostile confrontation that our people went through is dimly fading away and we now look at the rainbow of peace and prosperity stretching over Mount Halla to Mount Baekdu. God, who rules history, lead this land to greet a new history of peace, unification and prosperity.
God of peace!
Help us overcome with strength the many walls and high barriers that still remain. The historical meeting between the North and South Korean leaders has taken place in Panmunjom, once a site of separation and conflict, and now with the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration, the two Koreas have finally taken a step towards reconciliation. But the walls of separation and the embers of war still remain. We pray that by completely removing any contemptible barriers of separation that threaten the people’s livelihood and block common prosperity, you bring long lasting peace that may be a stepping stone for peace not only in the Peninsula, but in Northeast Asia and the entire world.
God of hope!
We pray that we strive for bigger dreams. Though our people once shared a 5000-year-long history, we have lived in separation for the last 70 years. We can no longer be forced to suffer the misfortunes and pains of separation. Help our people greet a turning point in history at this new crossroad. Lead us to open our hearts and join shoulder to shoulder to envision a new road of strong peace and stable prosperity that will lead to unification.
God of creation!
With faith we have seen that Panmunjom, once a site of separation and confrontation has now become a place that signals the beginning of peace, unification and prosperity. Now let the peace conceived in Panmunjom blossom and bear the fruits of peace and unification which our people have so long yearned for. Give us peace and courage so that the Christians of the North, the South and the entire world work for the peace, unification and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and lead the Christians of the world so that they can actively support this mission.
In Jesus Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
August 15th, 2018
National Council of Churches in Korea
Korean Christian Federation Central Committee
The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea Pre- Assembly theme was ‘Beyond Unification’.
The opening keynote address was given by Rev Dr Kim Hiheon, who is pastor of a church in Seoul. He started his speech telling us about Korean Minjung, or People’s theology, which emerged from South Korean Christians struggling for social justice. Dr Kim expressed his sorrow that Korean churches had lost their prophetic voice and instead adopted a Prosperity Gospel.
(Prosperity Gospel is otherwise known as the Health and Wealth gospel. It is believed that it is the will of God that some people are richly blessed both financially and physically. To donate money to religious causes will increase your own wealth. If humans have faith in God, they will be granted security and prosperity by God.)
As this was an ecumenical event, Rev Dr Kim proposed strengthening ties between the denominations around the world to bring back the prophetic calling and weave in a network of peace and to develop new ways of using these relationships in international mission.
• In Korea, we have traces of hope for reconciliation – sharing a flag at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the Olympic Truce.
• The summit meeting between President Moon Je-in and Kim Jong-un in April.
• High level discussions with Mike Pompeo and a potential meeting with President Trump.
In the second session, Miss Koh Wan Sun, now 80 years old, was a survivor of the 1948 Jeju Uprising, also known as Jeju 4.3. The name refers to 3 April 1948, when police shot and killed six anti-government protestors, which marked the beginning of a crackdown that only ended six years later. An estimated 20-30,000 people were killed, almost all of whom were civilians. People were forbidden from talking about the uprising and it was only acknowledged by the Government in 2000.
Jeju 4.3 peace park has the names of 14,000 victims inscribed on stone tablets. The most poignant and disturbing sculpture that Pamela Gordon saw during her visit was of a woman and her baby, who were supposedly found frozen to death as they tried to escape and hide from government forces.
Theologian, Jurgen Moltmann, gave a lecture on Reconciliation, Peace and Hope, where he spoke about the church’s role in the reunification of Germany and encouraged Korean churches to play a similar role on the Korean Peninsula. For the people living in South Korea, a phrase that is often used to describe how it feels to live under a foreign-controlled military lifestyle is “fake peace”.
What does peace mean and what does the peace of Christ mean for North and South Korea? What does it mean for us as part of the worldwide church? The division of Korea – and the suspended but unresolved state of war – is itself the root cause and rationale for ongoing military confrontation, the arms race and the production of nuclear weapons in the region. Therefore we must remove the unresolved conflict and division as a source of tension and confrontation.
As Christians we are called to pursue a kind of peace that is genuine, understanding and respectful of other people’s opinions, even though we may not agree with them.
We want peace. We can say nice things about peace but we need to make a sacrifice to bring about peace. Talking about peace is easy but to bring it about is difficult. One reason it is difficult is because we tend to look to the other person or country to bring about peace, when in fact it can mean looking at ourselves and letting peace begin with us as individuals.
What does peace entail? Ultimately it means no longer being at war, but how do we practise peace? We stop retaliation. We unclench our fists to shake hands. We forgive and do not carry out revenge, so that peace may govern.
As we see in the news, peace between North and South Korea won’t happen right away. However it is not passive, it is a call to action: to be self-controlled, disciplined and active.
In Jesus we see an activist of peace. He said, “Peace I leave with you.” He sat with enemies around tables to bring peace. Our enemies need peace. We can be active in offering it by talking TO our enemies, not ABOUT our enemies.
(Source: Church of Scotland)