Peacebuilding is 'God's vocation'

A North Korean soldier watches the South Korean side at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) in South Korea

Delegates at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches heard fresh perspectives on how they can be peacebuilders in their communities, societies and nations.

The Assembly is taking place in Busan, South Korea, where the issue of peace has added poignancy because of ongoing tensions with North Korea.

A plenary focusing on peace was moderated by the Archbishop of Cape Town Dr Thabo Makgoba and joined by Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee and Korean theologian Dr Chang Yoon Jae.

Discussions centred on what peace means to communities and churches in a world marred with conflicts, violence and consumerism.

Peace is a major focus for the assembly, which has as its theme "God of life, lead us to justice and peace".

Gbowee led a women's movement against the civil war that was modelled on non-violent resistance and played a part in bringing the conflict to an end in 2003.

She said peacebuilding was "God's vocation" and that churches should not be bystanders to violence or be "co-opted" by governments.

Reflecting on the strained relations between North and South Korea, Chang said the peninsula needed to transition from "unfinished war" to "permanent peace".

Chang added that a "world free of nuclear power plants and weapons" was an important part of achieving peace, as he criticised nuclear tests that had been conducted in the region recently with little consideration of the impact on local communities.

"Nuclear weapons cannot co-exist with peace and Christian faith," said Chang.

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