Subject: NCC Weekly News: Peace on Korean Peninsula?

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From Jim:
(This week the NCC hosted a delegation from the National Council of Churches in Korea.  The delegation came to Washington, DC to meet with White House, Congressional and State Department leaders to advocate for a permanent peace treaty between North and South Korea.  Below is the statement by Jim Winkler, given as part of a consultation between NCCK and US faith leaders:)

There have been many consultations between the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK) and the National Council of Churches in the USA (NCCCUSA) over the years. Many statements and resolutions have been issued. 30 years ago, the NCCCUSA Governing Board said, “As Christians we regard the need to overcome division not primarily from diplomatic or military perspectives, but rather from the side of a suffering, divided people whose pain we are coming to know well: we confess that we share responsibility for their plight and for this we are truly sorry.”

These words remain appropriate today. Since that statement was issued in 1986, the Berlin Wall has fallen and East and West Germany have been reunited. The US has reestablished diplomatic relations with Vietnam. The Cold War has ended, apartheid has collapsed in South Africa, and we have entered into a new era of relations with Cuba. A new wall has been erected by Israel against the people of Palestine. And, Korea remains divided and the prospects for a peace treaty remain dim. 

We Christians know what long wars are all about. 2 Samuel 3:1 reads, “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.”
That long war was filled with recriminations, accusations and betrayals, as are all wars. It is exhausting to read accounts of the dispute between the houses of Saul and David. David’s reign was long, but it was not always peaceful.

We have experienced more than 60 years of war, sanctions, and tension in Korea. Despite our best efforts to bring about a peace treaty, we remain unsuccessful.

It occurs to me that the United States has been at war my entire life. Not only has the Korean War continued over all these years, but my country has invaded Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, Laos, and Cambodia, among others. We have carried out covert operations against countless nations and we have spent trillions of dollars on the military and on an enormous spy apparatus. We maintain more than 700 military installations around the world. The United States has been and is intent on global domination.

I live in a national security state, and Capitol Hill is the belly of the beast. Those of us meeting with you in this important consultation from the National Council of Churches and all the other denominations present have been seeking peace for Korea for a long time.

We confess we have been diverted many times from this task by other wars such as those with Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, in these very rooms we worked hard to stop those wars from taking place and to bring them to an end. We fully recognize the US remains a superpower and is plays a key role in helping bring peace to the Korean peninsula. We desire to work closely with you to strategically advocate for peace, and we deeply appreciate your presence which will help raise the awareness in Congress, at the State Department, and at the White House.

Formerly, we had the North American Coalition for Human Rights in Korea. Many people including my friends Pharis and Jane Harvey and George and Dorothy Ogle helped give leadership to the Coalition, but once the military dictatorship in the South ended and Kim Dae Jung was elected president we were not able to provide the grassroots support and funding needed to keep the Coalition alive.

Fortunately, the Asia Pacific Forum has been faithful in giving leadership on behalf of the NCC and its member communions.

I pray through this consultation we will again affirm our unity in Christ and our commitment to peace in Korea. We affirm that a more hopeful future will one day come to all of the people of Korea. We affirm the commitment of the churches to take a stand in solidarity with the Korean people and to take actions to support reunification and peace. We give thanks to God that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus God has promised a new humanity, in which we are no longer strangers to one another but citizens and members of the house of God, with Jesus Christ himself as the corner stone. (Ephesians 2:14-20)
Yours in Christ,

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary

Korean Christians advocate for lasting peace on Peninsula

On July 27, 1953, the guns fell silent on the Korean Peninsula. An armistice brought three years of war to an end, yet a peace treaty has never replaced the ceasefire. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) members are invited to join Korean Christians to act for peace by signing a petition and sending an email asking the U.S. government to enter negotiations for a peace treaty.

Despite the armistice, tensions remain between the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). At times the tensions boil over into violent clashes. The continuing conflict diverts precious resources from the welfare of the people on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone.

The Korean Peninsula has known separation and conflict since 1945. The United States holds a special responsibility for a peaceful resolution of the conflict as it occupied the southern part of the peninsula in 1945 and signed the armistice in 1953. The United States maintains a military presence in the Republic of Korea. Joint military exercises fuel the tension with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Delegation speaks about Korean peninsula

The demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is one of the most heavily guarded in the world.

When North Korea tests another warhead, our sisters and brothers in South Korea shudder. Though it has been 63 years since the armistice was signed, the Korean Peninsula remains starkly divided. Families separated for seven decades rarely have opportunities to communicate and sanctions prevent even medicine from being sent to the north. Disciples have spoken out through both the 2015 General Assembly resolution on reunification (GA-1522) and more recently in a letter to the current U.S. administration opposing further deployment of weapons in the south.

Recently a delegation from the National Council of Churches in Korea visited Disciples Center on July 25 and National Council of Churches in an effort to garner support for their efforts to broker a peace treaty. They have worked for more than 5 years in partnership with Christians in the northern provinces to come up with concrete suggestions for reunification. 

70,000 Indian Muslim clerics issue fatwa against Isis, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terror groups

Nearly 70,000 Indian Muslim clerics have signed a fatwa against Isis and other terror groups saying they were "not Islamic organizations".

Around 1.5 million Muslims visiting a shrine dedicated to a Sufi Islamic saint near the city of Ajmer in north western state of Rajasthan during the Urs religious festival have signed a petition against terrorist attacks.

