Korean Christians have warned of the risk of war on the peninsula because of rising tensions between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's President Kim Jong Un.
The National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) said in a letter to South Korea's President Moon Jae-In that it hoped to see a peaceful reunification of North and South but that it was alarmed at developments. 'To make matters worse, President Trump has declared that "North Korea would face fire and fury, one never witnessed by the world", the letter says. 'Military tension is at its height in the Korean peninsula and there is fear of war spreading among the people.'
The lives of the people in South Korea should not be threatened by the provocative acts of the US and North Korea, said the letter. 'The road to peace is a difficult one, but the harder it gets the more important it is that we keep the principle, it states. 'We cannot start sincere dialogues when we place blame for the opponent's extreme actions or when we insist various pre-conditions for dialogue.'
It urges Moon to send a special envoy to North Korea, saying: 'Our prayers will be with you always, as you are desperately struggling for a better future of our country.'
According to the World Council of Churches, there is 'no other geographic context in which the risk of regionally and globally catastrophic conflict is greater, and no point in recent history when tensions in the region have been higher.' It says it is 'of critical and urgent necessity that the risks of conflict be reduced, not heightened'.
In a statement yesterday reacting to the imposition of fresh sanctions on the regime, WCC general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit warned against the 'escalating rhetoric and accelerating cycle of threat and counter-threat between antagonists in this situation'.
'The latest statements by the President of the United States of America adopt a tone almost indistinguishable from the threats emanating from North Korea,' he said. 'While no doubt intended to project strength and resolve, they risk taking the world yet closer to the precipice of conflict.'
The sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council were likely to be counterproductive, he said, as they had never worked before and had failed to prevent the North acquiring nuclear weapons. Furthermore, sanctions had impeded humanitarian access and contributed to the rising tensions.
Tveit said: 'We call for a sea-change in the international community's approach to North Korea, in favour of dialogue and engagement rather than military and political confrontation.'
The warnings from Tveit and the South Korean Churches stand in stark contrast to backing given to Donald Trump by a leading US evangelical, Robert Jeffress, who said: 'God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary – including war – to stop evil. Jeffress continued: 'In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.'