A diverse collective of US evangelical leaders this week released a joint message urging prayer for peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula. It comes as North and South Korea today set a date for a historic summit on denuclearisation.
'We are heartened by proposals for dialogue between our national leaders at a time when increasing tensions seemed to be marching our countries perilously in the direction of greater conflict, if not war,' said the statement, posted at Evangelicals for Peace.
'We call on all Christians everywhere to join us in praying for a just and peaceful resolution.'
Organisations represented by the statement include the National Association of Evangelicals, Faith and Community Empowerment, Evangelicals for Peace, The Kairos Company and Evangelicals for Social Action. Individual signatories represent a wide range of political stances, including conservative voices such as Eric Metaxas and Dr Russell Moore, and progressive leaders such as Sojourners president Jim Wallis.
'As American Christians with diverse approaches to force and nonviolence and yet all committed to pursuing peaceful relations among people and nations, we unite in prayer for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We do this mindful of the millions of lives, including more than 230,000 Americans, that would be threatened by an escalation of conflict there,' the statement said.
'Decades of people-to-people contact between North Korea and the United States – through business, educational and other humanitarian exchanges – have put a human face on those who are sometimes characterized by one another as enemies. So, we pray with empathy and in a spirit of friendship, noting the image of God in every human being. However profound the differences between our governments, we do not view the North Korean people as our enemies. On the contrary, we desire only the best for the people of North Korea.'
The statement also addressed the significant Christian presence in the region: 'Most of the nearly two million Korean-Americans are Christians, and many belong to evangelical churches. This community too has contact with North Koreans through humanitarian and family ties. South Korea is also home to many evangelical churches, including some of the world's largest.
'Many of these Korean brothers and sisters have been praying for North Korea for years and we humbly join them. These connections with Koreans in North Korea, South Korea and the United States strengthen our resolve to seek God for mercy and, so far as it depends on us, to pursue peace between our respective countries.'
It comes as North and South Korean leaders today set an April 27 date for their first peace summit in over a decade, while North Korean leader Jim Jong Un has pledged a commitment to denuclearisation and an easing of historically tense international relations.
Another unexpected peace meeting, between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un – who have traded explosive threats of nuclear 'fire and fury' this past year – is scheduled for May.
North and South Korea are technically still at war since conflict in 1950-53 ended with a ceasefire and not a truce, but significant steps to peace have already been taken, with the two countries sending united teams to South Korea's Winter Olympics in February.
Additional reporting by Reuters