Mufti Mohammed Saleem Noori, one of the clerics who signed the fatwa, told the Times of India: "From Sunday onwards, when the annual Urs began, members of Dargah Aala Hazrat have been distributing forms among followers seeking signatures to show that those signing stand against terrorism.

"Nearly 15 lakh (1.5m) Muslims have recorded their protest. Around 70,000 clerics from across the world, who were part of the event, passed the fatwa."

He called on media organizations to stop referring to the groups - including Isis, the Taliban and al-Qaeda - as “Islamic”.

Another cleric, Hazrat Subhan Raza Khan, said the decision had been made in the wake of the Paris attacks to spread out the message that the Muslim community condemns Islamist extremism.

Church leaders respond to martyrdom of Father Jacques Hamel

Church leaders have been responding to yesterday’s murder of French Roman Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel. Father Hamel was killed by supporters of Daesh as he and a small congregation celebrated Mass at the Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy. The assailants were subsequently shot and killed by French security forces.

The Church of England’s Suffragan Bishop in Europe, David Hamid, has written to the Archbishop of Rouen to express his “deep sorrow” at Hamel’s death and to “extend the assurance of our communion in prayer and love in Christ.”

In his letter, Bishop David said: “We Anglicans join other Christians in expressing our solidarity and closeness to the people in your diocese in the face of this brutal attack. We pray for Father Jacques, that the Lord may receive him into his arms of love and grant him eternal rest and peace.

“We pray for the faithful of his parish and of your diocese who are troubled and shocked by this act of violence that took place in the middle of the celebration of the Mass. We pray for the people of France, that they may be comforted by God during this period of insecurity, fear and violence.”

Statement condemning atrocities against Dalits by cow vigilante groups in Una, Gujarat

Almost 24 dalits have attempted to end their lives since July 11, 2016. Violent protests by Dalits have been taking place in Gujarat demanding stern action against the cow vigilante group members who publicly flogged a Dalit family and brutally beaten up seven Dalit men for allegedly skinning a dead cow in Una in Gir Somnath district of Saurashtra region on July 11, 2016. The victims' contention was that they were just skinning a dead cow and had not killed it, whereas the accused alleged these dalits were involved in cow slaughter.

As many as 200 cow vigilante groups have sprung up Gujarat. They have become a law and order problem in Gujarat because of their aggression and the way they take law into their hands. With names such as Gau Raksha Samiti, Gau Raksha Ekta Samiti, they have percolated from taluka to even village level and the groups take law into their hands to deal with minorities and Dalits who run meat businesses.

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Facing Fear and Acting for a Better America

Commentary by 
Ron Young, Consultant to the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI).

Public controversy sometimes erupts when a local American Muslim community announces plans to build a mosque. Opposition to the mosque project often is fueled by well-funded national anti-Muslim organizations that shamelessly target people’s ignorance and fears about Islam.

One such organization is Act for America that claims 1000 local chapters nationwide and is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a rightwing “hate-group.” At a public meeting near Seattle of Muslims and Christians in support of building a local Mosque, a member of Act for America spoke-up angrily during the question and answer period, waving and emotionally referencing a multi-tabbed copy of a thick book titled, The Reliance of the Traveller

The book is an English translation of a 14th century guide to Islamic teachings. For Christians to reference a Medieval guide to Islam is especially shocking and sad since it was in this same period during the Crusades and Inquisition that Christianity was responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of Muslims and Jews.

Act for America members’ referencing interpretations of Islam from the Middle Ages and then exclusively citing the most extreme teachings by a small minority of Muslims today is also disingenuous and very misleading because they completely ignore volumes of contemporary Muslim teachings and statements by mainstream Islamic scholars and organizations that offer very positive and hopeful messages. While Act for America’s appeal effectively plays on people’s ignorance and fears, and succeeds at raising a lot of money, this prejudiced practice provides a grossly distorted view of what the vast majority of Muslims believe.

Act for America’s approach to Islam and Muslims would be like judging what all Jews believe by only quoting the most extreme and violent Jewish settlers in the West Bank Palestinian territory or judging Christianity by the crude, extreme statements by some American Christian fundamentalist leaders who view Islam as “a religion of war” and enthusiastically supported America’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq as a morally justified modern day crusade.

Let me cite just a few major contemporary documents that present an authentic and reliable view of Islam. Launched in 2007, there is an ongoing and growing international interfaith initiative, called a “ A Common Word,” by Muslim and Christian scholars emphasizing the fundamental commonalities between Muslim and Christian teachings on two central religious imperatives, "to love God and to love our neighbors.” Two brand new books offer huge helps for anyone seeking a responsible and serious understanding of Islam: The Study Quran, A New Translation and Commentary (2015), and The Quran With References to the Bible (2016).

On Muslim extremism, in September 2014, citing classical teachings from the Quran, 120 prominent Muslim scholars from around the world issued a letter to fighters and followers of ISIS, denouncing ISIS extremist ideology and practices as fundamentally “un-Islamic.”

If we are honest and even slightly self-critical, we would acknowledge that all three of our religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have in the past been used and even today still are used by some as inspiration for extremism and violence. Rather than stirring up fear and hatred of the "other," our challenge is to help bring out the best in all people, and that actually is the way to act compassionately and constructively for a better, safer America and a better world.

Ron Young serves as Consultant to the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI). This commentary represents Ron’s personal views, not the views of NILI (or NCC). Ron can be contacted at

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