When Pastor Stephen Penner of First Mennonite Church of Reedley asked Hyun to come up this spring and share at the Reedley Peace Center and his church, Hyun requested that we go up on the weekend of March 1st- the date that marks the beginning of the Korean independence movement in 1919.
Reedley Peace Center
On the evening of March 1, Sue spoke at the Reedley Peace Center, a gathering of committed community members who, for the last ten years, have met on a weekly basis to engage in the peace and justice work locally and globally (http://www.reedleypeacecenter.org/).
March First Movement: non-violent resistance movement
About 50 people gathered on Friday evening and Sue excitedly shared the significance of the March First Movement, one of the most effective non-violent resistance movement organized in history. About 2,000,000 Koreans arose in a massive nonviolent demonstration for freedom against the severe treatment of the Japanese colonists. The key organizers had insisted from the initial planning of the protest that it would be executed in non-violent means, so they made sure that everyone who participated in the protest strictly follow the instructions that read: “Whatever you do, do not insult the Japanese; do not throw stones; do not hit with your fists, for these are the acts of barbarians.”
Many of the protesters paid with their lives. It is estimated that over 7,500 people were killed and over 46,000 arrested. However, the movement eventually brought some significant improvements from Japan’s ruthless colonial rule and led to the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. It greatly bolstered the Korean people’s struggle for independence and increased the world’s awareness of their strong aspiration for liberation.
The March First Movement affected many emerging leaders around the world during the early 1920’s-including an Indian lawyer. There are documents that show Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa was greatly impacted by the effects of the March First Movement as he strategized ways for the independence of India.
Reedley: a historical city for the Korean Americans
It was also significant that we were speaking at Reedley, one of the first cities in the mainland where the earliest Korean immigrants came to work and live. The first wave of Korean immigrants came to Hawaii from 1902 to 1905 to work at the sugar plantations. About 7,000 people came during that time, but eventually about 2,000 of them who worked in Hawaii looked for opportunities to work on the mainland; one of the earliest cities where these immigrants moved to was Reedley.
One of the most interesting Korean immigrant stories from Reedley we discovered was about the Kim Brothers (not related) who marketed and distributed the “fuzzless” peaches, or what we know as nectarines. They became one of the very first Korean American millionaires in the 1920’s; with their profit, they actively supported the work of the Korean independence movement from the US.
It was very meaningful to have been able to share our heart for reconciliation and peace, right here in Reedley; the fact that it was the 94th anniversary of the March First Movement made it even more special.
Sue continued the talk spotlighting the formation and the vision of ReconciliAsian, and the many plans we have for this year. Many of the members of the Reedley Peace Center shared our excitement for our work with the Korean American community and deeply encouraged us to continue dream big (and get funding!).
First Mennonite Church of Reedley
On Sunday, we were warmly welcomed by the church members- many of whom we had met last Friday. Hyun gave a message from Isaiah 55, laying the context of which “shalom” comes from found in Isaiah 53. We were able to have shalom and enjoy God’s grace because of the Suffering Servant who took our suffering and brought in the shalom into our lives. Hyun closed his message with a testimony that prompted the urgency to work towards the ministry of reconciliation. Many came up afterwards encouraging and blessing us with the invitation to come back soon. They appreciated the new energy we brought into the community as Korean American Mennonites.
We feel deeply encouraged with a firm hope that we will be working with both the Reedley Peace Center and First Mennonite Church of Reedley more actively in the future. It looks like a beginning of a beautiful friendship indeed.