Peace for Life: Message
International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea
"Peace for Life in North East Asia"
Prof. Dr. HAN Wan Sang
"At last the time has come! The Kingdom of God is near. Turn from your sins and believe the good news." Mark 1:15
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9
It is a great pleasure and honor for me to join the International Conference for "Peace for Life in North East Asia" hosted by the Korean Christian Faculty Fellowship.
First of all, I would like to welcome you all to Korea. You Christian scholars deserve to be called Children of God not because you attend your church regularly and hang on to the church's traditional creeds, but because you are committed to the precious cause of peace-making.
Experiencing deep agony caused by the 60-year-old partition of the Korean Peninsula, the two Koreas face another mounting tension today as the apprehension about North Korea's willingness to carry out a nuclear test is growing. The situation in the Northeast Asia is get-ting more seriously unstable because at this moment we can hardly rule out a possibility of another disastrous confrontation between the theocratic superpower (USA) and poor-yet-cultist state (North Korea).
At this critical juncture, I hope this conference will be meaningfully relevant and fruitful to harness collective wisdom for the promotion of peace and stability on the Korea Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
As globalization compresses the sense of time and space in the world, the global commu-nity is getting more and more interconnected and interdependent. No state is free from ex-ternal affairs; all became more vulnerable to each other. A threat to one is a threat to all, which is not exceptional in South East Asia.
In view of the reality that Asian primacy has been growing, the likelihood that war in this region turns automatically into global disaster is also on the rise. 60% of the world's popu-lation lives in Asia. 50% of all global production comes from Asia. 40% of the world con-sumption takes place in Asia. This is the general status of Asia in the world today. Particu-larly the political-economic weight of Northeast Asia is quite visible; China, Korea and Ja-pan reach 24% of the world population. The three nations produce 21% of global GDP. Considering this, the 21St century could be called the era of Pax-Asiana.
Yet fear of the mushroom cloud seems to hang over us. Theocons and neocons in Wash-ington are likely to launch another crusade against North East Asian "outpost of tyranny." As you know, the original crusade attempted to devastate Muslim civilization in vain. The 21st century crusade might occur in the North East Asia unless fundamentalist true believ-ers in both the US and North Korea are effectively forced to restrain themselves.
Who are those people capable or committed to forcing them to change?
Jesus-followers, not necessarily nominal Christians, are called upon to do this mission. It behooves all Jesus followers to do their best to prevent a preventive war in this region. With keen awareness that we are Christian scholars fully dedicated to the cause of God's rule, we are demanded at this critical juncture to explore ways to reach Jesus' vision of God's rule and to harness our intellectual power to realize that dream. The brand-new or-der Jesus dreamed about in the name of God's rule (the Kingdom of God) was, is, and shall be the order in which love prevails, and justice and peace eventually be realized. It should not be forgotten that Jesus' vision grew out of inhuman realities of the Roman Em-pire and Jewish legalistic rules.
Let me remind you that Jesus' vision of God's rule is one, and grim reality of Christendom is quite another. Rather they are incompatible. I would say that as soon as the rule of the Christian church was institutionalized in the name of "one Christ" and "one Empire," Je-sus' dream was bound to wither away and at last disappear from the historical horizon. This is a realistic ground for my confession that I am not institutional Christian but want to be faithful follower of Jesus' vision.
My early dream was to be a social doctor. The cost of my dream was painful, however: deprivation of my human rights, dismissal of professorship, arrest, incarceration, exile, etc. I have never given up my dream, though. As you know, South Korea has turned from a notoriously oppressive undemocratic state in the past to overly expressive democratic state today. In this period of radical transformation, I was called by the Korean government to assume Deputy Prime Minister twice. Even in the governmental positions, I kept dreaming my dream. Keeping my vision, however, was not free. I had to pay for it: I had to leave the position by tremendous pressure from Korean cold war warriors who still wield significant magnitude of political power. They are indeed the closest ally to Washington neo-cons.
Now I serve as President of Korean Red Cross. The Red Cross is the only global humani-tarian movement to which Nobel Peace Prize was awarded four times. Where there is suf-fering, either from illegitimate societal institutions or from natural disaster, Red Cross workers are always readily available and right on the spot for the alleviation of human suf-ferings.
As a matter of fact, from war comes the most painful and unbearable suffering that, we, Red Cross Movement, are called to reduce. The simple absence of war does not guarantee the absence of sufferings. As Martin Luther King, Jr. succinctly describes, "peace is more than the absence of war; it is the presence of justice." Genuine peace means the absence of all kinds of violence inducing unjust human sufferings: Thus, hatred, bigotry, racism, fun-damentalism, discrimination, poverty, disease, hunger, terrorism, crime, disaster, environ-mental degradation... all of these are the threats to peace and the root causes of unjust hu-man sufferings. True peace can be attainable only through our assiduous united efforts to eradicate the root causes of violence and injustice with the clear vision of the new order where all-inclusive love prevails.
When I attended a conference of International Committee of Red Cross in February, I had a chance to visit World Health Organization. At that time I was briefed by one of the direc-tors of WHO on how they had worked in Tsunami-affected countries. I was very much moved by his concluding remarks: "We, the WHO, are making every effort to alleviate human pains with medical knowledge and technology, but that is not enough at all. One more fundamental thing is quite neces-sary. That is humanitarian value and commitment, which is the essence of the Red Cross Movement. So, when our two global organizations work together, I am sure human suffer-ings in this new millennium will be significantly reduced..."
I still have a dream, a dream of hearing good news from Christian churches all over the world; that is, they are indeed a sacred fellowship working hard to establish all-inclusive new order in which Muslims and Christians, women and men, black and white, and Minjung and elites are sitting around the same table of compassion to serve one another.
The power of science and technology has been tremendously increasing, yet the prevention and alleviation of unjust human pains remain in a state of frustration. Science and technol-ogy are not panacea and nostrum. The more meaningful is necessary. That is churches' will-ingness to empty their Christendom identity so as to realize Jesus' vision of "Love-dom." You are invited to come to Korea to rethink together, to work together, to struggle to-gether for fulfilling Jesus' vision of Love-dom in this precarious region, the Korean penin-sula.
Now is the right time (kairos) for us to reflect critically on ourselves and act decisively in accordance with Jesus' vision of Love-dom.
Here is the right place for us to form a united humanitarian front for this urgent and sacred purpose.
This is why we are here today. This is why I would like to express my welcoming remarks to you.
Thank you very much.
HAN Wan Sang, Ph.D., President, Korea Nat'l Red Cross Society