ReconciliAsian at the Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia
On April 21- 25, 2014, forty-four Christian leaders, practitioners, and educators from seminaries, universities, para-church organizations, peace centers, and churches gathered from Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and the United States to spend five days at the Pilgrim House in Gapyeong, South Korea.
The vision for this forum grew out of a December 2012 consultation at Duke University Center for Reconciliation when leaders from Northeast Asia came together to discern what was needed to nourish a Christian vision of peace and reconciliation in Northeast Asia.
The goal of this forum was to build new relationships and worship together to discern what is happening in the Northeast Asian region and how a biblical vision reconciliation can lead and invite us to receive God’s gift of New Creation, God’s gift of lament, his gift of hope, and to form a deep spirituality that can sustain the ministry of reconciliation over the long haul as we deal with the historic and urgent challenges of conflict and pain.
It was a wonderful week connecting with many peacemakers from Northeast Asia, but the day that particularly stood out for me (Sue) was the second day when we wrestled with difficult stories of deep pain in the region. In the morning, one Hong Kong woman shared powerful stories of women while she was living in Afghanistan for seven years. She led us to view lament as a form of a protest- from crying out “how long” to “long enough.” This was especially fitting because Korea as a nation was mourning the devastating tragedy of Sewol ferry and feeling utterly hopeless as the nation saw the lack of government response to rescue over 300 people, mostly high school students trapped in the ferry. We also heard from a Japanese woman about the hopelessness she has felt after the tsunami and the nuclear reactor crisis that wiped out her hometown, Fukushima in March 2011. As these stories were told and we listened to each other with deep compassion, we began to recognize that these were “our” stories, no longer Japanese or Korean stories. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we began to embrace these stories as our stories.
As a Korean American woman, I was unsure what my role would be in the NE Asia dialogue. However, throughout the week, Chris Rice asked me to facilitate sessions and share my story, and through these unexpected opportunities saw that the gift that I can bring to the forum was to facilitate and create a safe place for dialogue to begin. I appreciated Chris Rice’s intentional effort to step back as a white male leader in facilitating discussions and recognizing gifts in others who have the language and the leadership skills to lead, and through this process, I discovered my gifts.
Many opportunities to network with leaders from NE Asia were made throughout the week. It was especially exciting to see that there were three Korean Anabaptists at the forum, and one Catholic woman who attended Eastern Mennonite University. One of the participants said that he had never considered himself as a Northeast Asian, but always Chinese. To him, this new way of looking at himself has widened his perspective in working for peace. The ability identify ourselves not only as a person of specific nationality, but to interact as citizens of the kingdom beyond the walls of national identity was very powerful and an important issue that we will continue to deepen through future meetings. The next forum will be in Nagasaki, Japan, and those who attended this forum will be invited to help organize the next gathering. I look forward to the possibility of being part of this important gathering next year.